History & discoveries

For over 150 years, UC Berkeley has been reimagining the world by challenging convention and generating unparalleled intellectual, economic and social value. Take a look back at Berkeley’s milestones and discoveries and learn more about our 26 faculty Nobel Prize winners and 35 alumni winners.

First female students

1870 - First female students

Just one year after instruction begins on the Berkeley campus, the regents vote to admit women on equal terms with men. The first female students, 17 in total, enroll at the university.
The Daily Californian

1871 - The Daily Californian

Welcome to the Daily Cal

The student-run newspaper is established. In 1971 the newspaper earns its independence from the campus. Today it is one of the oldest college newspapers in the nation.
First Greek society

1871 - First Greek society

The first Greek letter society, Zeta Psi, is formed on campus.
University Alumni Association

1872 - University Alumni Association

The University Alumni Association is established. It is later renamed the California Alumni Association.
Twelve Apostles

1873 - Twelve Apostles

The first 12 students receive UC diplomas, earning the nickname “The Twelve Apostles.”
First sports team

1882 - First sports team

Cal’s first sports team is established on campus. They call it football, but the sport they play is what we know today as rugby.
Student government

1887 - Student government

Student self-government is organized to resolve the conflicting interests of several student societies, and named the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC). This leadership group is still active today.
International students

1890s - International students

Overseas students, many from Asia and South America, begin attending the university, starting an unbroken traditional of international students.
The first Big Game

1892 - The first Big Game

The first Big Game is played between Cal and Stanford.
Hail to California Lyrics

Hail to California Lyrics

The Cal alma mater is written and composed by Clinton R. “Brick” Morse, class of 1896.

Hail to California
Hail to California,
Alma mater dear.
Sing the joyful chorus,
Sound it far and near.

Rallying ‘round her banner,
We will never fail.
California alma mater,
Hail! Hail! Hail!

Hail to California,
queen in whom
we’re blest—
Spreading light
and goodness
over all the West,

Fighting ‘neath her standard
We shall sure prevail-
California alma mater,
Hail! Hail! Hail!

Financial Aid
Financial aid is made available for “needy and deserving” students. More than a century later, UC Berkeley continues to provide broad access for students of all means - educating more federal Pell Grant recipients from low-income families than all eight Ivy League universities combined.
Summer sessions

1899 - Summer sessions

Summer sessions are established to train physics and chemistry teachers. Due to their success, summer sessions soon expand in scope and attendance.
Enrollment grows

1910s - Enrollment grows

Enrollment at Berkeley reaches 10,000 in the second decade of the 20th century, making it one of the largest universities in the country.
Wonder teams

1920-1925 - Wonder teams

Coach Andy Smith’s “wonder teams” play five consecutive seasons (50 games) without a loss, one of the best records in football history.
Phys ed for women
Historic black and white young women wearing dark bloomer uniforms and exercising with arms held out at shoulder level

© UC Regents, courtesy of The Bancroft Library

Women’s physical education

Historic photo of young women playing field hockey

© UC Regents, courtesy of The Bancroft Library

Women’s hockey, 1916.

Historic black and white photo of young women playing basketball.

© UC Regents, courtesy of The Bancroft Library

Women’s basketball, 1916.

Historic black and white photo of young women in boats with oars.

© UC Regents, courtesy of The Bancroft Library

Women’s crew team, 1925.

Women's physical education becomes an official program on campus.
International House

1930 - International House

Photo © UC Regents

International House 1940s news reel

International House opens. A gift from John D. Rockefeller Jr. funds the purchase of the land and construction. The University of California enrolls almost 10 percent of all international students in the United States. It is the first coeducational residence west of the Mississippi, and many object to the housing of men, women, foreigners, blacks and whites under one roof.
First residence hall

1930 - First residence hall

The first university-built and -operated residence hall, Bowles Hall, opens to students.
World War II

1941-1945 - World War II

The campus turns its energy to war work, and the curriculum is revised to include National Service courses. During the war, male enrollment drops more than 50 percent, and many male students are Army and Navy members in officer training programs. Women at Berkeley enjoy greater opportunities to assume leadership positions during this time. For example, the Daily Californian (student newspaper) and the Blue and Gold (yearbook) have their first female editors during these years, and women head ASUC student government. Visit the News Center to read more about Berkeley's military history.
Enrollment surge

1946 - Enrollment surge

GIs returning from WWII nearly double enrollment at UC, bringing attendance to 25,000. Facilities are strained and a number of temporary buildings are built to conduct classes.
The Cold War and loyalty oath

1950s - The Cold War and loyalty oath

The Cold War era sees waves of organizing at Berkeley. The targets are a campus administrative ban on socialist or communist speakers and a loyalty oath for UC employees statewide. The oath, approved by the regents in 1949, requires each faculty, staff and student employee to declare in writing that he or she is not a member of the Communist Party. A number of faculty reject the use of coercive oaths in a democracy and organize a resistance movement. The regents eventually rescind the oath and the California Supreme Court sides with those employees who refused to sign and lost their jobs.
Vietnam war protests

1960s-1970s - Vietnam war protests

Throughout the Vietnam war, students from UC Berkeley and other Bay Area campuses, as well as members of the community, repeatedly demonstrate against the war and the draft. After the Free Speech Movement in 1964, the Berkeley campus is in the national spotlight as a hotbed of political action. Students and community members hold marches, rallies and sit-ins over the years. At several points these demonstrations become violent clashes with law enforcement and Berkeley remains in national headlines.
Ludwig Fountain

1961 - Ludwig Fountain

The regents name a fountain on Sproul Plaza after a German short-haired pointer named Ludwig von Schwanenberg who had visited it daily.
John F. Kennedy at Memorial Stadium

1962 - John F. Kennedy at Memorial Stadium

Shortly after the founding of the Peace Corps, President John F. Kennedy addresses 90,000 people on Charter Day in Memorial Stadium, and urges young people to join the Corps. To date, more Berkeley graduates have enlisted in the program than from any other college or university in the nation.
Free Speech Movement

1964 - Free Speech Movement

Over the course of the fall semester of 1964, students and university administrators clash over the right to advocate for political causes on the Berkeley campus. Mario Savio and other students are suspended, hold rallies and go on strike as FSM leaders and the administration trade demands and responses. Visit the Free Speech Movement 50th anniversary website for a detailed history of campus events.
Late 1960s
DeCal classes

Late 1960s - DeCal classes

In response to student interest an innovative program of student-initiated courses launches, known as the Program for Democratic Education at Cal or DeCal. Students also win an expanded role in university governance. Today students participate in Academic Senate committees and have a Student Regent, which is a voting seat on the UC Board of Regents.
People’s Park protests

1969 - People's Park protests

Students protest the development plans of a three-acre lot south of campus. The University had purchased the land in 1967 with plans to demolish existing residences and build an athletic field and student housing on the site. After demolishing the existing structures, the lot sat vacant for over a year. A group of student activists and community members planned to turn the lot into a public park, but these plans were not approved by university administration. Students and community members protest further development, and confrontations with law enforcement become violent. Gov. Ronald Reagan, who campaigned on a promise to “clean up” the student unrest at Berkeley, eventually sends National Guard troops to quell the confrontation.
Ethnic studies department

1969 - Ethnic studies department

A nine-week strike by campus students leads to the creation of an ethnic studies department. Student organizer Jean Quan, who in 2011 would become mayor of Oakland, teaches the first class on Asian women.
Disabled students program

1970 - Disabled students program

The Physically Disabled Students Program is established, offering comprehensive services designed and provided by people with disabilities themselves. Two years later, some go on to found the Center for Independent Living -- a first-of-its-kind self-help organization modeled on the principles of the campus program -- and to play a key role in efforts to enshrine their civil rights in federal legislation, such as the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.
Campus women organize and demonstrate

1972 - Campus women organize and demonstrate

Feminist organizing leads to the launch of the campus women’s center. Women also organize to demand childcare services for students and faculty parents, leading the ASUC student association to provide student parents with space for a daycare facility. The campus later institutionalizes that service with childcare programs for student parents, faculty and staff.
Women’s programs

1976 - Women's programs

The UC Berkeley’s Women’s Studies Program is established. It is now known as the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies. The women’s intercollegiate athletics department is also established in 1976, and the first athletic scholarships for women are awarded the following year.
Flashback: The Play

Flashback: The Play (1982)

Cal beats Stanford at the Big Game with “The Play,” a five-lateral kickoff return for a touchdown as the clock runs out.
Divestment in South Africa

1986 - Divestment in South Africa

Student activists score a victory in the fight against apartheid in South Africa after months of demonstrations. The UC Board of Regents votes to divest all UC holdings in South Africa.
Student-body diversity

1988 - Student-body diversity

For the first time, no ethnic group forms a majority among undergraduates at Berkeley.
American Cultures requirement

1989 - American Cultures requirement

Campus faculty approve the American Cultures requirement, making a course that examines the experiences in and contributions to American culture of a mix of ethnic groups a requirement for all undergraduate students. Faculty call it “the great educational experiment of the 1990s.”
Proposition 209

1996 - Proposition 209

California voters approve Proposition 209, overturning affirmative action programs statewide as well as affirmative action tools that UC had used to recruit students from diverse backgrounds. Students organize and demonstrate against the measure. Soon after Prop. 209 takes effect, admissions of Chicano/Latino, African American, and Native American students decline.
The Green Initiative Fund

2006 - The Green Initiative Fund

The Green Initiative Fund is created via a student fee referendum on the ballot during UC Berkeley’s ASUC elections. Students create the charter and fee system by which TGIF operates. TGIF provides funding for projects that improve and support campus sustainability efforts including transportation, increased energy and water efficiency, restored habitats, promotion of environmental and food justice, and reducing the amount of waste created by UC Berkeley.
First certified organic college dining hall

2006 - First certified organic college dining hall

Berkeley's Crossroads dining hall becomes the first certified organic kitchen on an American college campus.
Student food collective

2010 - Student food collective

Berkeley students derail the arrival of Panda Express near campus, and instead opt to create an alternative for convenient food — a market that provides local, sustainable, healthful foods. The Berkeley Student Food Collective offers fresh and organic foods, most grown within 150 miles of the campus.
Campaign for Lower Sproul

2010 - Campaign for Lower Sproul

Graduate and undergraduate student leaders negotiate a groundbreaking agreement to rebuild Lower Sproul Plaza. The ASUC, which controls operations in both the MLK Jr. Student Union and in Eshleman Hall, agree to share revenues from retail businesses in Lower Sproul with the graduate students. The pact, along with a ballot measure to increase student fees, makes the renovation possible.
Berkeley Middle Class Access Plan

2011 - Berkeley Middle Class Access Plan

For families whose gross income ranges from $80,000 to $140,000 annually, the Berkeley MCAP (Middle Class Access Plan) caps the contribution parents make toward the total annual cost of a UC Berkeley student’s education. The initiative is the first program in the nation at a public university to extend comprehensive financial aid to this category of middle-class families.
Undocumented student scholarship fund

2012 - Undocumented student scholarship fund

Ju Hong, UC Berkeley undocumented student

UC Berkeley takes the DREAM act a step further by announcing a $1 million scholarship funded by the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund for undocumented students. The program is unprecedented in the nation.
2012 Summer Olympics

2012 Summer Olympics

Natalie Coughlin prepares for the 2012 Olympics

The Golden Bears earn 17 medals -- 11 gold, one silver and five bronze. If UC Berkeley were its own country, it would be sixth in the world for the number of gold medals earned, tying with France and Germany. The school’s overall count of 17 medals ranks it third among U.S. universities, behind the University of Southern California and the University of Florida.
First competitive college athletic team for blind students

2014 - First competitive college athletic team for blind students

Goalball: The first competitive college athletic team for blind students

Seven students form the first competitive blind college athletic team in the nation. These blind students play Goalball, an all-year team sport designed for the visually impaired in which players compete in teams of three and try to hurl a heavy rubber ball into the opponents’ goal. Players communicate with each other by tapping the floor with their hands and calling out a teammate’s name to pass the ball.