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Coordinates: 43°04′30″N 89°25′02″W 43.075000, -89.417222


University of Wisconsin

  • Location & Contact Information
    • Address, Directions, & Map:
      • Madison, Wisconsin, United States of America
    • Telephone Numbers: 608-263-2400
    • Official Website: [1]
  • History & Memorable Moments

The university had its official beginnings when Wisconsin was incorporated as a state in 1848. Article X, Section B of the Wisconsin Constitution provided for "the establishment of a state university, at or near the seat of state government..." On July 26, 1848, Nelson Dewey, Wisconsin's first governor, signed the act that formally created the University of Wisconsin. The board of regents held their initial meeting in the library room of the Capitol on October 7, and provided John W. Sterling a $500 per-annum salary to become the university's first professor (mathematics). The first class of 17 students met at Madison Female Academy on February 5, 1849. Regents continued to discuss the construction of the university and soon a campus site was selected. It was an area of 50 acres (200,000 m²) "bounded north by Fourth lake, east by a street to be opened at right angles with King (later State) street, south by Mineral Point Road (University Avenue), and west by a carriage-way from said road to the lake." Building plans called for a "main edifice fronting towards the Capitol, three stories high, surmounted by an observatory for astronomical observations." This building, University Hall, now known as Bascom Hall, was finally completed in 1859. A fire later destroyed the building's dome, which was never replaced. North Hall, constructed in 1851, was actually the campus' first building. Finally, in 1854, Levi Booth and Charles T. Wakeley became the first graduates of the university. Academics continued to improve at Wisconsin, and in 1892 the university awarded its first Ph.D. to future university president Charles R. Van Hise. [1]

  • The Wisconsin Idea

Students, faculty and staff are motivated by a tradition known as the Wisconsin Idea, first started by UW President Charles Van Hise in 1904, when he declared that he would "never be content until the beneficent influence of the university [is] available to every home in the state." The Wisconsin Idea holds that the boundaries of the university should be the boundaries of the state, and that the research conducted at UW should be applied to solve problems and improve health, quality of life, the environment, and agriculture for all citizens of the state. The Wisconsin Idea permeates the university’s work and helps forge close working relationships among university faculty and students, and the state’s industries and government. Together with Wisconsin's populist history, the Wisconsin Idea has evolved to this day to describe "The Wisconsin Experience:" that the work of the faculty, staff, and students aims to solve real-world problems, and that these solutions benefit from working together across disciplines and demographics. [1]

  • Student activism

In the years 1966 through 1970, UW was shaken by a series of student protests, and by the use of force by authorities in response. The first major demonstrations protested the presence on campus of recruiters for the Dow Chemical Company, which supplied the napalm used in the Vietnam War. Authorities used force to quell the disturbance. The struggle was documented in the PBS documentary Two Days in October, as well as the book, They Marched Into Sunlight. Among the students injured in the protest was future Madison mayor Paul Soglin. [1]

Another target of protest was the Army Mathematics Research Center (AMRC), clearly identified and centrally located on campus in the Sterling Hall physics building. Director J. Barkley Rosser, an eminent logician, publicly minimized any practical role and implied that AMRC pursued only pure mathematics. But the student newspaper, The Daily Cardinal, obtained quarterly reports that AMRC submitted to the Army. The Cardinal published a series of investigative articles making a convincing case that AMRC was pursuing research that was directly pursuant to specific US Department of Defense requests, and relevant to counterinsurgency operations in Vietnam. AMRC became a magnet for demonstrations, in which protesters chanted "U.S. out of Vietnam! Smash Army Math!" [1]

On August 24, 1970, near 3:40 AM, a van filled with ammonium nitrate and fuel oil mixture was detonated next to Sterling Hall. Despite the late hour, a post-doc was in the lab; that man, physics researcher Robert Fassnacht, was killed in the explosion. The physics department was hit worse than the intended target, the AMRC. Karleton Armstrong, Dwight Armstrong, and David Fine were responsible for the blast. Leo Burt was a suspect but was never apprehended or tried. [1]

  • Timeline of notable events

Other notable historical moments in Wisconsin's first century include:

  • On April 4, 1892, the campus's first student-run newspaper began publishing The Daily Cardinal. [1]
  • In 1894, the state Board of Regents rejected an effort to purge Professor Richard T. Ely for supporting striking printers, issuing the famous "sifting and winnowing" manifesto in defense of academic freedom, later described as "part of Wisconsin's Magna Carta". [1]
  • 1898 saw UW music instructor Henry Dyke Sleeper write Varsity, the university’s traditional alma mater song. [1]
  • In 1904-1905, the UW Graduate School was established. The "Wisconsin Idea" becomes a living doctrine. Voiced by President Charles Van Hise, the idea sought to make "the beneficent influence of the University available to every home in the State." [1]
  • The Wisconsin Union was founded in 1907, fourth among U.S. universities after Pennsylvania's Houston Hall (1896), Dartmouth's College Club (1901), and Harvard's Union (1901). [1]
  • William Purdy and Paul Beck wrote On, Wisconsin in 1909, which became the fight song for UW athletic teams. [1]
  • The Single-grain experiment ran from 1907 to 1911 run by Stephen Moulton Babcock and Edwin B. Hart. This experiment would pave the way for modern nutrition as a science. [1]
  • In 1925, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation was chartered to control patenting and patent income on UW inventions. [1]
  • The UW Arboretum dedicated itself to restoring lost landscapes, such as prairies, in 1934. [1]
  • 1966 through 1970, UW-Madison was shaken by a series of student protests, and by the use of force by authorities in response. The first major demonstrations protested the presence on campus of recruiters for the Dow Chemical Company, which supplied the napalm used in the Vietnam War. [1]
  • 1969 The Badger Herald was founded, debuting as a conservative voice on campus. Born to cover and combat the turmoil of the Vietnam protests, the Herald maintains its maverick spirit, though to some extent it has shed the “conservative” reputation. The University of Wisconsin is to this day the only major American university with two daily student newspapers. [1]
  • 1970 In one of the first major acts of modern domestic terrorism, a bomb was set to explode outside the Sterling Hall physics building, killing post-doctoral researcher Robert Fassnacht (see Sterling Hall bombing). [1]
  • 1988 The Onion was founded by two UW juniors, Tim Keck and Christopher Johnson; they would sell it to colleagues the next year. [1]
  • December 10, 1993, the popular computer game, Doom, was uploaded to the University's servers. The initial popularity of the game caused the servers to crash, due to the number of simultaneous downloads. [1]
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