1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Leland Stanford Jr. University

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LELAND STANFORD JR. UNIVERSITY, near Palo Alto, California, U.S.A., in the beautiful Santa Clara valley, was founded in 1885 by Leland Stanford[1] (1824-1893), and by his wife Jane Lathrop Stanford (1825-1905), as a memorial to their only child, Leland Stanford, Jr., who died in 1884 in his seventeenth year. The doors were opened in 1891 to 559 students. The university campus consists of Stanford's former Palo Alto farm, which comprises about 9000 acres. From the campus there are charming views of San Francisco Bay, of the Coast Range, particularly of Mount Hamilton some 30 m. E. with the Lick Observatory on its summit, of mountain foothills, and of the magnificent redwood forests toward Santa Cruz.

The buildings, designed originally by H. H. Richardson and completed by his successors, Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge, are of soft buff sandstone in a style adapted from the old California mission (Moorish-Romanesque) architecture, being long and low with wide colonnades, open arches and red tiled roofs. An outer surrounds an inner quadrangle of buildings. The inner quadrangle, about a court which is 586 by 246 ft. and is faced by a continuous open arcade and adorned with large circular beds of tropical plants and flowers, consists of twelve one-storey buildings and a beautiful memorial church. Of the fourteen buildings of the outer quadrangle some are two storeys high. A magnificent memorial arch (100 ft. high), adorned with a frieze designed by John Evans, representing the “Progress of Civilization in America,” and forming the main gateway, was destroyed by the earthquake of 1906. Outside the quadrangles are other buildings — a museum of art and archaeology, based on collections made by Leland Stanford, Jr., chemical laboratories, engineering work-shops, dormitories, a mausoleum of the founders, &c. There is a fine arboretum (300 acres) and a cactus garden. The charming views, the grace and harmonious colours of the buildings, and the tropic vegetation make a campus of wonderful beauty. The students in 1907-1908 numbered 1738, of whom 126 were graduates, 99 special students, and 500 women.[2] The university library (with the library of the law department) contained in 1908 about 107,000 volumes. A marine biological laboratory, founded by Timothy Hopkins, is maintained at Pacific Grove on the Bay of Monterey. The university has an endowment from its founders estimated at $30,000,000, including three great estates with 85,000 acres of farm and vineyard lands, and several smaller tracts; but the endowment was very largely in interest-bearing securities, income from which was temporarily cut off in the early years of the university's life by litigation. The founders wished the university “to qualify students for personal success and direct usefulness in life; to promote the public welfare by exercising an influence in behalf of humanity and civilization, teaching the blessings of liberty regulated by law, and inculcating love and reverence for the great principles of government as derived from the inalienable rights of man to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” There are no inflexible entrance requirements as to particular studies except English composition to ensure a degree of mental maturity, the minimum amount of preparation is fixed as that which should be given by four years in a secondary school, leaving to the applicants a wide choice of subjects (35 in 1906) ranging from ancient history to woodworking and machine shop. In the curriculum, liberty perhaps even greater than at Harvard is allowed as to “electives.” Work on some one major subject occupies about one-third of the undergraduate course; the remaining two-thirds (or more) is purely elective. The influence of sectarianism and politics is barred from the university by its charter, and by its private origin and private support. At the same time in its policy it is practically a state university of the most liberal type. Instruction is entirely free. The president of the university has the initiative in all appointments and in all matters of general policy. Within the university faculty power lies in an academic council, and, more particularly, in an advisory board of nine professors, elected by the academic council, to which all propositions of the president are submitted. The growth of the university has been steady, and its conduct careful. David Starr Jordan[3] was its first president.

See O. H. Elliot and O. V. Eaton, Stanford University and thereabouts (San Francisco, 1896), and the official publications of the university.


  1. Stanford was born in Watervliet, New York; studied law in Albany; removed to California in 1852 and went into business at Michigan Bluff, Placer county, whence he removed to Sacramento in 1856; was made president in 1861 of the Central Pacific railroad company, which built the first trans-continental railway line over the Sierra Nevada; was governor of California in 1862-1863, and United States senator in 1885-1893; and was owner of the great Vina farm (55,000 acres) in Tehama county, containing the largest vineyard in the world (13,400 acres), the Gridley tract (22,000 acres) in Butte county, and the Palo Alto breeding farm, which was the home of his famous thoroughbred racers, Electioneer, Arion, Snoot, Palo Alto and Advertiser.
  2. The number of women attending the university as students in any semester is limited by the founding grant to 500.
  3. President Jordan was born in 1851 at Gainesville, New York; was educated at Cornell, where he taught botany for a time; became an assistant to the United States fish commission in 1872; in 1885-1891 was president of the university of Indiana, where from 1879 he had been professor of zoology; and in 1891 was elected president of Leland Stanford Jr. University. An eminent ichthyologist, he wrote, with Barton Warren Evermann (b. 1853), of the United States Bureau of Fisheries, Fishes of North and Middle America (4 vols., 1896-1900), and Food and Game Fishes of North America (1902); and prepared A Guide to the Study of Fishes (1905).