1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Columbia University

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COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, one of the oldest and most important of the higher institutions of learning in the United States, located for the most part on Morningside Heights, New York city. It embraces Columbia College, founded as King’s College in 1754; a school of medicine (the College of Physicians and Surgeons) founded in 1767, in West 59th Street; a school of law, founded in 1858; schools of applied science, including a school of mines and schools of chemistry and engineering, separately organized in 1896; a school of architecture, organized in 1881; graduate schools of political science, organized in 1880, philosophy, organized in 1890, and pure science, organized in 1892; and a school of journalism; closely affiliated with it are the College of Pharmacy, founded in 1829, in West 68th Street; Teachers’ College, founded in 1886, as the New York College for the Training of Teachers, and essentially a part of the university since 1899; and Barnard College (for women) founded in 1889, and essentially a part of the university since 1900. Reciprocal relations also exist between the university and both the General Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church and the Union Theological Seminary, thus practically adding to the university a theological department. Columbia also nominates the American professors who lecture at German universities by the reciprocal arrangement made in 1905, the German professors lecturing in America being nominated by the Prussian ministry of education. Women are now admitted to all the university courses except those in law, medicine, technology and architecture. Since 1900 a summer session has been held for six weeks and attended largely by teachers. Teachers and others, under the direction of the Teachers’ College, are afforded an opportunity to pursue courses in absentia and so meet some of the requirements for an academic degree or a teacher’s diploma. All students of good ability are enabled to complete the requirements for the bachelor’s degree together with any one of the professional degrees by six years of study at the university. Several courses of lectures designed especially for the public—notably the Hewitt Lectures, in co-operation with Cooper Union—are delivered at different places in the city and at the university.

In 1908 there were in Columbia University in all departments 609 instructors and 4096 students; of these 420 were in Barnard College, 850 were in the Teachers’ College, and 229 were in the College of Pharmacy. The numerous University publications include works embodying the results of original research published by the University Press; “Studies” published in the form of a series by each of several departments, various periodicals edited by some members of the faculty, such as the Columbia University Quarterly, the Political Science Quarterly, and the School of Mines Quarterly; and several papers or periodicals published by the students, among which are the Columbia Spectator, a daily paper, the Columbia Law Review, the Columbia Monthly and the Columbia Jester.

With two or three unimportant exceptions the buildings of the university on Morningside Heights have been erected since 1896. They include, besides the several department buildings, a library building, a university hall (with gymnasium), Earl Hall (for social purposes), St Paul’s chapel (dedicated in 1907), two residence halls for men, and one for women. The library contains about 450,000 volumes exclusive of duplicates and unbound pamphlets. The highest authority in the government of the institution is vested in a board of twenty-four trustees, vacancies in which are filled by co-optation; but the immediate educational interests are directed largely by the members of the university council, which is composed of the president of the university, the dean and one other representative from the faculty of each school. The institution is maintained by the proceeds from an endowment fund exceeding $15,000,000, by tuition fees ranging, according to the school, from $150 to $250 for each student, and by occasional gifts for particular objects.

The charter (1754) providing for the establishment of King’s College was so free from narrow sectarianism as to name ministers of five different denominations for ex-officio governors, and the purpose of the institution as set forth by its first president, Dr Samuel Johnson (1696–1772) was about as broad as that now realised. In 1756 the erection of the first building was begun at the lower end of Manhattan Island, near the Hudson, and the institution prospered from the beginning. From 1776 to 1784, during the War of Independence, the exercises of the college were suspended and the library and apparatus were stored in the New York city hall. In 1784 the name was changed to Columbia College, and an act of the legislature was passed for creating a state university, of which Columbia was to be the basis. But the plan was not a success, and three years later, in 1787, the act was repealed and the administration of Columbia was entrusted to a board of trustees of which the present board is a successor. In 1857 there was an extensive re-organization by which the scope of the institution was much enlarged, and at the same time it was removed to a new site on Madison Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets. From 1890 to 1895 much centralization in its administration was effected, in 1896 the name of Columbia University was adopted, and in the autumn of 1897 the old site and buildings were again abandoned for new, this time on Morningside Heights.

See A History of Columbia University, by members of the faculty (New York, 1904); and J. B. Pine, “King’s College, now Columbia University,” in Historic New York (New York, 1897).