Cornell University is a research university located on the East Hill of Ithaca, New York. Its two medical campuses are located in New York City and in Education City, Qatar, near Doha.
The youngest member of the Ivy League, Cornell was founded in 1865 by Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White as a coeducational, nonsectarian institution where admission was offered irrespective of religion or race. Conceived immediately after the Industrial Revolution and the American Civil War, its founders intended that the new university would teach and make contributions in all fields of knowledge—from the classics to the sciences and from the theoretical to the applied. These ideals—a radical departure at the time—are captured in Cornell's motto, an 1865 Ezra Cornell quotation: "I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study".
Known for both its undergraduate and graduate programs, Cornell continues to have one of the broadest curricula of any university, offering more than 80 majors, housing over 150 departments and academic areas and offering well over 5000 courses. Cornell is also a leader in research: During the 2004–05 academic year, research expenditures topped $560 million. In recent years, Cornell has been aggressively expanding its international programs—from the establishment, in 2001, of the Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, the first American medical school outside of the United States, to the forging of partnerships and collaboration with major institutions in China, India and Singapore—it has gone as far as claiming to be "the first transnational university."
Conception of Cornell
When Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White met in the New York Senate in January 1864, each a newly elected member, their eventual partnership seemed unlikely. Although both valued egalitarianism, science, and education, they had come from two very different backgrounds.
Ezra Cornell, a self-made businessman and austere, pragmatic telegraph mogul, made his fortune on the Western Union Telegraph Company stock he received during the consolidation that led to its formation. Cornell, who had been poor for most of his life, suddenly found himself looking for ways that he could do the greatest good for with his money—he wrote, "My greatest care now is how to spend this large income to do the greatest good to those who are properly dependent on me, to the poor and to posterity". Cornell's self education and hard work would lead him to the conclusion that the greatest end for his philanthropy was in the need of colleges for the teaching of practical pursuits such as agriculture, the applied sciences, veterinary medicine and engineering and in finding opportunities for the poor to attain such an education.
Andrew Dickson White entered college, at the age of sixteen, in 1849. White dreamed of going to one of the elite eastern colleges, but his father sent him to Geneva College (later known as Hobart), a small Episcopal college. In Geneva's library, White would read about the great colleges at Oxford University and at the University of Cambridge; this appears to be his first inspiration for "dreaming of a university worthy of the commonwealth [New York] and of the nation", a dream that would become a lifelong goal of White's. After a year at Geneva, White convinced his father to send him to Yale University. For White, Yale was a great improvement over Geneva, but he found that even at one of the country's great universities there was "too much reciting by rote and too little real intercourse".
The state senate was charged with the allotment of New York's allocation of the federal land grant, an endowment of public lands for education, granted by the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862. Initially, Cornell wanted the grant to go to the New York State Agricultural College at Ovid. However, White "vigorously opposed this bill, on the ground that the educational resources of the state were already too much dispersed". He felt that the grant would be most effective if it were used to establish or strengthen a comprehensive university.
In the face of this disagreement, on September 25, 1864, in Rochester, New York, Ezra Cornell proposed establishing a new university on his farm in Ithaca, which he would endow with $300,000 (soon thereafter increased to $500,000) to be combined with the full proceeds of the land grant. Ezra Cornell had found a purpose for his fortune, and White had found an opportunity to fulfill his dream of building his vision of a great university for the state.
Establishment of Cornell
On February 7, 1865, Andrew D. White introduced an act to the state senate "to establish the Cornell University," which appropriated the full income of the sale of lands given to New York under the Morrill Act to the university. The bill was immediately opposed by other colleges vying for a share of the land grant funds and by religious groups, who opposed the proposed composition of the university's board of trustees. Cornell's charter stated that "at no time shall a majority thereof be of any one religious sect, or of no religious sect." Despite this opposition, the bill was signed into law by Governor Reuben E. Fenton on April 27, 1865.
The university's Inauguration Day took place on October 7, 1868. There were 412 successful applicants; with this initial enrollment, Cornell's first class was, at the time, the largest entering class at an American university. On the occasion, Ezra Cornell delivered a brief speech. He said, "I hope we have laid the foundation of an institution which shall combine practical with liberal education. ... I believe we have made the beginning of an institution which will prove highly beneficial to the poor young men and the poor young women of our country".
Cornell was among the first universities in the United States to admit women alongside men. The first woman was admitted to Cornell in 1870, although the university did not yet have a women's dormitory. On February 13, 1872, Cornell's Board of Trustees accepted an offer of $250,000 from Henry W. Sage to build such a dormitory. During the construction of Sage College (now home to the Johnson School as Sage Hall) and after its opening in 1875, the admittance of women to Cornell continued to increase.
Significant departures from the standard curriculum were made at Cornell under the leadership of Andrew D. White. In 1868, Cornell introduced the elective system, under which students were free to choose their own course of study. Harvard University would make a similar change in 1872, soon after the inauguration of Charles W. Eliot in 1869.
It was the success of the egalitarian ideals of the newly-established Cornell that would help drive some of the changes seen at other universities throughout the next few decades, and would lead educational historian Frederick Rudolph to call Cornell "the first American university".
The Automotive Crash Injury Research project was begun in 1952 by John O. Moore at the Cornell Aeronautical Research Laboratories (spun off in 1972 as Calspan Corporation). It pioneered the first-ever use of crash testing (originally using corpses rather than dummies). The project discovered that an extraordinary percentage of injuries could be prevented by improved door locks, energy-absorbing steering wheels, padded dashboards, and seat belts. The project led to Liberty Mutual's funding the building of a demonstration Cornell Safety Car in 1956, which received national publicity, and influenced carmakers. Carmakers started their own crash-test laboratories and gradually adopted the main Cornell innovations, all now taken for granted (although others, such as rear-facing passenger seats, never found favor with carmakers or the public).
In 1984, the National Science Foundation began work on establishing five new supercomputer centers, including the Cornell Theory Center, to provide high-speed computing resources for research within the United States. In 1985, development of NSFNet, a TCP/IP-based computer network that could connect to the ARPANET, was undertaken by a team from the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Cornell Theory Center. This high-speed network, unrestricted to academic users, became a backbone to which regional networks would be connected. Initially a 56-kbps network, traffic on the network grew exponentially; the links were upgraded to 1.5-Mbps T1s in 1988 and to 45 Mbps in 1991. The NSFNet was a major milestone in the development of the Internet and its rapid growth coincided with the development of the World Wide Web.
For more than 40 years, Cornell has been involved in unmanned missions to Mars. In the most recent mission, the twin rovers of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Mission, Spirit and Opportunity, were designed by a Cornell-led team headed by principal investigator Steve Squyres. The rovers, which have both operated long past their original life expectancy, are responsible for the discoveries that were awarded 2004 Breakthrough of the Year honors by Science. Photos taken by Opportunity, near its landing site at Meridiani Planum, showed a stratification pattern and cross bedding within the rocks that suggest a history of water flowing in the region. Control of the Mars rovers has shifted between NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Caltech and Cornell's Space Sciences Building.
Cornell is a private institution, receiving most of its funding through tuition, research grants, and alumni contributions. However, three of its undergraduate colleges as well as the graduate-level College of Veterinary Medicine, called contract or statutory colleges, also receive partial funding from the state of New York to support their research and service mission in niche fields. Residents of New York enrolled in the contract colleges enjoy reduced tuition. Further, the governor of the state serves as an ex-officio member of the board of trustees. It is a common misconception that Cornell's contract colleges are public institutions. They are not—they are private institutions that Cornell operates by contract with the state government.
Cornell is highly decentralized, with its colleges and schools enjoying wide autonomy. Each defines its own academic programs, organizes its own admissions and advising programs, and confers its own degrees. The only university-wide requirements for a baccalaureate degree are to pass a swimming test and take two physical education courses. Periodically, the university attempts to resolve naturally arising redundancies by creating special inter-school departments. While students may take courses offered by the division, their enrollment remains with their individual college or school. With that said, any student may take any course in any of the colleges, provided they have fulfilled the pre-requisites for enrollment.
Seven schools offer undergraduate programs. Students pursuing graduate degrees in departments of these schools are enrolled in the Graduate School. In addition, there are six units offering graduate and professional programs.
Undergraduate colleges and schools
College of Architecture, Art and Planning
College of Arts and Sciences
College of Engineering
School of Hotel Administration
New York State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
New York State College of Human Ecology
New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations
Graduate/Professional colleges and schools
All of Cornell's graduate and professional schools are endowed, except for the statutory veterinary school.
Cornell Law School
S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management
Weill Cornell Medical College (New York City)
Weill Cornell Medical College (Qatar)
Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences (New York City)
New York State College of Veterinary Medicine
Cornell University Library
The Cornell University Library (CUL) consists of twenty units. One of the twelve largest academic research libraries in the United States by volume, it holds 7 million volumes in open stacks, 8 million microforms, and some 76,000 sound recordings in its collections, in addition to extensive digital resources and the University Archives. It was the first among all U.S. colleges and universities to allow undergraduates to borrow books from its libraries.
CUL plays an active role in furthering online archiving of scientific and historical documents. The arXiv.org e-print archive, created at Los Alamos National Laboratory by Paul Ginsparg, is operated and primarily funded by Cornell as part of CUL's services. The archive has changed the way many physicists and mathematicians communicate, making the eprint a viable and popular form for announcing new research.
The Project Euclid initiative creates one resource joining commercial journals with low-cost independent journals in mathematics and statistics. The project is aimed at enabling affordable scholarly communication through the Internet. Besides archival purposes, primary goals of the project is to facilitate journal searches and interoperatibility between different publishers.
The Cornell Library Digital Collections are online collections of historical documents. Featured collections include the Database of African-American Poetry, the Historic Math Book Collection, the Samuel May Anti-Slavery Collection, the Witchcraft Collection, and the Donovan Nuremberg Trials Collection.
Cornell University Press
Cornell University Press, established in 1869, but inactive from about 1890 to 1930, was the first university publishing enterprise in the United States and is one of the country's largest university presses. It produces approximately 150 titles each year in various disciplines including anthropology, classics, cultural studies, history, literary criticism and theory, medieval studies, philosophy, politics and international relations, psychology and psychiatry, and women's studies. Established in the College of the Mechanic Arts (as mechanical engineering was called in the 1800s), probably because engineers knew more than literature professors did about running steam-powered printing presses, the Cornell University Press offered work-study financial aid when tuition to Cornell cost $75 a year. Students with previous training in the printing trades were paid to set the type and run the presses that printed textbooks, a weekly student journal, pamphlets and official university publications, such as the annual “Register” book. An advertisement in the 1870 “Register” said that America’s first university press “solicits the patronage of the public for two reasons: First, it attempts to do its work well. Second, its employees are all young men who are endeavoring, by means of their own labor, to defer the expenses of a University education”.
Cornell's main campus is located on the eastern hill of Ithaca, New York, overlooking the city. Day Hall, the administration building, is located on East Avenue. The campus itself is situated on a rolling site of 745 acres (3 km²) on East Hill, overlooking Cayuga Lake and downtown Ithaca two miles (3 km) to the west. Over time, the campus has had numerous layouts proposed. The original one was created by Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of Central Park and numerous other college campuses. The changing plans have evolved into the 260 or so major buildings mostly divided into quads for the Arts, Engineering, and Agriculture, a science lab complex, and the athletic complex.
Central Campus is bounded to its north and south by limestone gorges and waterfalls. Dormitories, fraternity and sorority houses, and student centers are located on North Campus, north of Fall Creek Gorge, and on West Campus, at the bottom of the Library Slope ("Libe Slope"). After snowfalls, students are known to sled down the Slope on trays from the dining halls. East of the main campus lie the Cornell Plantations, approximately 3,600 acres (15 km²) encompassing botanical gardens and the F.R. Newman Arboretum, as well as natural woodlands, trails, streams, and gorges. South of Cascadilla Gorge lies the student-oriented Collegetown business and residential district.
The first building, Morrill Hall, was erected in 1868, although Cascadilla Hall, a dormitory in Collegetown, predates the university (it was originally used as a water-cure sanitarium and school for the education of women physicians and nurses when it was built in 1864). Cornell's signature landmark is McGraw Tower, which rises 173 feet and 161 steps from the ground. Constructed in 1891 adjoining Uris Library, it features the Cornell Chimes, 21 bells on which the Cornell chimesmasters play three daily concerts. The clock tower has been the target of a number of pranks. In 1997, a large pumpkin was placed on spire of the clock tower and a disco ball in 2005. How either prank was engineered has not been discovered.
Contrasting with the Gothic, Victorian, and Neoclassical buildings on the Arts Quad is the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, designed by I. M. Pei. Other notable buildings: Willard Straight Hall, one of the earliest student unions; Martha Van Rensselaer Hall, the largest academic building in the eastern United States; Duffield Hall, one of the world's most advanced nanotechnology facilities; and the Statler Hotel, adjacent to and associated with the School of Hotel Administration.
New York City campus
The New York Weill Cornell Medical Center is located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, New York City. It is home both to the Weill Cornell Medical College and Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences, and has a long affiliation with the New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Although their faculty and academic divisions remain separate, the Medical Center shares its administrative functions with the Columbia University Medical Center. Weill Cornell Medical College is also affiliated with the neighboring Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Rockefeller University, and the Hospital for Special Surgery. Many faculty have joint appointments at these institutions, and Weill Cornell, Rockefeller, and MSKCC offer a Tri-Institutional MD-PhD program to selected entering Cornell medical students.
New York City is also home to local offices of the Cornell Cooperative Extension, to an office of the ILR (Industrial and Labor Relations) Extension, to an office of the College of Architecture, Art & Planning, and to Cornell's Operations Research Manhattan Center. These facilities are all separate from and operated independently of the medical center.
The New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, operated by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is located in Geneva, New York, 50 miles (80 km) northwest of the main campus. The facility now comprises 20 major buildings on 130 acres (0.5 km²) of land, as well as over 700 acres (2.8 km²) of test plots and other lands devoted to horticultural research. It also operates three substations, Vineyard Research Laboratory in Fredonia, Hudson Valley Laboratory in Highland and the Long Island Horticultural Research Laboratory in Riverhead.
The Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, located in Education City, near Doha, is housed in a large two-story structure designed by Arata Isozaki.
The Shoals Marine Laboratory, a seasonal marine field station dedicated to undergraduate education and research operated in conjunction with the University of New Hampshire, is located on the 95 acre (0.4 km²) Appledore Island off the Maine–New Hampshire coast.
The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, site of the world's largest single-dish radio telescope, is operated by Cornell.
Cornell University maintains facilities in Washington, D.C. and New York City for its Cornell in Washington, Urban Semester, and Urban Scholars Programs.
Other facilities include
Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Sapsucker Woods in Ithaca, New York
Cornell Biological Field Station at Shackelton Point in Bridgeport, New York
Punta Cana and EsBaran biodiversity field stations in the Dominican Republic and Peru
Arnot Teaching and Research Forest natural resources center in Tompkins and Schuyler Counties.
Animal Science Teaching and Research Center in Harford, New York, and Duck Research Laboratory in Eastport, New York
Offices of the New York Sea Grant, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and School of Industrial and Labor Relations Extension Service throughout New York State
Offices for Cornell-administered study abroad programs such as the Cornell-Nepal Study Program and Cornell-in-Rome
For the undergraduate class of 2009, 27.1% of applicants were admitted. Over 88% of them graduated in the top 10% of their high school class (among schools reporting class rank). Cornell's enrollment includes students from over 120 countries and all fifty U.S. states.
Cornell offers a wide array of programs and undergraduate majors with an international focus, including Africana Studies, Asian Studies, French Studies, German Studies, Jewish Studies, Latino Studies, Near Eastern Studies, Romance Studies, Russian Literature, the South Asia Program, the Southeast Asia Program, and the newly-launched China and Asia-Pacific Studies (CAPS).
In addition to these academic programs, to the Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar and to its study abroad programs on six continents, Cornell has undertaken a number of major initiatives overseas: In Asia, Cornell has an agreement with Peking University in which students in the CAPS major will spend a semester in Beijing.
The College of Engineering has an agreement to exchange faculty and graduate students with Tsinghua University in Beijing.
The School of Hotel Administration has a joint master's program with Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.
The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has signed an agreement with Japan's National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences to engage in joint research, and to exchange graduate students and faculty members.
The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has agreed to cooperate in agricultural research with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research.
In the Middle East, Cornell is developing the Bridging the Rift Center, a "Library of Life" (or databank about all living systems) on the border of Israel and Jordan, in collaboration with those two countries and Stanford University.
Cornell ranked 13th in the 2006 U.S. News and World Report "National Universities" ranking, and 12th globally in an academic ranking of world universities by Shanghai Jiao Tong University in 2005.
In its 2005 ranking of engineering programs at universities in the United States, U.S. News and World Report has placed Cornell first in engineering science and engineering physics. That same magazine rated the medical school's departments of psychiatry and orthopedic surgery as second best in the country, while rheumatology was rated third.
ActivitiesThe Cornell Daily Sun is one of numerous campus publications
Cornell has more than 800 registered student organizations, running the gamut from kayaking to full-armor jousting, from varsity and club sports and a cappella groups to improvisational theatre, from political clubs and publications to chess and video game clubs. Many groups are subsidized financially by the Student Assembly Finance Commission, a student-run organization that gives nearly $1,000,000 a year to clubs and organizations. Organized in 1868, the oldest student organization is the Cornell University Glee Club.
The Cornell Daily Sun is the oldest continuously independent college daily in the United States, having published since September 1880, and the first collegiate member of the Associated Press. Other campus publications include The Cornell Review, Turn Left and The Cornell American.
WVBR is an independent radio station owned and operated by Cornell students. During the 1970s, it was noted for its progressive rock radio format. It is also known for its coverage of both Cornell and national sports.
Cornell also hosts one of the largest fraternity and sorority systems in North America, with over 60 chapters involving 30 percent of undergraduate students. Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for African Americans was founded at Cornell in 1906.
HousingBalch Hall is a women-only dormitory on North Campus
University housing is broadly divided into three sections: West Campus, Collegetown and North Campus. As a result of President Hunter R. Rawlings III's 1997 Residential Initiative, West Campus houses mostly transfer and returning students, whereas North Campus is almost entirely populated by freshmen. The only options for living on North Campus for upperclassmen are the program houses: Risley Residential College, Just About Music (JAM), the Ecology House, Holland International Living Center (HILC), the Multicultural Living Learning Unit (MLLU), the Latino Living Center (LLC), Akwe:kon, and Ujaama.
In an attempt to create a sense of community and an atmosphere of education outside the classroom, the university has undertaken the $250 million residential college project on West Campus. In line with Andrew Dickson White's vision of the university, the West Campus Class Halls will be demolished and rebuilt as five residential colleges. The first House, the Alice Cook House, was opened to students in 2004, followed by the Carl Becker House in 2005. The next house will be the Hans Bethe House. The names of the Houses come from notable Cornell professors. The idea of building a House system can be attributed in part to the success of Risley Residential College, the oldest continually-operating residential college at Cornell. Like Risley, the new houses will have their own dining halls, student governments, in-house lectures, House trips, and crests. The completion of the five-House "residential college" campus will occur in 2010.
A variety of off-campus housing options exist. Many homes in the East Hill neighborhoods adjacent to the university have been converted to apartments, and several high-rise apartment complexes have been constructed in the Collegetown neighborhood. A significant number of undergraduate students live in fraternity and sorority houses. Many "co-op" or other independent living units such as Watermargin, Telluride House, the Center for Jewish Living (formerly the Young Israel House), and the Wait Cooperative also exist.
The campus dining services have been rated as one of the top college dining services many times in recent years. Cornell has a program called Cross Country Gourmet Guest Restaurant Series which periodically brings chefs, menus, and atmosphere from America’s most influential restaurants to Cornell’s dining rooms.
Cornell has one of the most diverse varsity athletic programs in the country. It sponsors 36 varsity teams.
An NCAA Division I institution, Cornell is a member of the Ivy League and also competes in Eastern College Athletic Conference, the largest athletic conference in North America. Cornell's traditional football rival is the University of Pennsylvania; in 1993, the two institutions celebrated the 100th anniversary of their first game. More keenly followed in the present day are the men's ice hockey contests with Harvard University, although the rivalry has been somewhat one-sided in recent years, with Cornell leading 22-5-2 since the 95-96 season, including ECAC Championship Game wins in 1996, 2003, and 2005.
In addition to the school's varsity athletics, a wide variety of club sports teams have been organized as student organizations under the auspices of the Dean of Students.
Cornell's intramural program includes 30 sports. In addition to such familiar sports such as flag football, squash, or horseshoes, such unusual offerings as "inner tube water polo" and formerly "broomstick polo" have been offered, as well as a sports trivia competition.
Cornell University has over 1,550 full-time and part-time academic faculty members, and an additional 1,600 affiliated with its medical divisions. The 2004-05 Cornell faculty included three Nobel laureates, a Crawford Prize winner, two Turing Award winners, a Fields Medal winner, two Legion of Honor recipients, a World Food Prize winner, four National Medal of Science winners, two Wolf Prize winners, four MacArthur Award winners, four Pulitzer Prize winners, 14 Alexander von Humboldt Award winners, two Eminent Ecologist Award recipients, a Carter G. Woodson Scholars Medallion recipient, 20 National Science Foundation CAREER grant holders, a recipient of the National Academy of Sciences Award for Initiatives in Research, a winner of the American Mathematical Society's Steele Prize for Lifetime Achievement, a recipient of the Heineman Prize for Mathematical Physics, two Packard Foundation grant holders, a Keck Distinguished Young Scholar, two Beckman Foundation Young Investigator grant holders, and two NYSTAR (New York State Office of Science, Technology, and Academic Research) early career award winners. In total, Cornell is affiliated to 32 Nobel laureates.
Among Cornell's notable former professors are Carl Sagan, Norman Malcolm, Vladimir Nabokov, Hans Bethe, Richard Feynman, Kip S. Thorne, and Allan Bloom.
As of 2005, Cornell University counted over 230,000 living alumni. The Office of Alumni Affairs and Development sponsors a wide variety of affinity programs, activities, and organizations, including annual Reunion Weekend and Homecoming Weekend festivities in Ithaca, and the International Spirit of Zinck's Night sponsored by Cornell offices and organizations around the world. The various classes, regional clubs, and special interest associations are coordinated by the Cornell Alumni Federation.
Cornell ranked second in gifts and bequests from alumni and third in total support from all sources (alumni, friends, corporations, and foundations) among U.S. colleges and universities reporting voluntary gift support received in fiscal year 2003-4.
Among Cornell's most notable alumni are Pearl S. Buck, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, David Starr Jordan, Lee Teng-hui, Christopher Reeve, Janet Reno, Hu Shih, Sanford I. Weill, E. B. White and Paul Wolfowitz.
Dragon Day, one of the school's oldest traditions, has been celebrated since 1901.
See main article: Cornelliana
Cornelliana is a term for Cornell's unique traditions, legends and lore. Cornellian traditions include Slope Day, a celebration held on the last day of classes, and Dragon Day, which includes the burning of a dragon built by architecture students.
The school colors are carnelian (a shade of red) and white, a play on "Cornellian" and Andrew Dickson White. Cornell's athletic teams are referred to as the "Big Red"; a bear is commonly used as the unofficial mascot, which dates back to the introduction of the mascot "Touchdown" in 1915, a live bear who was brought onto the field during football games. The sports teams participate in the Ivy League and the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC). At sporting events, Cornellians sing the university's alma mater "Far Above Cayuga's Waters" and fight song "Give My Regards to Davy". People associated with the university are called "Cornellians"; "Cornellian" may also be used as an adjective and is the name of the university's yearbook.