University of California, Berkeley
Seal of University of California, Berkeley.svg
Former names
University of California (1868–1958)
MottoFiat lux (Latin)
Motto in English
Let there be light
TypePublic land-grant research university
EstablishedMarch 23, 1868; 152 years ago (1868-03-23)[1]
Parent institution
University of California
Academic affiliations
Endowment$4.79 billion (2019)[2]
ChancellorCarol T. Christ
ProvostPaul Alivisatos
Students43,204 (fall 2019)[3]
Undergraduates31,348 (fall 2019)[3]
Postgraduates11,856 (fall 2019)[3]
Location, ,
United States

37°52′19″N 122°15′31″W / 37.871899°N 122.258537°W / 37.871899; -122.258537[4]Coordinates: 37°52′19″N 122°15′31″W / 37.871899°N 122.258537°W / 37.871899; -122.258537[4]
CampusUrban college town
Core Campus 178 acres (72 ha)[5] Total land owned 8,163 acres (3,303 ha)[6]
AthleticsNCAA Division I FBS
NicknameGolden Bears
Sporting affiliations
MascotOski the Bear
University of California, Berkeley logo.svg

The University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley, Berkeley, Cal, or California)[8][9] is a public land-grant research university in Berkeley, California. Established in 1868 as the state's first land-grant university, it was the first campus of the University of California system and a founding member of the Association of American Universities. Its 14 colleges and schools offer over 350 degree programs and enroll some 31,000 undergraduate and 12,000 graduate students.[3][10][11] Berkeley is ranked among the world's top universities by major educational publications.[12]

Berkeley hosts many leading research institutes, including the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute and the Space Sciences Laboratory. It founded and maintains close relationships with three national laboratories at Berkeley, Livermore and Los Alamos,[13] and has played a prominent role in many scientific advances, from the Manhattan Project and the discovery of 16 chemical elements to breakthroughs in computer science and genomics.[14] Berkeley is also known for student activism and the Free Speech Movement of the 1960s.[15]

Berkeley alumni and faculty count among their ranks 110 Nobel laureates (34 alumni), 25 Turing Award winners (11 alumni), 14 Fields Medalists, 28 Wolf Prize winners, 103 MacArthur "Genius Grant" recipients, 30 Pulitzer Prize winners, and 19 Academy Award winners. The university has produced seven heads of state or government; five chief justices, including Chief Justice of the United States Earl Warren;[16] 22 cabinet-level officials; 11 governors; and 25 living billionaires.[17] It is also a leading producer of Fulbright Scholars, MacArthur Fellows, and Marshall Scholars.[18] Berkeley alumni, widely recognized for their entrepreneurship, have founded many notable companies.[19][20]

Berkeley's athletic teams compete in Division I of the NCAA, primarily in the Pac-12 Conference, and are collectively known as the California Golden Bears. The university's teams have won 107 national championships, and its students and alumni have won 207 Olympic medals.[21][22]


View from Memorial Glade of Sather Tower (the Campanile), the center of Berkeley—the ring of its bells and clock can be heard from all over campus.
Sather Tower (the Campanile) looking out over the San Francisco Bay and Mount Tamalpais


Made possible by President Lincoln's signing of the Morrill Act in 1862, the University of California was founded in 1868 as the state's first land-grant university by inheriting certain assets and objectives of the private College of California and the public Agricultural, Mining, and Mechanical Arts College. Although this process is often incorrectly mistaken for a merger, the Organic Act created a "completely new institution" and did not actually merge the two precursor entities into the new university.[23] The Organic Act states that the "University shall have for its design, to provide instruction and thorough and complete education in all departments of science, literature and art, industrial and professional pursuits, and general education, and also special courses of instruction in preparation for the professions".[24][25]

Ten faculty members and 40 students made up the fledgling university when it opened in Oakland in 1869.[26] Frederick H. Billings, a trustee of the College of California, suggested that a new campus site north of Oakland be named in honor of Anglo-Irish philosopher George Berkeley.[27] The university began admitting women the following year.[28] In 1870, Henry Durant, founder of the College of California, became its first president. With the completion of North and South Halls in 1873, the university relocated to its Berkeley location with 167 male and 22 female students.[29][30]

Beginning in 1891, Phoebe Apperson Hearst made several large gifts to Berkeley, funding a number of programs and new buildings and sponsoring, in 1898, an international competition in Antwerp, Belgium, where French architect Émile Bénard submitted the winning design for a campus master plan.

20th century

In 1905, the University Farm was established near Sacramento, ultimately becoming the University of California, Davis.[31] In 1919, Los Angeles State Normal School became the southern branch of the University, which ultimately became the University of California, Los Angeles.[32] By 1920s, the number of campus buildings had grown substantially and included twenty structures designed by architect John Galen Howard.[33]

In 1917, one of the nation's first ROTC programs was established at Berkeley[34] and its School of Military Aeronautics began training pilots, including Gen. Jimmy Doolittle. Berkeley ROTC alumni include former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and Army Chief of Staff Frederick C. Weyand as well as 16 other generals.[35] In 1926, future fleet admiral Chester W. Nimitz established the first Naval ROTC unit at Berkeley.[36]

In the 1930s, Ernest Lawrence helped establish the Radiation Laboratory (now Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) and invented the cyclotron, which won him the Nobel physics prize in 1939.[37] Using the cyclotron, Berkeley professors and Berkeley Lab researchers went on to discover 16 chemical elements—more than any other university in the world.[38][39] In particular, during World War II and following Glenn Seaborg's then-secret discovery of plutonium, Ernest Orlando Lawrence's Radiation Laboratory began to contract with the U.S. Army to develop the atomic bomb. Physics professor J. Robert Oppenheimer was named scientific head of the Manhattan Project in 1942.[40][41] Along with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley founded and was then a partner in managing two other labs, Los Alamos National Laboratory (1943) and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (1952).

By 1942, the American Council on Education ranked Berkeley second only to Harvard in the number of distinguished departments.[42]

In 1952, the University of California reorganized itself into a system of semi-autonomous campuses, with each campus given its own chancellor, and Clark Kerr became Berkeley's first Chancellor, while Sproul remained in place as the President of the University of California.[42]

Berkeley gained a worldwide reputation for political activism in the 1960s.[43][44] In 1964, the Free Speech Movement organized student resistance to the university's restrictions on political activities on campus—most conspicuously, student activities related to the Civil Rights Movement. The arrest in Sproul Plaza of Jack Weinberg, a recent Berkeley alumnus and chair of Campus CORE, in October 1964, prompted a series of student-led acts of formal remonstrance and civil disobedience that ultimately gave rise to the Free Speech Movement, which movement would prevail and serve as precedent for student opposition to America's involvement in the Vietnam War.[45][46][47]

In 1982, the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) was established on campus with support from the National Science Foundation and at the request of three Berkeley mathematicians — Shiing-Shen Chern, Calvin Moore and Isadore M. Singer. The institute is now widely regarded as a leading center for collaborative mathematical research, drawing thousands of visiting researchers from around the world each year.[48][49][50]

21st century

In the current century, Berkeley has become less politically active and more focused on entrepreneurship and fundraising, especially for STEM disciplines.[51][52]

Modern Berkeley students are less politically radical, with a greater percentage of moderates and conservatives than in the 1960s and 70s.[53][54] Democrats outnumber Republicans on the faculty by a ratio of 9:1.[55] On the whole, Democrats outnumber Republicans on American university campuses by a ratio of 10:1.[56]

In 2007, the Energy Biosciences Institute was established with funding from BP and Stanley Hall, a research facility and headquarters for the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences, opened. The next few years saw the dedication of the Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences, funded by a lead gift from billionaire Li Ka-shing; the opening of Sutardja Dai Hall, home of the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society; and the unveiling of Blum Hall, housing the Blum Center for Developing Economies. Supported by a grant from alumnus James Simons, the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing was established in 2012. In 2014, Berkeley and its sister campus, UCSF, established the Innovative Genomics Institute, and, in 2020, an anonymous donor pledged $252 million to help fund a new center for computing and data science.[57]

Since 2000, Berkeley alumni and faculty have received 40 Nobel Prizes, behind only Harvard and MIT among US universities; five Turing Awards, behind only MIT and Stanford; and five Fields Medals, second only to Princeton. According to PitchBook, Berkeley ranks second, just behind Stanford, in producing VC-backed entrepreneurs.[58]

Organization and administration

Although the University of California system does not have an official flagship campus, many scholars and experts consider Berkeley to be its unofficial flagship. In some cases, it shares this unofficial status with the University of California, Los Angeles.[59]


Officially the University of California, Berkeley, its name is often shortened to Berkeley in general reference or in an academic context (, Berkeley Law, Berkeley Haas) or to California or Cal, particularly when referring to its athletic teams (California Golden Bears).[8][9][60]


The University of California is governed by a 26-member Board of Regents, 18 of whom are appointed by the Governor of California to 12-year terms. The board also has seven ex officio members, a student regent, and a non-voting student regent-designate.[61] Prior to 1952, Berkeley was the University of California, so the university president was also Berkeley's chief executive. However, in 1952, the university reorganized itself into a system of semi-autonomous campuses, with each campus having its own chief executive, a chancellor, who would, in turn, report to the president of the university system. Twelve vice chancellors report directly to Berkeley's chancellor, and the deans of the 14 colleges and schools report to the executive vice chancellor and provost, Berkeley's chief academic officer.[62]

Twenty-five presidents and chancellors have led Berkeley since its founding.[63][42]