The university was founded in 1754 as King's College by royal charter of George II of Great Britain. After the American Revolutionary War, King's College briefly became a state entity, and was renamed Columbia College in 1784. The University now operates under a 1787 charter that places the institution under a private board of trustees, and in 1896 it was further renamed Columbia University. That same year, the university's campus was moved from Madison Avenue to its current location in Morningside Heights, where it occupies more than six city blocks, or 32 acres (13 ha).
The university encompasses twenty schools and is affiliated with numerous institutions, including Teachers College (which is Columbia University's Graduate School of Education), Barnard College, and the Union Theological Seminary, with joint undergraduate programs available through the Jewish Theological Seminary of America as well as the Juilliard School.
Columbia annually administers the Pulitzer Prize. 101 Nobel Prize laureates have been affiliated with the university as students, faculty, or staff. Columbia is one of the fourteen founding members of the Association of American Universities, and was the first school in the United States to grant the M.D. degree. Notable alumni and former students of the university and its predecessor, King's College, include five Founding Fathers of the United States; nine Justices of the United States Supreme Court; 43 Nobel Prize laureates; 20 living billionaires; 29 Academy Award winners; and 29 heads of state, including three United States Presidents.
Main article: History of Columbia University
King's College (1754–1784)
Classes were initially held in July 1754 and were presided over by the college's first president, Dr. Samuel Johnson. Dr. Johnson was the only instructor of the college's first class, which consisted of a mere eight students. Instruction was held in a new schoolhouse adjoining Trinity Church, located on what is now lower Broadway in Manhattan. The college was officially founded on October 31, 1754, as King's College by royal charter of King George II, making it the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York and the fifth oldest in the United States.
In 1763, Dr. Johnson was succeeded in the presidency by Myles Cooper, a graduate of The Queen's College, Oxford, and an ardent Tory. In the charged political climate of the American Revolution, his chief opponent in discussions at the College was an undergraduate of the class of 1777, Alexander Hamilton. The American Revolutionary War broke out in 1776, and was catastrophic for the operation of King's College, which suspended instruction for eight years beginning in 1776 with the arrival of the Continental Army. The suspension continued through the military occupation of New York City by British troops until their departure in 1783. The college's library was looted and its sole building requisitioned for use as a military hospital first by American and then British forces. Loyalists were forced to abandon their King's College in New York, which was seized by the rebels and renamed Columbia University. The Loyalists, led by Bishop Charles Inglis fled to Windsor, Nova Scotia, where they founded what is now the University of King's College.
Columbia College (1784–1896)
On May 21, 1787, William Samuel Johnson, the son of Dr. Samuel Johnson, was unanimously elected President of Columbia College. Prior to serving at the university, Johnson had participated in the First Continental Congress and been chosen as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention. For a period in the 1790s, with New York City as the federal and state capital and the country under successive Federalist governments, a revived Columbia thrived under the auspices of Federalists such as Hamilton and Jay. Both President George Washington and Vice President John Adams attended the college's commencement on May 6, 1789, as a tribute of honor to the many alumni of the school who had been involved in the American Revolution.
Columbia University (1896–present)
Research into the atom by faculty members John R. Dunning, I. I. Rabi, Enrico Fermi and Polykarp Kusch placed Columbia's Physics Department in the international spotlight in the 1940s after the first nuclear pile was built to start what became the Manhattan Project. In 1947, to meet the needs of GIs returning from World War II, University Extension was reorganized as an undergraduate college and designated the Columbia University School of General Studies.
Though several schools within the university had admitted women for years, Columbia College first admitted women in the fall of 1983, after a decade of failed negotiations with Barnard College, the all-female institution affiliated with the university, to merge the two schools. Barnard College still remains affiliated with Columbia, and all Barnard graduates are issued diplomas authorized by both Columbia University and Barnard College.