The University of Wisconsin–Madison (University of Wisconsin, Wisconsin, UW, UW–Madison, or simply Madison) is a public land-grant research university in Madison, Wisconsin. Founded when Wisconsin achieved statehood in 1848, UW–Madison is the official state university of Wisconsin and the flagship campus of the University of Wisconsin System. It was the first public university established in Wisconsin and remains the oldest and largest public university in the state. It became a land-grant institution in 1866. The 933-acre (378 ha) main campus, located on the shores of Lake Mendota, includes four National Historic Landmarks.[The university also owns and operates a National Historic Landmark 1,200-acre (486 ha) arboretum established in 1932, located 4 miles (6.4 km) south of the main campus.
UW–Madison is organized into 20 schools and colleges, which enrolled 30,361 undergraduate and 14,052 graduate students in 2018. Its academic programs include 136 undergraduate majors, 148 master's degree programs, and 120 doctoral programs. A major contributor to Wisconsin's economy, the university is the largest employer in the state,[with over 21,600 faculty and staff.
Wisconsin is one of the twelve founding members of the Association of American Universities, a selective group of major research universities in North America. It is considered a Public Ivy, and is classified as an R1 University, meaning that it engages in a very high level of research activity. In 2018, it had research and development expenditures of $1.2 billion, the eighth-highest among universities in the U.S. As of March 2020, 26 Nobel laureates, 2 Fields medalists and 1 Turing award winner have been associated with UW–Madison as alumni, faculty, or researchers. Additionally, as of November 2018, the current CEOs of 14 Fortune 500 companies have attended UW–Madison, the most of any university in the United States.
Among the scientific advances made at UW–Madison are the single-grain experiment, the discovery of vitamins A and B by Elmer McCollum and Marguerite Davis, the development of the anticoagulant medication warfarin by Karl Paul Link, the first chemical synthesis of a gene by Har Gobind Khorana, the discovery of the retroviral enzyme reverse transcriptase by Howard Temin, and the first synthesis of human embryonic stem cells by James Thomson. UW–Madison was also the home of both the prominent "Wisconsin School" of economics and of diplomatic history, while UW–Madison professor Aldo Leopold played an important role in the development of modern environmental science and conservationism.
The Wisconsin Badgers compete in 25 intercollegiate sports in the NCAA Division I Big Ten Conference and have won 31 national championships. Wisconsin students and alumni have won 50 Olympic medals (including 13 gold medals).
The university had its official beginnings when the Wisconsin Territorial Legislature in its 1838 session passed a law incorporating a "University of the Territory of Wisconsin", and a high-ranking Board of Visitors was appointed. However, this body (the predecessor of the U.W. board of regents) never actually accomplished anything before Wisconsin was incorporated as a state in 1848. The Wisconsin Constitution provided for "the establishment of a state university, at or near the seat of state government..." and directed by the state legislature to be governed by a board of regents and administered by a Chancellor. On July 26, 1848, Nelson Dewey, Wisconsin's first governor, signed the act that formally created the University of Wisconsin. John H. Lathrop became the university's first chancellor, in the fall of 1849. With John W. Sterling as the university's first professor (mathematics), the first class of 17 students met at Madison Female Academy on February 5, 1849. A permanent campus site was soon selected: an area of 50 acres (20.2 ha) "bounded north by Fourth lake, east by a street to be opened at right angles with King street", [later State Street] "south by Mineral Point Road (University Avenue), and west by a carriage-way from said road to the lake." The regents' building plans called for a "main edifice fronting towards the Capitol, three stories high, surmounted by an observatory for astronomical observations." This building, University Hall, now known as Bascom Hall, was finally completed in 1859. On October 10, 1916, a fire destroyed the building's dome, which was never replaced. North Hall, constructed in 1851, was actually the first building on campus. In 1854, Levi Booth and Charles T. Wakeley became the first graduates of the university, and in 1892 the university awarded its first PhD to future university president Charles R. Van Hise.
The Wisconsin Idea
Research, teaching, and service at the UW is influenced by a tradition known as "the Wisconsin Idea", first articulated by UW–Madison President Charles Van Hise in 1904, when he declared "I shall never be content until the beneficent influence of the University reaches every home in the state." The Wisconsin Idea holds that the boundaries of the university should be the boundaries of the state, and that the research conducted at UW–Madison should be applied to solve problems and improve health, quality of life, the environment, and agriculture for all citizens of the state. The Wisconsin Idea permeates the university's work and helps forge close working relationships among university faculty and students, and the state's industries and government. Based in Wisconsin's populist history, the Wisconsin Idea continues to inspire the work of the faculty, staff, and students who aim to solve real-world problems by working together across disciplines and demographics.
World War II
During World War II, University of Wisconsin was one of 131 colleges and universities nationally that took part in the V-12 Navy College Training Program which offered students a path to a Navy commission.
Main article: University of Wisconsin System
Over time, additional campuses were added to the university. The University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee was created in 1956, and UW–Green Bay and UW–Parkside in 1968. Ten freshman-sophomore centers were also added to this system. In 1971, Wisconsin legislators passed a law merging the University of Wisconsin with the nine universities and four freshman-sophomore branch campuses of the Wisconsin State Universities System, creating the University of Wisconsin System and bringing the two higher education systems under a single board of regents.