Originally founded in 1746 at Elizabeth, New Jersey, as the College of New Jersey, it moved to Princeton in 1756 and was renamed “Princeton University” in 1896. Princeton was the fourth institution of higher education in the U.S. to conduct classes. The university, unlike most American universities that were founded at the same time, did not have an official religious affiliation. At one time, it had close ties to the Presbyterian Church, but today it is nonsectarian and makes no religious demands of its students. The university has ties with the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton Theological Seminary, and the Westminster Choir College of Rider University.
Though Princeton University has traditionally focused on undergraduate education, almost two thousand five hundred graduate students are enrolled and the university is renowned as a world-class research institution. Although lacking medical, law, or business schools, it offers professional master's degrees (mostly through the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs) and doctoral programs in the sciences, humanities, and social sciences, as well as engineering. In addition to the research conducted on the main campus, the Forrestal Campus has special facilities for the study of plasma physics and meteorology.
The history of Princeton goes back to its establishment by "New Light" Presbyterians; Princeton was originally intended to train Presbyterian ministers. It opened at Elizabeth, New Jersey, under the presidency of Jonathan Dickinson as the College of New Jersey. Its second president was Aaron Burr, Sr.; the third was Jonathan Edwards. In 1756, the college moved to Princeton, New Jersey.
Between the time of the college's move to Princeton in 1756 and the construction of Stanhope Hall in 1803, the college's sole building was Nassau Hall, named for the Dutch William III of England of the House of Orange-Nassau. (A proposal was made to name it for the colonial Governor, Jonathan Belcher, but he declined.) The college also adopted the color orange from William III. During the American Revolution, Princeton was occupied by British and American forces on different occasions and, consequently, the college's buildings were heavily damaged. The Battle of Princeton, fought in a nearby field in January of 1777, proved to be a decisive victory for General George Washington and his troops. Two of Princeton's leading citizens signed the United States Declaration of Independence: Richard Stockton and College president John Witherspoon. During the summer of 1783, the Continental Congress met in Nassau Hall, making Princeton the country's capital for four months. The much-abused landmark survived bombardment with cannonballs in the Revolutionary War when General Washington struggled to wrest the building from British control, as well as later fires in 1802 and 1855 that left only its walls standing. Rebuilt by Joseph Henry Latrobe, John Notman and John Witherspoon, the modern Nassau Hall has been much revised and expanded from the original one that was designed by Robert Smith. Over the centuries, its role shifted from an all-purpose building, comprising office, dormitory, library, and classroom space, to classroom space exclusively, to its present role as the administrative center of the university. Originally, the sculptures in front of the building were lions, as a gift in 1879. These were later replaced with tigers in 1911.
The Princeton Theological Seminary broke off from the college in 1812 because the Presbyterians wanted their ministers to have more theological training whereas the faculty and students would have been content with less. This reduced the student body and the external support for Princeton for some time. The two institutions currently enjoy a close relationship based on common history and shared resources.
James McCosh took office as the college's president in 1868 and lifted the institution out of a low period that had been brought about by the Civil War. During his two decades in power, he overhauled the curriculum, oversaw an expansion of inquiry into the sciences, and supervised the addition of a number of buildings in the High Victorian Gothic style to the campus. McCosh Hall is named in his honor.
In 1896, the college officially changed its name from the College of New Jersey to Princeton University to honor the town in which it resides. During this year, the college also underwent large expansion and officially became a university. Under Woodrow Wilson, Princeton introduced the preceptorial system in 1905, a then-unique concept that augmented the standard lecture method of teaching with a more personal form in which small groups of students, or precepts, could interact with a single instructor, or preceptor, in their field of interest.
In 1969, Princeton University first admitted women as undergraduates. In 1887, the university had actually maintained and staffed a sister college, Evelyn College for Women, in the town of Princeton on Evelyn and Nassau streets. It was closed after roughly a decade of operation. After abortive discussions with Sarah Lawrence College to relocate the women's college to Princeton and merge it with the University in 1967, the administration decided to admit women and turned to the issue of transforming the school's operations and facilities into a female-friendly campus. The administration barely finished these plans by April 1969 when the admission's office began mailing out its acceptance letters. Its five-year coeducation plan provided $7.8 million for the development of new facilities that would eventually house and educate 650 women students at Princeton by 1974. Ultimately, 148 women, consisting of 100 freshwomen and transfer students of other years, entered Princeton on September 6, 1969 amidst much media attention. (Princeton enrolled its first female graduate student, Sabra Follett Meserve, as a Ph.D. candidate in Turkish history in 1961. A handful of women had studied at Princeton as undergraduates from 1963 on, spending their junior year there to study subjects in which Princeton's offerings surpassed those of their home institutions. They were considered regular students for their year on campus, but they were not candidates for a Princeton degree.)
Princeton's campus features buildings designed by noted architects such as Benjamin Latrobe, Ralph Adams Cram, McKim, Mead & White, Robert Venturi, and Nick Yeager. The campus, located on 2 km² of landscaped grounds, features a large number of Neo-gothic-style buildings, most dating from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It is situated about one hour from New York City and Philadelphia. The first Princeton building constructed was Nassau Hall, situated in the north end of Campus on Nassau Street. Stanhope Hall (once a library, now home of the University's Center for African-American Studies) and East and West College, both dormitories, followed. Though many of the succeeding buildings—particularly the dormitories of the Northern campus—were built in a Collegiate Gothic style, the university's architecture is a mixture of American architectural movements. Greek Revival temples (Whig and Clio Halls) abut the lawn south of Nassau Hall whereas a crenellated theater (Murray-Dodge) guards the route west to the library. Modern buildings are confined to the east and south of the campus, a quarter overlooked by the fourteen-story Fine Hall. Fine Hall, the Math Department's home, designed by Warner, Burns, Toan and Lunde and completed in 1970, is the tallest building on campus. Contemporary additions feature a number of big-name architects, including IM Pei's Spelman Halls, Robert Venturi's Frist Campus Center, Rafael Vinoly's Carl Icahn Laboratory, the Hillier Group's Bowen Hall, and Demetri Porphyrios' Whitman College. A science library, designed by Frank Gehry, is presently under construction. A variety of sculptures adorn the campus. They include pieces by Henry Moore (Oval with Points, also nicknamed "Nixon's Nose"), Clement Meadmore (Upstart II), and Alexander Calder (Five Disks: One Empty). At the base of campus is the Delaware and Raritan Canal, dating from 1830, and Lake Carnegie, a man-made lake donated by the steel magnate Andrew Carnegie. The lake is used for crew (rowing) and sailing.
Cannon Green is located on the south end of the main lawn. Buried in the ground at the center is the "Big Cannon." Its top protrudes from the earth and is traditionally spray-painted in orange with the current senior class year. A second "Little Cannon" is buried in the lawn in front of nearby Whig Hall. Both cannons were buried in response to periodic thefts by Rutgers students. The "Big Cannon" is said to have been left in Princeton by Hessians after the Revolutionary War but moved to New Brunswick during the War of 1812. Ownership of the cannon was disputed and the cannon was eventually taken back to Princeton partly by a military company and then by a hundred Princeton students. The "Big Cannon" was eventually buried in its current location behind Nassau Hall in 1840. In 1875, Rutgers students, in an attempt to recover the original cannon, stole the "Little Cannon" instead. The smaller cannon was subsequently recovered and buried as well. The protruding cannons are occasionally painted scarlet by Rutgers students who continue the traditional dispute.
A Beautiful Mind, the Academy Award-winning movie, contains a scene that takes place on Cannon Green. John Nash plays Go with his college rival while sitting on stone benches in the middle of the green. (The benches do not exist; like many elements of the Princeton setting that is depicted in the movie, they were introduced by the filmmakers.) Additional scenes were filmed around Holder Courtyard.
Numbering nearly 60,000 objects, the collections range from ancient to contemporary art and concentrate geographically on the Mediterranean regions, Western Europe, China, the United States, and Latin America. There is a collection of Greek and Roman antiquities, including ceramics, marbles, bronzes, and Roman mosaics from faculty excavations in Antioch. Medieval Europe is represented by sculpture, metalwork, and stained glass. The collection of Western European paintings includes examples from the early Renaissance through the nineteenth century and features a growing collection of twentieth-century and contemporary art.
One of the best features of the museums is its collection of Chinese art, with important holdings in bronzes, tomb figurines, painting, and calligraphy. Its collection of pre-Columbian art includes examples of Mayan art. The museum has collections of old master prints and drawings and a comprehensive collection of original photographs. African art and Northwest Coast Indian art are also represented. Other works include those of the John B. Putnam, Jr., Memorial Collection of twentieth-century sculpture. They including works by such modern masters as Alexander Calder, Jacques Lipchitz, Henry Moore and Pablo Picasso. The Putnam Collection is overseen by the Museum, but it is exhibited outdoors around campus.
Princeton University Chapel is the third-largest university chapel in the world. Known for its gothic architecture, the chapel houses one of the largest and most precious stained glass collections in the country. Both the Opening Exercises for entering freshmen and the Baccalaureate Service for graduating seniors take place in the University Chapel. Construction on the Princeton University Chapel began in 1924 and was completed in 1927 at a cost of $2.4 million. Princeton's Chapel is the world's third-largest university chapel, behind those of Valparaiso University and King's College, Cambridge, England. It was designed by the University's lead consulting architect, Ralph Adams Cram, previously of Boston's architectural firm Cram, Goodhue, and Ferguson, leading proponents of the Gothic revival style. The vaulting was built by the Guastavino Company, whose thin Spanish tile vaults can be found in Ellis Island, Grand Central Terminal, and hundreds of other significant works of 20th century architecture.
The -long, -high, cruciform church has a collegiate Gothic style and it is made largely from Pennsylvania sandstone and Indiana limestone. It seats two thousand people, many in pews made from wood salvaged from Civil War-era gun carriages. Seats in the chancel are made from oak from Sherwood Forest. The sixteenth century pulpit was brought from France and the primary pipe organ has eight thousand pipes and 109 stops.
One of the most prominent features of the chapel are its stained glass windows, which have an unusually academic leaning. Three of the large windows have religious themes: The north aisle windows shows the life of Jesus, the north clerestory shows the spirtual development of the Jews, and the south aisle shows the teachings of Jesus. The stained glass in the south clerestory portrays the evolution of human thought from the Greeks to modern times. It has windows on such topics as science, law, poetry, and war.
University housing is guaranteed to all undergraduates for all four years. More than 95 percent of students live on campus in dormitories. Freshmen and sophomores live in residential colleges. Juniors and seniors have the option to live off-campus, but high rent in the Princeton area encourages almost all students to live in university housing. Undergraduate social life revolves around the residential colleges and a number of coeducational "eating clubs", which students may choose to join in the spring of their sophomore year. Eating clubs serve as dining halls and communal spaces for their members and also host social events throughout the academic year.
Princeton has six undergraduate residential colleges, each housing approximately 500 freshmen, sophomores, and a handful of junior and senior resident advisers. Each college consists of a set of dormitories, a dining hall, a variety of other amenities — such as study spaces, libraries, performance spaces, and darkrooms — and a collection of administrators and associated faculty. Two colleges, Wilson College and Forbes College (formerly Princeton Inn College), date to the 1970s; three others, Rockefeller, Mathey, and Butler Colleges, were created in 1983 following the Committee on Undergraduate Residential Life (CURL) report, which suggested the institution of residential colleges as a solution to an allegedly fragmented campus social life. The construction of Whitman College, the university's sixth residential college, was completed in 2007. Rockefeller College and Mathey College are located in the northwest corner of the campus; their Collegiate Gothic architecture often graces University brochures. Like most of Princeton's Gothic buildings, they predate the residential college system and were fashioned into colleges from individual dormitories.
Wilson College and Butler College, located south of the center of the campus, were built in the 1960s. Wilson served as an early experiment in the establishment of the residential college system. Butler, like Rockefeller and Mathey, consisted of a collection of ordinary dorms (called the "New New Quad") before the addition of a dining hall made it a residential college. Widely disliked for its edgy modernist design, the dormitories on the Butler Quad were demolished in 2007, and the college is being partially housed in converted upperclass dormitories until its reconstruction is completed.
Forbes is located on the site of the historic Princeton Inn, a gracious hotel overlooking the Princeton golf course. The Princeton Inn, originally constructed in 1924, played regular host to important symposia and gatherings of renowned scholars from both the University and the nearby Institute for Advanced Studies for many years. Forbes currently houses over 400 undergraduates and a number of resident graduate students in its residential halls. Butler and most of Forbes are in a different municipality, Princeton Township, from the rest of the main campus, which is in Princeton Borough.
In 2003, Princeton broke ground for a sixth college that is named Whitman College after its principal sponsor, Meg Whitman, the former CEO of eBay and a member of the Princeton Class of 1977. The new dormitories were constructed in the neo-Gothic architectural style and were designed by renowned architect Demetri Porphyrios. Construction finished in 2007, and Whitman College was inaugurated as Princeton's sixth residential college that same year.
A variant on the present college system was originally proposed by university president Woodrow Wilson in the early twentieth century. Wilson's model was much closer to Yale's present system, which features four-year colleges. Lacking the support of the Trustees, the plan languished until 1968. That year, Wilson College was established to cap a series of alternatives to the eating clubs. Fierce debates raged before the present residential college system emerged. The plan was first attempted at Yale, but the administration was initially uninterested; an exasperated alum, Edward Harkness, finally paid to have the college system implemented at Harvard in the 1920s, leading to the oft-quoted aphorism that the college system is a Princeton idea that was executed at Harvard with funding from Yale.
Princeton has one graduate residential college, known simply as the Graduate College, located beyond Forbes College at the outskirts of campus. The far-flung location of the G.C. was the spoil of a squabble between Woodrow Wilson and then-Graduate School Dean Andrew Fleming West. Wilson preferred a central location for the College; West wanted the graduate students as far as possible from the campus. Ultimately, West's idea was heeded. The G.C. is composed of a large Collegiate Gothic section crowned by Cleveland Tower, a local landmark that also houses a world-class carillon. The attached New Graduate College houses more students. Its design departs from collegiate gothic. It is reminiscent of Butler College, the newest of the five pre-Whitman residential colleges.
Undergraduate students at Princeton benefit from the resources of a world-class research institution that is simultaneously dedicated to undergraduate teaching. Princeton faculty have a reputation for balancing excellence in their respective fields with a dedication to their students as classroom instructors and as advisors of independent work.
Undergraduates fulfill general education requirements, choose among a wide variety of elective courses, and pursue departmental concentrations and interdisciplinary certificate programs. Required independent work is a hallmark of undergraduate education at Princeton. Students graduate with either the Bachelor of Arts (A.B.) or the Bachelor of Science in engineering (B.S.E.).
The Graduate School offers advanced degrees spanning the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering. Doctoral education is available in all disciplines. It emphasizes original and independent scholarship whereas master's degree programs in architecture, engineering, finance, and public affairs and public policy prepare candidates for careers in public life and professional practice.
Undergraduates agree to conform to an academic honesty policy called the Honor Code. Students write and sign the honor pledge, "I pledge my honor that I have not violated the Honor Code during this examination," on every in-class exam. (The form of the pledge was changed slightly in 1980; it formerly read, "I pledge my honor that during this examination, I have neither given nor received assistance.") The Code carries a second obligation: Upon matriculation, every student pledges to report any suspected cheating to the student-run Honor Committee. Because of this code, students take all tests unsupervised by faculty members or teaching assistants. Violations of the Honor Code incur suspension or expulsion, the strongest of disciplinary actions. Out-of-class exercises are outside the Honor Committee's jurisdiction. In these cases, students are often expected to sign a pledge on their papers to aver that they have not plagiarized their work ("This paper represents my own work in accordance with University regulations.")
In the "America's Best Colleges" rankings by the Forbes magazine in 2008, Princeton University was ranked first among all national colleges and universities. The Forbes ranking also takes into consideration national awards won by students and faculty, as well as number of alumni in the 2008 "Who's Who in America" register.
In Princeton Review's rankings of "softer" aspects of students' college experience, Princeton University was ranked first in "Students Happy with Financial Aid" and third in "Happiest Students", behind Clemson and Brown Universities. These studies, however, discuss only undergraduate happiness.
The university's individual academic departments have been highly-ranked in their respective fields. The Department of Psychology has been ranked fifth in the nation and its individual graduate programs have received high national rankings as well. The behavioral neuroscience program has been ranked sixth and the social psychology program has been ranked seventh. The Department of History is currently ranked second, relinquishing the top spot to Yale intermittently in the last decade.
Princeton University also participates in the (NAICU)'s University and College Accountability Network (U-CAN).
Princeton University has an IBM BlueGeneL supercomputer, called Orangena, which was ranked as the 79th fastest computer in the world in 2005 (LINPACK performance of 4713 compared to 12250 for other U. S. universities and 280600 for the top-ranked supercomputer, belonging to the U. S. Department of Energy).
The eating clubs, located on Prospect Avenue, are co-ed organizations for upperclassmen. Most upperclassmen eat their meals at one of the ten eating clubs. Additionally, the clubs serve as evening and weekend social venues for members and guests.
Princeton hosts two Model United Nations conferences, PMUNC in the fall for high school students and PICSim in the spring for college students. It also hosts the Princeton Invitational Speech and Debate tournament each year at the end of November. Princeton also runs Princeton Model Congress, an event that is held once a year in mid-November. The 4-day conference has high school students from around the country as participants.
Although the school's admissions policy is "need-blind" Princeton, based on the proportion of students who receive Pell Grants, was ranked as a school with little economic diversity among all national universities ranked by U.S. News & World Report. While Pell figures are widely used as a gauge of the number of low-income undergraduates on a given campus, the rankings article cautions "the proportion of students on Pell Grants isn't a perfect measure of an institution's efforts to achieve economic diversity."
Princeton won a record 21 conference titles from 2000–2001. By the end of 2004, Princeton had garnered 36 Ivy League conference titles from the 2001–2004 sports seasons.
The university's field field hockey team has taken every field hockey conference title since 1994.
Princeton's men's and women's squash teams have earned a strong reputation during the past decade. The men have won the Ivy League championship from 2006-2008 and have placed second nationally in five of the past seven champtionships.
Princeton's basketball team is perhaps the best known team within the Ivy League. It is nicknamed the "perennial giant killer," a nickname that it acquired during Pete Carril's coaching career from 1967–1996. Its most notable upset was the defeat in defense of UCLA, NCAA basketball champion, in its opening round and Carril's final collegiate victory in that season's collegiate basketball playoffs. During that 29-year span, Pete Carril won thirteen Ivy League championships and received eleven NCAA berths and two NIT bids. Princeton won the NIT championship in 1975. The deliberate "Princeton offense" is a legacy of his coaching career. It is employed by a number of other collegiate basketball teams.
From 1992–2001, a nine year span, Princeton's men's basketball team entered the NCAA tournament four times. Notably, the conference has never had an at-large entry in the NCAA tournament. For the last half-century, Princeton and Penn have traditionally battled for men's basketball dominance in the Ivy League; Princeton had its first losing season in 50 years of Ivy League basketball in 2005. Princeton tied the record for fewest points in a Division I game since the 3-point line started in 1986–87 when they scored 21 points in a loss against Monmouth University on December 14, 2005.
The university's men's lacrosse team has enjoyed significant success since the early 1990s and is widely recognized as a perennial powerhouse in the Division I ranks. The team has won thirteen Ivy League titles (1992, 1993, 1995–2004, 2006) and six national titles (1992, 1994, 1996–1998, 2001).
Princeton's women's track & field team has also enjoyed great success under Head Coach Peter Farrell.
The Princeton women's volleyball team has won thirteen Ivy League titles and, in 1998, its men's volleyball team became the first non-scholarship school to make the NCAA Final Four in 25 years.
Princeton also boasts a strong women's soccer program. In 2004, the team went to the Final Four in the NCAA tournament. It became the only Ivy League team (men's or women's) to do so in a 64-team tournament. In 2005, the women's soccer team made the NCAA Final Four to become the first Ivy League team to accomplish this feat.
The first football game played between teams representing American colleges was an unfamiliar ancestor of today's college football because it was played under soccer-style London Football Association rules. The game, between Rutgers College (now Rutgers University) and the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), took place on November 6, 1869 at College Field (now the site of the College Avenue Gymnasium at Rutgers University) in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Rutgers won by a score of six "runs" to Princeton's four. The 1869 game between Rutgers and Princeton is notable because it is the first documented game of any sport called "football" between two American colleges. It is also noteworthy because it occurred two years before a codified rugby game would be played in England. The Princeton/Rutgers game was significantly different from American rules football today but, nonetheless, it was the first inter-collegiate football contest in the United States. Another similar game took place between Rutgers and Columbia University in 1870 and the popularity of intercollegiate competition in football would spread throughout the country shortly thereafter.
However, Old Nassau does not only refer to the university's anthem. It can also refer to Nassau Hall, the building that was built in 1756 and named after William III of the House of Orange-Nassau. When built, it was the largest college building in North America. It served briefly as the capitol of the United States when the Continental Congress convened there in the summer of 1783. By metonymy, the term can refer to the university as a whole. Finally, it can also refer to a chemical reaction that is dubbed "Old Nassau" because the solution turns orange and then black.