daily californian logo


Apply to The Daily Californian!

Key UC Berkeley highlights throughout the decades

article image



We're an independent student-run newspaper, and need your support to maintain our coverage.

MARCH 23, 2018

Can you believe that UC Berkeley is 150 years old? It seems that just yesterday, it was the only UC and the beloved Campanile didn’t even exist (we at the Clog remember that sort of stuff). The past 150 years have been filled with some incredible inventions, Nobel Peace prizes, Big Games, campus expansions and being the No. 1 public university in the world. There’s a reason UC Berkeley is so well known, and we’ve decided to compile a list of things that have happened in every decade of its existence. There’s no way we could possibly get every contribution to society the school made into one succinct list, but we’ve compiled some of the highlights!


On March 23, 1868, UC Berkeley was born! It’s pretty obvious, but if that hadn’t happened, where would we be? Another UC? Probably not, because without UC Berkeley, none of the others would exist. So you’re welcome for our existence, California.


In 1868, only men were allowed to apply to our school. Yet in 1870, women were allowed to apply and enroll as well, thereby gaining equal status to that of men! UC Berkeley has been “woke” almost since its very beginning, which is pretty cool. The 1870s were also pretty great because The Daily Californian was founded in 1871!


California is known for its earthquakes, as many of us know from all the times we had to crawl under the desks in elementary school for drills. But before any of us were born and felt our first earthquake, professors in the earth sciences department set up the Western Hemisphere’s very first seismographic stations in 1887. Soon after, UC Berkeley got the first reported record of an earthquake in 1887! 


The first Big Game was played against Stanford in 1892, and spoiler alert: We lost 14 to 10! But it’s fine — there were many more Big Games to come, and a few (emphasis on a few) wins to boot.


The Big C was built in 1905, which is a pretty big milestone for us students. This iconic Berkeley landmark is home to many sunset and late night hikes, but most of all, great memories.


Everyone’s favorite tower, the Campanile, was built in 1914! The turn of the century was clearly a good time for Berkeley landmarks. From 1914 onward, the Campanile has been keeping time and entertaining students with its bells.


In 1924, Joel Hildebrand came up with a mixture of helium and oxygen to protect deep-sea divers from getting the “bends.” This discovery opened up a whole lot more of the ocean for study. But don’t put UC Berkeley’s contributions to ocean exploration away just yet, because just like the vast ocean, there’s more to unearth.


Robert Gordon Sproul was appointed as president of the university. If you don’t live under a rock, you’ll probably recognize his name from Sproul Hall and Sproul Plaza. He oversaw UC Berkeley during the Great Depression by seeking private funds to keep research and UC Berkeley’s academic rigor going.


UC Berkeley’s contributions to science have changed the world for the better, but also, it can be argued, for the worse. In the 1940s, both the flu vaccine and atomic bomb were invented during World War II. The UC and professor J. Robert Oppenheimer actually directed operations at the labs in Los Alamos, New Mexico, where the atomic bomb was developed and tested. 


Look, we’re going to talk about the ocean again! In 1952, wetsuits were invented by physics professor Hugh Bradner! Thanks to him, we can explore the depths of the sea and surf without getting too cold. He made underwater exploration possible, and you can now look super snazzy at the beach. 


It’s not a list about UC Berkeley without a mention of the Free Speech Movement. In 1964, students protested a ban on campus activities, which led to protests over the Vietnam War, the “Free Huey” movement and protests in People’s Park throughout the decade. This momentum continues into present day, making UC Berkeley one of the most politically notorious schools ever.


While the 1970s may not be as well known as UC Berkeley’s 1960s, the decade was still a time of big changes and political upheaval. As a result of Third World Liberation Front protests, which fought for a college where the curriculum was designed for and taught by people of color, the ethnic studies department was founded in 1969. In 1974, the African American studies department was approved. These two departments did not fulfill the liberation front’s goal of creating a Third World College.


In 1985, students at UC Berkeley fought to divest from South Africa in an anti-apartheid movement. Thousands of students sat in front of the entrance to Sproul Hall and protested UC Berkeley’s investments in companies involved in South Africa at the time. Violence broke out and many students were arrested, but in the end, the students were successful in getting the school to divest from South Africa. 


Astronomers at UC Berkeley aided in the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the universe in 1998, shocking many. In 2011, three men —UC Berkeley professor Saul Perlmutter, along with Adam Riess and Brian Schmidt — received the Nobel Prize in Physics for this discovery.


Getting into more recent times, UC Berkeley continued to grow its campus by building both Stanley Hall (2007) and the C.V. Starr East Asian Library (2008).


We’ve made it to the present! The 2010s have included some pretty crazy times that a lot of us can remember, such as the Milo Yiannopoulos protest and the fact we’ve lost the Big Game to Stanford every year since 2010. But one of the biggest inventions that may not be on everyone’s radar is the invention of CRISPR technology. CRISPR allows for gene editing and is one of the biggest recent scientific discoveries. The power of gene editing is still being developed, and it’s exciting to see what the future holds for this field.

There are many more amazing decades of UC Berkeley to come, and we know that the students and professors will continue to do amazing things! This school has contributed to some significant societal advancements, and the students have started movements that have changed the course of history. Here’s to the coming 15 decades of making change!

Contact Sunny Sichi at [email protected].

MARCH 23, 2018