When it opened for business in 1855, Northwestern University had only two academic staff and 10 students. These were all male, but women have been admitted since 1869.
Northwestern owes its existence to the vision of its nine founders who, with no land, limited finances and little knowledge of higher education, determined to create a university for the vast Northwest Territory covering more than five of today’s states. They began planning in 1850 and, three years later, boldly went ahead and purchased a 379-acre site close to Lake Michigan and developed the campus at Evanston, named after a founder called John Evans.
From these small beginnings, Northwestern has developed into a leading private research university with a strong interdisciplinary culture and a commitment to teaching excellence. It now consists of 12 separate schools and colleges and is notable for its research strength in fields including neuroscience, nanotechnology, biotechnology and the development of new drugs. The main campus is still based at Evanston, 10 miles north of Chicago, although there is a smaller one in Chicago, so students enjoy all the stimulus and opportunities for personal and professional development provided by one of the world’s great cities. Since 2008, there has also been a third, satellite campus in Doha, Qatar.
Northwestern’s mascot is Willy the Wildcat. Its mottoes are both taken from the New Testament and read, in Latin and Greek, “Whatsoever things are true” and “The world is full of grace and truth”.
Celebrated alumni include novelist Saul Bellow and economist George Stigler, who both went on to win Nobel Prizes, as well as Friends star David Schwimmer, Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, and George R. R. Martin, whose novels inspired the Game of Thrones television series. No fewer than four economists and one chemist who worked as faculty at Northwestern went to receive Nobel Prizes. And the diplomat and political scientist Ralph Bunce, who had been a researcher there, went on to become the first African American to win a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict.