A History of Excellence

Science has been a part for the University of Utah curriculum since the beginning of the school's history in 1850 as the University of Deseret. Dr. Cyrus Collins was initially the only professor and taught mainly in the sciences. During the second quarter, W.W. Phelps was hired as a second professor and the school was opened to women. New scientific instruments were acquired from local donors or sent for from the eastern United States. The third professor hired at the University was Orson Pratt, who taught astronomy, mathematics, and algebra.[1] The University then closed during a period of scarcity due to crop failures and drought, and reopened in 1967. A science curriculum culminating in a B.S degree was offered in 1870, becoming a 4-year degree in 1884-85. This curriculum focused on mathematics, natural, and physical sciences, as well as classes in history, political economy, theology and moral philosophy.

In 1878, Joseph T. Kingsbury joined the chemistry faculty and became chair of chemistry and physics.[3] By this period a regular series of public science lectures were offered and there was a chemical laboratory located in the basement of the University Hall building.

By the 1890s, 400 students were enrolled and the University offered BA and BS degrees in classical, scientific, and normal programs.[4] The University of Deseret was renamed as the University of Utah in 1892 and degree programs in the traditional academic departments of letters, arts, and sciences were organized under the University College.

In January 1946, Dr. A. Ray Olpin, a physicist, took command of the University of Utah. He recruited a number of senior people to his administration who also became faculty members in various academic departments. Two of these administrators were chemists: Henry Eyring, a professor at Princeton University, and Carl J. Christensen, a research scientist at Bell Laboratories. Sometime in early 1946, President Olpin visited Princeton, NJ, and offered Henry a position as the Dean of the Graduate School at the University of Utah.

The first Ph.D. from the University of Utah was awarded in 1947 in the field of chemistry to James M. Sugihara.

In 1957, the University College became the College of Letters and Science under dean and philosophy professor Sterling M. McMurrin. In 1970 under dean Milton Voight, the College of Letters and Science was divided into three separate colleges: the College of Humanities, the College of Social and Behavioral Science, and the College of Science.