CALIFORNIA UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY
CALIFORNIA UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY, PASADENA CALIFORNIA
Although founded as a preparatory and vocational school by Amos G. Throop in 1891, the eponymous college attracted influential scientists such as George Ellery Hale, Arthur Amos Noyes, and Robert Andrews Millikan in the early 20th century. The vocational and preparatory schools were disbanded and spun off in 1910, and the college assumed its present name in 1921. In 1934, Caltech was elected to the Association of American Universities, and the antecedents of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which Caltech continues to manage and operate, were established between 1936 and 1943 under Theodore von Karman.
Caltech enrolls just under 900 undergraduate and 1200 graduate students and employs about 300 professorial faculty. Despite its historically small size, 31 Caltech alumni and faculty have won the Nobel Prize, 66 have won the National Medal of Science or Technology, and 110 have been elected to the National Academies. Caltech managed $357 million in sponsored research in 2009 and a $1.4 billion endowment.
First year students are required to live on campus and 95% of undergraduates remain in the on-campus house system. Although Caltech has a strong tradition of practical jokes and pranks, student life is governed by an honor code which allows faculty to assign take-home examinations. The Caltech Beavers compete in 13 intercollegiate sports in the NCAA Division III’s Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
Caltech began as a vocational school founded in Pasadena in 1891 by local businessman and politician Amos G. Throop. The school was known successively as Throop University, Throop Polytechnic Institute, and Throop College of Technology, before acquiring its current name in 1921. At a time when scientific research in the United States was still in its infancy, George Ellery Hale, a solar astronomer from the University of Chicago, founded the Mount Wilson Observatory in 1904. He joined Throop’s board of trustees the same year, and soon began developing it and the whole of Pasadena into a major scientific and cultural destination.
He engineered the appointment of James A. B. Scherer, a literary scholar untutored in science but a capable administrator and fund raiser, to Throop’s presidency in 1908. Scherer persuaded retired businessman and trustee Charles W. Gates to donate $25,000 in seed money to build Gates Laboratory, the first science building on campus. The promise of the lab attracted physical chemist Arthur Amos Noyes to commit to developing the institution. Arther Fleming, Caltech’s primary benefactor, who had donated the land for the permanent campus site at California and Wilson, later donated $100,000 to establish a physics facility, the Norman Bridge Laboratory, which succeeded in attracting experimental physicist Robert Andrews Millikan to join the faculty and assist in establishing the college as a center for science and technology.