The University of Chicago is amongst the most prestigious universities in the world. Barely a century old, the schools of Jurisprudence and Business, as well as the departments of Economics, Sociology, Linguistics, Political Science (Committee on Social Thought), International Studies (Committee on International Relations), and Physics are considered among the best in the country. Persons affiliated with the University have obtained a total of seventy-five Nobel Prizes (the most by any institution in the world except Cambridge University).
Located eight miles south of the Loop in the Chicago neighborhood of Hyde Park, the U of C was founded in 1890 by John D. Rockefeller (of Standard Oil fame). The school was founded under Baptist auspices, but today lacks a sectarian affiliation. The school's traditions of rigorous scholarship were established by Presidents William Rainey Harper and Robert Maynard Hutchins.
The school's more important contributions to science include Robert Millikan's 1909 Oil-drop experiment, which determined the charge of the electron; the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction, carried out by Enrico Fermi and his colleagues as part of the Manhattan Project on December 2, 1942; and the Miller-Urey experiment in 1953, considered to be the classic experiment on the origin of life.
The school is also known for its important contributions to modern sociology, economics, international relations, archaeology, philosophy, literary criticism, archeology, and paleontology. In many of these areas there developed in the latter half of the 20th century the "Chicago School of . . ." -- where many members of a department adopted a consistent and often radical approach to the study of each of these subjects. One of the great influences over many of the "Chicago Schools" was the neo-Aristotelian philosopher, Richard McKeon, whose intellectual rigor, in the context of the collegial atmosphere of the University that encouraged cross-departmental discussions, engendered a fresh look at the study of these subjects.
The school's sports teams are called the Maroons. They participate in the NCAA's Division III and in the University Athletic Association. At one time, the University of Chicago's football teams were among the best in the country, but the school, a founding member of the Big Ten Conference, de-emphasized varsity athletics in 1939. In 1935, Chicago's Jay Berwanger was the winner of the first-ever Heisman Trophy.
One of the more famous traditions of the university is the annual Scavenger Hunt, a multiple day event that pits teams (often composed of hundreds) against each other with the goal of getting all of the 300-plus items on the list. While items such as Michael Jordan have not appeared, in 1999 two students built a working nuclear reactor for Scavenger Hunt.
The University also operates a number of off-campus scientific research institutions, the best known of which is probably Fermilab, or the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, managed by the University of Chicago for the U.S. Department of Energy. The University also operates the Argonne National Laboratory, owns and operates Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, the Oriental Institute, and has a stake in Apache Point Observatory in Sunspot, New Mexico.
Some notable alumni of the University of Chicago