1833 The Oberlin Collegiate Institute is established. The
founders, John J. Shipherd and Philo P. Stewart, formed the
college for the diffusion of useful science, sound morality,
and pure religion among the growing multitudes of the Mississippi
1834 James Dacomb, a graduate of the Dartmouth Medical School,
becomes professor of chemistry, botany, and physiology. During
the 19th century, a revolution in college education took place
as science became part of the curriculum, and Oberlin was
in the vanguard of this movement. Before this time, college
instruction consisted primarily of classical languages and
literatures, mathematics, history, philosophy, and religion.
Laboratory, built according to plans obtained by Professor
Dascomb when he was a student at Dartmouth and Yale, becomes
the home of Oberlin science.
1838 The Rev. George Whipple becomes the first instructor
of mathematics and natural philosopy, the precursors to physics
1848 Oberlin's first course in geology is offered. Except
for one year when there was no geology instructor (1873-74),
courses have been offered continuously ever since.
1850 The Oberlin Collegiate Institute changes its name to
1860 The College offers a total of 19 science courses in several
1874 Albert A. Wright, Class of 1865, is hired as professor
of geology and natural history. Wright increased the number
of geology courses offered and, in essence, formed the geology
department, which had previously been linked with the theology
department. He later headed the botany and zoology departments,
and he was instrumental in the organization of the College's
nationally renowned herbarium, which began with Professor
Dascomb's plant collection.
1874 Elisha Gray returns to Oberlin to teach. Almost simultaneously
with Alexander Graham Bell, Graywho had studied at Oberlindiscovered
the principle of the conversion of sound waves into electrical
energy. He was known for his inventions in telephony and telegraphy.
In 1872, he founded the Western Electric Manufacturing Company,
parent firm of the present Western Electric Company. Upon
his return to Oberlin, he continued his independent research
and invention. In 1878 he was awarded an honorary degree and
in 1880 was given the honorary title of professor of dynamic
1878 The chemistry department moves to Cabinet
1878 Professor William K. Kedzie introduces laboratory instruction
in chemistry courses, which to this date had consisted largely
of lectures and demonstrations.
1881 Professor Albert A. Wright introduces the use of the
compound microscope in science classes at Oberlin. Wright
is generally credited with being the first modern scientific
mind at Oberlin College because he recognized the importance
of new scientific methods that called for specialized equipment
and higher scientific standards.
Hall is built as a home for the physics and astronomy
1886 Charles Martin Hall (class of 1885) discovers the electrochemical
method of extracting aluminum metal from its ore.
1886 A course in Quantitative Chemical Analysis is taught
at Oberlin for the first time.
1889 Professor Albert A. Wright publishes his Preliminary
List of the Flowering Plants and Ferns of Lorain County, Ohio.
By 1897, the herbarium contained 35,000 specimens, representing
about 14,000 species, and it had become a national resource
1890 The department of physics and astronomy is created as
a separate branch of mathematics.
1891 The botany department moves to Finney
1891 A course in organic chemistry is added to the chemistry
1893 Botany becomes a separate department within the College.
1895 Laboratory work in chemistry becomes mandatory.
1897 Professor Herbert L. Jones expands the botany department's
emphasis to include plant histology, physiology, morphology,
and ecology, and he offers students opportunities to do professional
work or teacher training.
1901 The chemistry department moves from Cabinet Hall to Severance
1904 The botany department moves to the Second
1907 The geology department moves into First
Library is remodeled as the zoology laboratory and the
library is moved to the Carnegie
1910 Samuel R. Williams is given the first chair in physics.
1914 To make way for the Cox Administration Building, Second
Botany Laboratory is moved to a new site and joined to an
existing building, creating Third
1915 The First Geology Laborartory makes way for the Second
1919 Professor Lynds Jones and his students travel in a co-ed
convoy of Model-T Fords to the western United States for a
summer field trip. Thus began the tradition of involving students
in research in the biology department.
1923 Robert Millikan (class of 1891) receives the Nobel Prize
in physics for his work on electrical charges and photoelectric
1924 Chemistry Professor Harry N. Holmes, in a letter to the
editor of the Journal of Chemical Education, persuasively
defends the need for college professors to pursue research
just like their counterparts at universities.
1927 The zoology laboratory moves into a newly remodeled church
building that is renamed Wright
Zoological Laboratory in honor of Professor Albert A.
1942 Professor Harry N. Holmes is elected president of the
American Chemical Society, largely in recognition of his work
to strengthen the chemistry major and chemical research at
1942 The Wilbur and Orville Wright Laboratory of Physics,
named for the aviation pioneers, is built. The two men, neither
of whom attended college, learned physics from their younger
sister, Katharine Wright Haskell, who graduated from Oberlin
with a degree in Greek and Latin in 1898. Friends and colleagues
considered Katharine a third member of the pioneering team.
1958 Summer research with paid student assistants becomes
a regular program in chemistry department.
1960 Oberlin's geography department is merged into the geology
1961 Kettering Hall, a state-of-the-art science building,
1961 The botany and zoology departments are merged into the
1963 The geology department moves into Severance Chemical
1964 The physics department acquires an IBM 1620, the first
major computer on campus. A separate computing center was
established in 1965.
1972 Oberlin and Amherst College become the first undergraduate
schools to offer a major in neuroscience.
1973 Oberlin dedicates its first electron microscope in honor
of Emeritus Biology Professor Hope Hibbard, who taught at
Oberlin from 1928 to 1961.
1973 The computing center moves from the physics department
to the Houck Computing Center in Mudd Center.
1980 The World Health Organization is successful in its effort
to eradicate smallpox worldwide. Donald A. Henderson '50 spearheaded
1981 Roger Sperry '35 shares the Nobel Prize in medicine/physiology
for his research on the functions of the left and right hemispheres
of the brain.
1987 Professor Norman C. Craig 53 is awarded the Chemical
Manufacturers Association Catalyst Award for extraordinary
1986 Stanley Cohen '45 shares the Nobel Prize in medicine/physiology
for the discovery and characterization of proteins that promote
and help regulate cell growth.
1986 The chemistry department is one of the first college
chemistry departments to acquire a 200-MHz nuclear magnetic
resonance (NMR) spectrometer.
1988 A biochemistry major is initiated at Oberlin.
1990 The geology department moves from Severance to the Carnegie
1991 Oberlin purchases Camden Bog, a 19-acre restoration ecology
center near Oberlin. A fund to maintain the site is established
by the sale of the College's herbarium to the Ohio State Biodiversity
Center. Camden Bog is used by students in biology and environmental
1994 The physics laboratories in the basement of the Wright
Laboratory of Physics are thoroughly renovated.
1996 Professor Norman Craig is awarded the American Chemical
Society's Award for Research at an Undergraduate Institution.
1996 Planning for the Oberlin Science Center begins.
1996 Professor Martin Ackermann is awarded the Chemical Manufacturers
Association Catalyst Award for extraordinary teaching.
1997 The chemistry department becomes one of the first college
departments to own an X-ray diffraction instrument.
1998 The chemistry department acquires instrumentation for
Fourier-Transform Raman/Infrared spectroscopy.
1999 Professor Robert Warner receives the Prize to a Faculty
Member for Research at an Undergraduate Institution from the
American Physical Society.
1999 Ground is broken for the Oberlin Science Center.
2001 The neuroscience program acquires a confocal microscope,
and the College obtains a scanning electron microscope for
use in the biology, geology, and physics departments.
2002 Physics World magazine, published by the Institute
of Physics, includes Robert Millikan's pathbreaking oil-drop
experiment, which measured the charge of electrons, in its
list of the 10 most beautiful experiments of all
time. Millikan's work ranked third.
2002 Oberlin Science Center is completed. Dedication ceremonies
are held October 4.
2002 The chemistry department acquires a 600-MHz NMR spectrometer,
a first at a primarily undergraduate institution.