Founded in the wake of the gold rush by leaders of the newly established 31st state, the University of California's flagship campus at Berkeley has become one of the preeminent universities in the world. Its early guiding lights, charged with providing education (both "practical" and "classical") for the state's people, gradually established a distinguished faculty (with 22 Nobel laureates to date), a stellar research library, and more than 350 academic programs.

This California institution became a catalyst of economic growth and social innovation — the place where vitamin E was discovered, a lost Scarlatti opera found, the flu virus identified, and the nation's first no-fault divorce law drafted. Scholars at Berkeley have conducted groundbreaking research on urban street gangs and on basic human nutritional requirements, identified why wartime supply ships were failing at sea, invented technologies to build faster and cheaper computer chips, and imaged the infant universe.

In accordance with UC's "public" character, the university has long served talented individuals regardless of means. As early as 1897, financial aid was available for "needy and deserving" students. More than a century later, UC Berkeley combines outstanding teaching and research programs with broad access for students of all means — educating more federal Pell Grant recipients from low-income families than all eight Ivy League universities combined. Close to 30 percent of UC Berkeley freshmen are the first in their families to attend college.In recognition of broad and deep excellence, respected sources have repeatedly ranked UC Berkeley at or near the top in fields ranging from engineering and the "hard" sciences to the social sciences, arts, and humanities. Case in point: A National Research Council analysis of U.S. universities concluded that UC Berkeley has the largest number of highly ranked graduate programs in the country. It ranked doctoral programs within a range (such as between 1st and 5th) and found that 48 out of 52 Berkeley programs assessed ranked within the top 10 nationally. To learn more about UC Berkeley's history and its contributions to human knowledge and social progress, read on.