A Brief History of Iowa State University

September 30, 2020
Beardshear Hall at Iowa State University

You can trace the history of Iowa State University back to 1858, when it was chartered as the Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm, the first of many names for this storied institution. With the help of the Morrill Act of 1862, it became a land-grant institution before officially beginning classes in 1869. By 1898, its name was changed to the Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts before taking its current name of Iowa State University as we all know it today.

Fast forward to the present day, and impressive numbers reflect how Iowa State has grown to become an outstanding educational beacon for students around the world:

  • More than 31,000 students are enrolled at the university.
  • Mission Statement: “Create, share and apply knowledge to make Iowa and the world a better place.”
  • The campus is comprised of 1,813 acres.
  • Students have the option to choose from more than 300 degree programs with options for bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, as well as certificates.
  • The international student enrollment is more than 2,500  students that represent 109 countries. 
  • More than 1,845 faculty teach at Iowa State (members, tenure/tenure track, and specialized and visiting faculty).
  • Alumni encompass more than 273,000 people worldwide.

Did you know that the birthplace for the first electronic digital computer was invented at Iowa State by John Atanasoff, a mathematics and physic professor, along with Clifford Berry from 1937-1942 on campus. This pioneering effort lead to critical developments in modern computing, including binary arithmetic, parallel processing, regenerative memory, and much more. 

Another little known fact is that Iowa State was also the only university that has a U.S. Department of Energy lab on campus, which was used to help develop the atomic bomb during World War II. Under the guidance of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Manhattan Project began in 1942 on campus. 

Iowa State University also has a stand-out list of notable names who have called the campus home, including, musicians, actors, athletes, etc. —Jeff Hornacek, Lee Teng-hui, Joni Ernst, Om Harkin, and Kim Reynolds, just to name a few.

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