Our Education Impact
At the university's inaugural ceremonies October 7, 1868, founder Ezra Cornell emphasized the new educational concepts the institution would embrace.
“I hope that we have laid the foundation of an institution which shall combine practical with liberal education, which shall fit the youth of our country for the professions, the farms, the mines, the manufactories, for the investigations of science, and for mastering all the practical questions of life with success and honor,” Cornell said. “I trust we have laid the foundation of [a] university … where any person can find instruction in any study.”
Below, explore some of the ways Cornell CALS has provided groundbreaking education, shaping the university and establishing fields of study.
Ahead of the Class: CALS Firsts
Departments & Schools
- Cornell CALS is home to the nation's first departments of ecology, entomology, plant pathology and rural sociology.
- The department of landscape architecture is the only Ivy League landscape architecture program located in an agricultural college.
- Cornell’s long history of groundbreaking research in the field of forestry dates back to the late 19th century with the founding of the nation’s first college of forestry in 1898.
- James G. Needham gave the first college course in limnology (the study of lakes, ponds, and streams).
- James E. Rice taught the nation's first college course in poultry husbandry.
- George N. Lauman taught the first American course in agricultural economics.
- Cornell offered the world's first university-level journalism instruction in 1874, which found a home in CALS as the department of extension teaching in 1907.
- The department of evolutionary and environmental biology taught the first chemical ecology course in 1968.
- CALS developed one of the nation's first courses in environmental and agricultural ethics.
- Microbiology offered one of the first courses in the country on structure and life cycles of bacteria.
- CALS offered the first course in apiculture (beekeeping).
- Cornell CALS was the first Land-Grant college to hire a meteorology professor.
- Herbert H. Whetzel became the nation's first professor of plant pathology.
- John Craig was appointed the first professor of extension teaching in agriculture in the U.S.
Degrees & Programs
- Cornell offers the only four-year viticulture and enology degree in the U.S. east of the Rockies.
- The undergraduate landscape architecture degree offered at CALS is the only one of its kind in the Ivy League and has been active for more than a century.
- The department of communication initiated the nation’s first master of professional studies degree program in 1969-70.
- CALS is home to the first agronomy department in the U.S. to offer graduate education, which has trained many of the country’s first soil and crop scientists.
- The world’s first undergraduate hospitality management degree program began in CALS.
- Feeds & Feeding: A Handbook for Students and Stockman: Frank B Morrison, professor of animal husbandry and nutrition, wrote the textbook considered to be the "bible" for livestock nutrition and feeding practices.
- Development and Social Change: A Global Perspective: Phil McMichael, a historical sociologist, developed a foundation theoretical framework and the accompanying textbook.
- The Economics of Agricultural Development: Written in 1966 by John Mellor, it was the leading text book of its time for agricultural economics.
- Vertebrate Life: Now in its 10th edition, it is a result of the collaboration of several ecology & evolutionary biology faculty—H. Pough, J. Heiser, W. McFarland, and T. Cade.
- Evolution of the Insects: Written by two entomology alumni, David Grimaldi Ph.D. ‘86 and Michael Engel Ph.D. ’98, it is considered the textbook on insect evolution.
- Two books co-authored by H. Seeley and B. Batzing on microbes are still used widely in general microbiology courses around the country.
- Mammals of Eastern North America: The first undergraduate text in mammalogy was written by William J. Hamilton, Jr.
- Book of Bird Life: The first undergraduate text in ornithology was written by Arthur A. Allen.
- Biological Science: Published in 1967 by William Keeton, neurobiology and behavior, it's considered the first successful integration of historically separate courses in botany and zoology. Within a few years, it held fully 50 percent of the market share among more than 30 existing college biology texts.
- Elements of the Nature and Properties of Soil: Nyle Brady wrote the leading textbook on soil science.
- Norman Potter and Joseph Hotchkiss, both in food science, wrote the first food science textbook in 1968, and published new editions of it for more than two decades. It was accepted as the food science textbook in many colleges and university and has also been translated into Japanese and Spanish.
The world’s first undergraduate hospitality management degree program in begins the College of Agriculture. The program would later go on to become the School of Hotel Administration.
The Department of Home Economics is created within the College of Agriculture. In 1925, it became the New York State College of Home Economics, the first state-chartered college of home economics in the country.
The first of what will become Cornell University Summer Session's off-campus programs is offered by Professor J. H. Comstock, Class of 1874. The Aquatic Summer School takes students by steamer through the Great Lakes.
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