Stanford University

Stanford University, located between San Francisco and San Jose in the heart of California's Silicon Valley, is one of the world's leading teaching and research universities. Since its opening in 1891, Stanford has been dedicated to finding solutions to big challenges and to preparing students for leadership in a complex world.

Stanford was founded in 1885 by Leland Stanford, former governor of and U.S. senator from California and leading railroad tycoon, and his wife, Jane Lathrop Stanford, in memory of their only child, Leland Stanford, Jr., who had died of typhoid fever at age 15 the previous year. Stanford was opened on October 1, 1891 as a coeducational and non-denominational institution. Tuition was free until 1920.The university struggled financially after Leland Stanford's 1893 death and after much of the campus was damaged by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

 Following World War II, Provost Frederick Terman supported faculty and graduates' entrepreneurialism to build self-sufficient local industry in what would later be known as Silicon Valley. By 1970, Stanford was home to a linear accelerator, and was one of the original four ARPANET nodes (precursor to the Internet)




The Birth of the University


In 1876, former California Governor Leland Stanford purchased 650 acres of Rancho San Francisquito for a country home and began the development of his famous Palo Alto Stock Farm. He later bought adjoining properties totaling more than 8,000 acres.

The little town that was beginning to emerge near the land took the name Palo Alto (tall tree) after a giant California redwood on the bank of San Francisquito Creek. The tree itself is still there and would later become the university's symbol and centerpiece of its official seal.

Leland Stanford, who grew up and studied law in New York, moved West after the gold rush and, like many of his wealthy contemporaries, made his fortune in the railroads. He was a leader of the Republican Party, governor of California and later a U.S. senator. He and Jane had one son, who died of typhoid fever in 1884 when the family was traveling in Italy. Leland Jr. was just 15. Within weeks of his death, the Stanfords decided that, because they no longer could do anything for their own child, "the children of California shall be our children." They quickly set about to find a lasting way to memorialize their beloved son.


The Stanfords considered several possibilities – a university, a technical school, a museum. While on the East Coast, they visited Harvard, MIT, Cornell and Johns Hopkins to seek advice on starting a new university in California. (See note regarding accounts of the Stanfords visit with Harvard President Charles W. Eliot.) Ultimately, they decided to establish two institutions in Leland Junior's name - the University and a museum. From the outset they made some untraditional choices: the university would be coeducational, in a time when most were all-male; non-denominational, when most were associated with a religious organization; and avowedly practical, producing "cultured and useful citizens."

On October 1, 1891, Stanford University opened its doors after six years of planning and building. The prediction of a New York newspaper that Stanford professors would "lecture in marble halls to empty benches" was quickly disproved. The first student body consisted of 555 men and women, and the original faculty of 15 was expanded to 49 for the second year. The university’s first president was David Starr Jordan, a graduate of Cornell, who left his post as president of Indiana University to join the adventure out West.

The Stanfords engaged Frederick Law Olmsted, the famed landscape architect who created New York’s Central Park, to design the physical plan for the university. The collaboration was contentious, but finally resulted in an organization of quadrangles on an east-west axis. Today, as Stanford continues to expand, the university’s architects attempt to respect those original university plans.




Stanford is a thriving residential campus and community sitting on 8,000 acres of foothills and flatlands – once a horse farm belonging to Jane and Leland Stanford and still fondly known as "the Farm." Living at Stanford brings surprises and new experiences every day, in an extraordinary community of creative and accomplished people from around the world.

Campus Life at a Glance


Campus Housing


• About 6,500 undergraduates and 5,500 graduates live on campus.


• 96% of undergraduates live in on-campus housing.


• 62% of housing-eligible graduate students live on campus.


• 80 diverse facilities, including all-freshmen and four-class residences, small group houses, apartments and suites.

Student Organizations


• 650+ organized student groups


• 44 recognized religious organizations


• Over 88 student groups committed to the arts

Athletics & Fitness


• 36 varsity sports and 24 club sports


• 105 NCAA team championships


• State-of-the-art recreation and fitness facilities

Getting Around


• An estimated 13,000 bicycles on campus


• 79 free Marguerite shuttles


• 35 miles to San Francisco and 19 miles to San Jose




Contemporary campus landmarks include the Main Quad and Memorial Church, the Cantor Center for Visual Arts and art gallery, the Stanford Mausoleum and the Angel of Grief, Hoover Tower, the Rodin sculpture garden, the Papua New Guinea Sculpture Garden, the Arizona Cactus Garden, the Stanford University Arboretum, Green Library and the Dish. Frank Lloyd Wright's 1937 Hanna–Honeycomb House and the 1919 Lou Henry Hoover House are both listed on the National Historic Register


Notable faculty:


As of late 2014, Stanford has 2,118 tenure-line faculty, senior fellows, center fellows, and medical center faculty




Stanford's current community of scholars includes:


• 21 Nobel Prize laureates (official count; 58 affiliates in total);


• 155 members of the National Academy of Sciences;


• 105 members of National Academy of Engineering;


• 66 members of Institute of Medicine;


• 277 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences;


• 20 recipients of the National Medal of Science;


• 2 recipients of the National Medal of Technology;


• 3 recipients of the National Humanities Medal;


• 50 members of American Philosophical Society;


• 56 fellows of the American Physics Society (since 1995);


• 5 Pulitzer Prize winners;


• 27 MacArthur Fellows;


• 5 Wolf Foundation Prize winners;


• 2 ACL Lifetime Achievement Award winners;


• 14 AAAI fellows;


• 3 Presidential Medal of Freedom winners

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