Goldman School of Public Policy - University of California, Berkeley

Life in Berkeley

UC Berkeley is home to some of the greatest minds whose research and academic accomplishments have transformed the world. From the development of the atomic bomb to the Free Speech Movement, UC Berkeley is steeped in a rich history of excellence dating back to the founding years of the university. A few of these pivotal accomplishments include: 

  • 1921-- Anatomy Professor Herbert M. Evans and Dr. Katharine S. Bishop co-discover vitamin E.
  • 1931 --  Ernest O. Lawrence designed the first cyclotron, launching the scientific use of particle physics to discover the fundamental structure of matter. The cyclotron has a major impact on the treatment of diseases, making it possible to create large quantities of the radioactive isotopes used in medical treatments. In 1939, Lawrence became UC Berkeley’s first Nobel laureate.
  • 1935-- Herman J. Almquist of Berkeley’s Division of Poultry Husbandry, discovers and synthesizes vitamin K, a biomolecule necessary for blood to clot properly.
  • 1941 -- Professors Glenn T. Seaborg, Edwin McMillan and colleagues produce plutonium. Plutonium is one of 16 elements on the Periodic Table to be discovered at UC Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
  • 1944 -- UC-directed operation of the U.S. government laboratory at Los Alamos, New Mexico incorporated work by Berkeley faculty and others to develop the atomic bomb. The laboratory was directed by Physics Professor J. Robert Oppenheimer.
  • 1966- 1969 -- Herma Hill Kay, a faculty member at Boalt Berkeley Law School, co-drafted California’s 1970 no-fault divorce law. The first of its kind, the law eliminates the need to place blame on a spouse for a failed marriage and makes “irreconcilable differences” sufficient ground for divorce. Eventually, every state in the nation enacted some version of the no-fault divorce law. Kay later served as the first female dean of the law school.
  • 1981 -- Computer scientist David Patterson directed a project that produced a simpler, cheaper, faster approach to the design of computer central processing units (CPUs) making them more efficient.
  • 1993--The Advanced Light Source (ALS) officially achieves first light. The ALS, is the first big accelerator to be built at Berkeley Lab in nearly three decades.
  • 2007 -- Energy giant BP selects UC Berkeley to lead a $500 million effort to develop biofuels to help meet the world’s energy needs.
  • 2012 -- UC Berkeley professor Jennifer Doudna, Martin Jinek of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Emmanuelle Charpentier of the Laboratory for Molecular Infection Medicine-Sweden discover a method to cut DNA and insert genes into human cells. It is now widely known as CRISPR.

For more information on Berkeley’s achievements, please visit: http://www.berkeley.edu/about/history-discoveries