Princeton Timeline

| 1600s-1700s | 1800s | 1900s | 2000s |


1696 Town of Princeton settled.

1746 College of New Jersey founded in Elizabeth, N.J., by the Presbyterian Synod. 

1747 Jonathan Dickinson appointed first president. College moves to the Newark parsonage of Aaron Burr Sr., after Dickinson's death.

1748 Aaron Burr Sr. elected the College's second president. Present charter granted in New Brunswick, N.J. First Commencement exercises held, with six undergraduate degrees awarded.

1753 Nathaniel and Rebeckah FitzRandolph and others deed 10 acres in Princeton to the College.

1756 Nassau Hall and Maclean House (the president's house) completed; College of New Jersey moves from Newark to Princeton.

1758 Jonathan Edwards becomes third president.

1759 Samuel Davies installed as fourth president.

1761 Samuel Finley becomes fifth president.

1768 Rev. John Witherspoon of Scotland installed as sixth president.

1769 American Whig Debating Society formed.

1770 Cliosophic Debating Society formed.

1776 President Witherspoon signs the Declaration of Independence.

1777 George Washington drives the British from Nassau Hall.

1783 Continental Congress meets in Nassau Hall, which served as the capitol of the United States from June until November.

1795 Samuel S. Smith becomes seventh president.


1802 Nassau Hall gutted by fire and rebuilt.

1812 Ashbel Green installed as eighth president.

1823 James Carnahan becomes ninth president.

1826 James Madison, Class of 1771 and former president of the United States, becomes the first president of the Alumni Association of the College of New Jersey.

1854 John Maclean Jr. installed as 10th president.

1855 Nassau Hall gutted by fire again, and rebuilt again.

1859 Alma mater “Old Nassau” written by Harlan Page Peck (Class of 1862).

1868 James McCosh of Scotland elected 11th president.

1869 Princeton plays Rutgers University in the first college football game.

1876 The Princetonian student newspaper is published for the first time (still published daily by students during the academic year).

1882 Princeton University Art Museum founded.

1883 Triangle Club (originally called the Princeton College Dramatic Association) founded.

1888 Francis L. Patton becomes 12th president.

1893 Honor system established.

1895 A graduate degree (a Master of Arts) is awarded to a black student for the first time.

1896 Name officially changed to Princeton University. Then-professor Woodrow Wilson provides Princeton's informal motto with a speech titled "Princeton in the Nation's Service."


1900 Graduate School established.

1902 Woodrow Wilson, Class of 1879, elected 13th president.

1905 President Wilson establishes system of preceptorials.

1906 Lake Carnegie created by Andrew Carnegie.

1912 John G. Hibben installed as 14th president.

1913 Graduate College dedicated.

1914 Palmer Stadium completed.

1919 School of Architecture established. Princeton's Army ROTC unit established.

1921 School of Engineering established.

1928 Princeton University Chapel dedicated.

1930 School of Public and International Affairs established (and named after Woodrow Wilson in 1948).

1933 Harold W. Dodds becomes 15th president. Albert Einstein becomes a life member of the Institute for Advanced Study, with an office on the Princeton University campus.

1940 Undergraduate radio station (then WPRU, now WPRB) founded.

1942 The first black undergraduate students are admitted.

1948 Firestone Library dedicated.

1949 Association of Graduate Princeton Alumni founded.

1951 Forrestal Campus established on U.S. Route 1; "Project Matter-horn" research in nuclear fusion begins there. In 1961, its name is changed to the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL).

1954 Ivy League athletic conference founded, with Princeton as one of eight members.

1957 Robert F. Goheen installed as 16th president.

1960 Martin Luther King Jr. preaches at the University Chapel. Nassau Hall deemed a national historic landmark.

1964 Ph.D. degree awarded to a woman for the first time.

1969 Trustees vote to admit women undergraduates.

1970 Council of the Princeton University Community (CPUC), a deliberative body of faculty, students, staff and alumni, is established.

1971 Third World Center founded (in 2002, renamed the Carl A. Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding, after an African American assistant dean of the college from 1968-71). Women's Center founded.

1972 William G. Bowen becomes 17th president.

1974 International Center (now the Davis International Center) founded.

1982 System of residential colleges established.

1988 Harold T. Shapiro installed as 18th president.

1994 Center for Jewish Life founded.

1996 250th anniversary celebrated. Princeton's informal motto expanded by President Shapiro to "In the Nation's Service and in the Service of All Nations."

1998 First major steps undertaken to overhaul financial aid policies, making Princeton more affordable.


2000 Graduate School celebrates 100th anniversary.

2001 Shirley M. Tilghman becomes 19th president. "No-loan" financial aid policy — replacing loans with grants that do not need to be repaid — is instituted.

2003 Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics dedicated with a mandate to focus on research and teaching at the interface of biology and the quantitative sciences. Princeton Prize in Race Relations founded to promote understanding among high school-age students.

2005 Princeton Neuroscience Institute, Princeton Center for Theoretical Science and Center for Innovation in Engineering Education (renamed the Keller Center for Innovation in Engineering Education in 2008) established. LGBT Center founded.

2006 University Center for the Creative and Performing Arts  (renamed the Peter B. Lewis Center for the Arts in 2007) and Office of Sustainability established. Center for African American Studies established, expanding program begun in 1969.

2007 Four-year residential college system launched with the opening of Whitman College.

2008 Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment established. Lewis Library, designed by Frank Gehry and consolidating science collections, completed.

2009 Bridge Year Program begins with 20 students deferring admission for one year to engage in international service. Butler College reopens with new dormitories, completing the University's transition to a four-year residential college system.

2010 Frick Chemistry Laboratory, the largest single academic building on campus excluding Firestone Library, opens; Streicker Bridge opens, connecting the two sides of the science neighborhood across Washington Road.

2012 A five-year campaign, "Aspire: A Plan for Princeton," concludes under President Shirley M. Tilghman, after raising $1.88 billion.

2013 Christopher L. Eisgruber becomes Princeton's 20th president.

2014 Opening of Peretsman Scully Hall, the new home of the Department of Psychology, and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute.