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A Princeton Timeline

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


1696 Town of Princeton settled.


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

1747 Jonathan Dickinson appointed first president. College moves to Newark, New Jersey

1748 Aaron Burr Sr. becomes second president. Present charter granted in New Brunswick, New Jersey

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

1756 Nassau Hall 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 The 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.


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.

1868 James McCosh of Scotland elected 11th president.

1876 The Princetonian 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.

1896 Name officially changed to Princeton University.


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.

1921 School of Engineering established.

1928 Princeton University Chapel dedicated.

1930 School of Public and International Affairs established.

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 Program of Annual Giving established. Undergraduate radio station (then WPRU, now WPRB) founded.

1948 Firestone Library dedicated.

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

1957 Robert F. Goheen installed as 16th president.

1962 $53 million fundraising campaign, under President Robert F. Goheen, concludes. It exceeds its goal and raises $61 million.

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 (renamed the Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding in 2002).

1972 William G. Bowen becomes 17th president.

1982 System of residential colleges established.

1986 A five-year “Campaign for Princeton” concludes under President William G. Bowen, after raising $410.5 million.

1988 Harold T. Shapiro installed as 18th president.

1996 250th anniversary celebrated.


2000 Graduate School celebrates 100th anniversary. A five-year “Anniversary Campaign” concludes under President Harold T. Shapiro, after raising $1.14 billion.

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 established for research and teaching at the interface of biology and the quantitative sciences.

2005 Princeton Neuroscience Institute established, expanding interdisciplinary teaching and research of the brain and the nervous system. Princeton Center for Theoretical Science established to bring together science departments across campus to study topics ranging from the Big Bang to quantum computing to evolution.

2006 University Center for the Creative and Performing Arts established (renamed the Lewis Center for the Arts in 2007), with a mandate to enhance the role of the arts in the University and community. Center for African American Studies established to serve as a model for interdisciplinary teaching and research on race in America.

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

2008 Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment established to accelerate research on effective and sustainable solutions to problems of energy and the environment. Lewis Library, designed by Frank Gehry, opens.

2009 Bridge Year Program begins with 20 students deferring admission for one year to engage in international service; Energy Frontier Research Center established to study combustion science and discover clean replacements for fossil fuels; Butler College reopens with new dormitories as a four-year residential college.

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 20th president.

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