A Brief History of Johns Hopkins University

Who was Johns Hopkins?

Johns Hopkins was born in 1795 to a Quaker family near Baltimore. His curious and often misspelled first name was originally the maiden name of his great-grandmother, Margaret Johns, who married Gerard Hopkins in 1700. The second Johns Hopkins—our founder—was a grandson and namesake of the first. Johns owned his uncle’s wholesale grocery business by 24 and soon after became a major property owner. He was an important investor in one of the first major American railroads, the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O). In 1867, he formed two corporations, one for a university and one for a hospital. Upon his death six years later, he left $7 million to be split between these two institutions, each one bearing his name. At the time, Johns’ gift was the largest philanthropic bequest in U.S. history.

The University

The Johns Hopkins University opened in 1876, with the inauguration of its first president, Daniel Coit Gilman. “What are we aiming at?” Gilman asked in his installation address. “The encouragement of research … and the advancement of individual scholars, who by their excellence will advance the sciences they pursue, and the society where they dwell.”

The mission laid out by Gilman remains the university’s mission today, summed up in a simple but powerful restatement of Gilman’s own words: “Knowledge for the world.” What Gilman created was a research university that was dedicated to advancing both students’ knowledge and the state of human knowledge through research and scholarship. Gilman believed that teaching and research are interdependent, that success in one depends on success in the other. A modern university, he believed, must do both well. The realization of Gilman’s philosophy at Johns Hopkins, and at other institutions that later attracted Johns Hopkins-trained scholars, revolutionized higher education in America, leading to the research university system as it exists today.

Johns Hopkins University Today

Johns Hopkins University remains committed to its founding principle—that education for all students should be grounded in exploration and discovery. Hopkins students are challenged not just to learn but also to advance learning itself. Critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, and entrepreneurship are all encouraged and nourished in this unique educational environment.

After more than 130 years, Johns Hopkins remains a world leader in both teaching and research. Eminent professors mentor top students in the arts and music, the humanities, the social and natural sciences, engineering, international studies, education, business, and the health professions. Those same faculty members, and their research colleagues at the university’s Applied Physics Laboratory, have each year since 1979 won Johns Hopkins more federal research and development funding than any other university.

Located on the Homewood campus, the Krieger School of Arts & Sciences and the Whiting School of Engineering offer 50 majors and 41 minors to undergraduates. The university also has nine academic divisions and campuses throughout the Baltimore-Washington area. The Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, the Whiting School of Engineering, the School of Education and the Carey Business School are based at the Homewood campus in northern Baltimore. The schools of Medicine, Public Health, and Nursing share a campus in east Baltimore with The Johns Hopkins Hospital. The Peabody Institute, a leading professional school of music, is located on Mount Vernon Place in downtown Baltimore. The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies is located in Washington’s Dupont Circle area.

The Applied Physics Laboratory is a division of the university co-equal to the nine schools, but with a non-academic, research-based mission. APL, located between Baltimore and Washington, supports national security and also pursues space science, exploration of the Solar System and other civilian research and development.

Johns Hopkins also has a campus near Rockville in Montgomery County, Md., and has academic facilities in Nanjing, China, in Bologna, Italy, and in Singapore. It maintains a network of continuing education facilities throughout the Baltimore-Washington region, including centers in downtown Baltimore, in downtown Washington and in Columbia.

When considered in partnership with its sister institution, the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System, the university is Maryland’s largest employer and contributes more than $10 billion a year to the state’s economy.

The mission of The Johns Hopkins University is to educate its students and cultivate their capacity for life-long learning, to foster independent and original research, and to bring the benefits of discovery to the world.

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