Skip to main content.
Facts at a Glance Facts at a Glance The University of Iowa

Historical Highlights: 1855-1900

1855—The university receives 50 books, the basis for its library that will open in 1857. University Libraries eventually will become one of the nation's largest research libraries, with world-renowned collections of rare medical books, materials about Abraham Lincoln, and works by Leigh Hunt and Edgar Allan Poe.

1858—The university awarded its first degree to Mr. Dexter Smith, who received the Bachelor of Science degree.

1858—The Cabinet (later Museum) of Natural History is established—the first university museum west of the Mississippi. By the 1990s its collection will have grown to more than one million indexed specimens.

1868—The first law school west of the Mississippi moves to the Iowa campus after being established three years earlier in Des Moines.

1870—The University's Medical Department, which will become one of the nation's premier public medical colleges, holds its first sessions. With eight women in its original class, it is America's first co-educational medical school.

1872—The university creates the nation's first permanent college-level department of education.

1873—The first woman to graduate from the university's Law Department, Mary B. Wilkinson, receives her Bachelor of Laws diploma. She is possibly the first woman to earn a law degree in America.

1879—The son of the first black American ambassador, Alexander Clark, Jr., becomes the first African American in the Iowa Law Department—and possibly the nation—to earn a law degree.

1882—Iowa becomes home for another west-of-the-Mississippi first: the Dental Department, which is also the nation's sixth oldest dental school.

1890—The father of modern dentistry, G. V. Black, teaches in the Dental Department.

1896—The first five-player basketball game west of the Mississippi River was held at the UI against Chicago in Close Hall.

1897—Carl E. Seashore, a professor of psychology who will become the Graduate College dean, arrives at Iowa. Seashore will do pioneering work in speech pathology on the Iowa campus.

1897—Lightening strikes North Hall. The ensuing fire destroys 25,000 volumes of the UI Library located there.

1898—Iowa begins accepting candidates for the PhD degree.

1898—University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics opens—the first university-based teaching hospital west of the Mississippi. Eventually it will be the largest such university-owned institution in America.