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The Rockefeller University was founded in 1901 by business magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller. The founding of the University was influenced by Reverend Fredrick T. Gates, one of Rockefeller's advisors, who studied Osler's Principles and Practice of Medicine. Guided by these ideas, the University took a scientific approach to studying medicine and became the first biomedical research center in the United States. Since its founding, the University has made multiple breakthroughs in the medical field while also producing students who have gone on to have successful careers in other related fields.


  • Overhead view of the Rockefeller University
  • The Rockefeller University Hospital

Born in Richford, New York, John D. Rockefeller was a wealthy businessman and philanthropist. He earned his fortune in the oil industry, where he started the Standard Oil Company. His company prospered, and by the 1890s, Standard Oil was in charge of most of the petroleum in the United States. Though multiple companies formed a trust within the Standard Oil Company, Rockefeller owned the highest percentage of the shares. The trust was dissolved into smaller companies, however, in 1911 when the Supreme court ruled it violated the anti-trust laws. By 1896, Rockefeller had already given over day to day operations of the company. 

After moving on from overseeing Standard Oil, Rockefeller put his time into establishing himself as a philanthropist, setting a standard for wealthy Americans to follow in the future. This was not a new venture for Rockefeller, as he was known for giving back to his community, particularly churches, whether he belonged to them or not. He also helped establish several institutions, including the University of Chicago, where he donated $600,000 of the $1 million needed to start the University. It was the Rockefeller University, though, that really helped define his philanthropist efforts. 

The Rockefeller University, a medical research center, was founded in 1901 by Rockefeller under the guidance of a close advisor, Frederick T. Gates, as the Rockefeller Institute. After seeing examples in Europe, these two men realized scientific study was the best way to fight diseases. When the Rockefeller Institute was established, it was the first medical research center in the United States. In 1910, the Rockefeller Institute Hospital was established with the ability to study medicine in its own laboratories and research centers. The Rockefeller Institute became the Rockefeller University in 1965. It had only begun taking graduate students ten years early. 

The University's main mission is to combat health scares that could be a threat to society. Early discoveries included the identification of genes that cause obesity, the recording of the chemical structure of antibodies, and the knowledge that brain cells can shrink from chronic stress. Recent achievements include the discovery of a way to destroy anthrax bacteria and the recording of the birth of HIV in a cell. Today, the University still aims to produce quality graduates who have successful careers in various fields, while also conducting research on both old and newly discovered diseases. 

"History." The Rockefeller University. Accessed Web, 1/23/17. https://www.rockefeller.edu/about/history/.

"Mission and History." The Rockefeller University. Accessed Web, 1/23/18. https://rucares.org/clinicalresearch/mission-history.

Stapleton, Darwin H. Creating a Tradition of Biomedical Research: Contributions to the History of The Rockefeller University. New York, New York. Rockefeller University Press, 2004.

"John D. Rockefeller, 1839-1937." Rockefeller Archive Center. Accessed Web, 1/26/18. http://rockarch.org/bio/jdrsr.php.