A history of historic scientific firsts.

In 1885, Notre Dame became the first college in the United States to install electric lighting. In 1893—10 years before the Wright brothers’ first flight—Notre Dame Professor Albert Zahm presented “Stability of Aeroplanes and Flying Machines” at the First International Aeronautics Congress. Based on research he conducted at the University’s Science Hall in the 1880s, Zahm proposed the first modern method for launching airplanes and manually controlling them in flight by using rotating wing parts to balance the aircraft laterally and a double tail to control pitching and side-to-side movement. In 1899, Notre Dame Professor Jerome Green became the first American to transmit a wireless message. In 1913, legendary Fighting Irish football player and Coach Knute Rockne—a professor in the College of Science—applied his scientific knowledge to master the physics of throwing a football, popularizing the forward pass and forever changing the game. Today, the Notre Dame Radiation Laboratory is home to the largest concentration of radiation chemists in the world.

Whether adopting new technologies or contributing to scientific breakthroughs, Notre Dame's College of Science has been and remains at the forefront of scientific knowledge.

Stained glass portrait of Fr. Sorin in the Basilica Museum


L’Université de Notre Dame du Lac is founded by Rev. Edward Sorin, C.S.C.

1865: College of Science is established.


The College of Science is established.

1884: Rev. John A. Zahm, C.S.C.


Rev. John A. Zahm, C.S.C., brother of Professor Albert Zahm, builds the first science hall.


1899: First wireless message in the US is transmitted between ND and SMC.


The first wireless message in the United States is transmitted between the Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College campuses.

1909: Rev. Julius A. Nieuwland, C.S.C.


Rev. Julius A. Nieuwland, C.S.C., a Notre Dame chemist and botanist, establishes The American Midland Naturalist, a Midwestern plant life quarterly that today is an international journal of ecology, evolution, and the environment.

1912: Chemistry Hall


Notre Dame awards its first graduate degree in chemistry, and Chemistry Hall becomes the first building on campus dedicated to a department within the College of Science.

1925: Department of Biology


The Department of Biology is formed, uniting botany, zoology, anatomy, cytology, and bacteriology.

1930: Fr. Nieuwland in lab


The first synthetic rubber—Neoprene— is invented, based upon the research of Julius A. Nieuwland, C.S.C. Also, Rev. John A. O’Hara adds graduate programs in biology, physics, and mathematics.

1935: Professor James Reyniers


Building upon the germfree research of Professor James A. Reyniers, the Laboratories of Bacteriology at the University of Notre Dame (LOBUND) is established. LOBUND attracts top scientists, and becomes the world’s leader in germ-free research.

1937: Professor Karl Menger


Noted mathematician Professor Karl Menger starts a graduate program in mathematics, focusing on research and publishing.

1938: First electrostatic accelerator


Notre Dame’s first electrostatic accelerator is completed.

1939: Physics


19 years after the University hires its first professor of physics, the graduate program in physics is established.

Electrostatc accelerator


Notre Dame’s second electrostatic accelerator is completed, and is used in Manhattan Project research. Today, the Nuclear Science Laboratory is known as the Institute for Structure and Nuclear Astrophysics (ISNAP).

1949: Radiation Laboratory


Chemistry Professor Milton Burton establishes the Notre Dame Radiation Laboratory. Today, the Radiation Lab is operated by the University under contract with the United States Department of Energy, the Office of Basic Energy Sciences, and the Division of Chemical Sciences.

1950: Germ-free egg incubation equipment


The Reyniers Germfree Life Building is dedicated.

1951: UNDERC


The first whole-ecosystem experiment is performed on some 7,500 acres on the Wisconsin-Michigan border at the University of Notre Dame Environmental Research Center (UNDERC).

1952: Nieuwland Science Hall


Nieuwland Science Hall opens, paid for in part by DuPont from fees and royalties on Neoprene.

Aedes Aegypti


Professor George B. Craig Jr. becomes the director of the Vector Biology Laboratory and, for the next two decades, performs important research into the genetics of Aedes aegypti.

1961: Department of Preprofessional Studies


The Department of Preprofessional Studies opens.

1972: Algae in a lab in Galvin


The Galvin Life Science Center is dedicated.

1985: Freimann Research Facility


The Galvin Life Science Center expands with the Frank M. Freimann Research Facility.

1987: Center for Applied Mathematics


The Center for Applied Mathematics opens to encourage interdisciplinary collaboration.

1995: Transgene Research


The Center for Transgene Research opens, and is later renamed the W.M. Keck Center for Transgene Research.

Notre Dame QuarkNet Center


The Notre Dame QuarkNet Center, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, opens to engage high school students and teachers in university-level teaching and research. The collaboration leads to the creation of the Notre Dame extended Research Community (NDeRC), a National Science Foundation Graduate Teaching Fellows in K–12 Education Project.

1999: ND Nano


The Center for Nano Science and Technology is established, bringing together researchers from chemistry, physics, and engineering.



The Center for Zebrafish Research opens. The Center supports up to 200,000 adult zebrafish.

Dennis Jacobs


The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education name Chemistry’s Professor Dennis Jacobs “U.S. Professor of the Year.”

Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics (JINA)


The National Science Foundation starts the Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics (JINA), a collaboration between Notre Dame, Michigan State University, the University of Chicago, and Argonne National Laboratory.

Institute for Theoretical Sciences


The Institute for Theoretical Sciences is established as a joint program of the University and Argonne National Laboratory.

Large Binocular Telescope


The Large Binocular Telescope achieves its first science-quality images. As part of a consortium that sponsored the telescope, Notre Dame astrophysicists receive 10 observing nights per year.

Jordan Hall of Science Galleria


The Jordan Hall of Science, an investment of more than $70 million, opens. The Hall includes a Digital Visualization Theater, 40 teaching labs, two lecture halls, an observatory, a greenhouse, and a space exhibiting the extensive plant collection of Rev. Julius A. Nieuwland, C.S.C.

Greg Crawford


Gregory Crawford is named Dean of the College of Science. Also, the Midwest Institute for Nanoelectronics Discovery is established.

2010: ESTEEM


The Department of Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics (ACMS) is formed and the ESTEEM (Engineering, Science, and Technology Entrepreneurship Excellence Master’s) program graduates its first class.

Eck Institute Global Health


Three new programs are launched, including the Master of Science in Global Health (MSGH), the Minor in Sustainability, and the Minor in Actuarial Science (ACTS).

Master of Science in Patent Law


Students enroll in the newly created Master of Science in Patent Law Program, the Integrated Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program, and the Master of Science in Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics with specialties in Applied Statistics, Applied and Computational Mathematics, Computational Finance, and Predictive Analysis.

Nuclear Accelerator


Installation begins on a new $3 million nuclear accelerator in Notre Dame’s Nuclear Science Laboratory (NSL). Sponsored by the National Science Foundation, it’s the first accelerator for low-energy nuclear physics to be built in the United States since the 1980s.

Telescope installation


In conjunction with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the DNA Learning Center is established to be a hands-on science center devoted to modern biology education for local K-12 students to thrive in the gene age. Also, the Sarah L. Krizmanich telescope is installed in the observatory on the rooftop of the Jordan Hall of Science.

Students view images of the brain in the DVT


The new Neuroscience and Behavior major launches at the beginning of the 2014-15 academic year. The interdisciplinary major provides students with the opportunity to explore a wide range of topics from the evolution of nervous system in basal vertebrates to the application of neuroscience to education and law.