Fathers of Invention

by Alan S. Horowitz, Illustration by Royter/Barrowman


The General Assembly of the State of Deseret passed an ordinance on February 28 to create the University of Deseret. The University officially opened Nov. 11. Professor Orson Spencer was appointed Chancellor.

The University suspended operations because of financial difficulties. Classes were held intermittently until 1869.

D.O. Calder established a school to provide business education training. It was later reorganized into the University of Deseret, which had withered to virtual nonexistence, although the Board of Regents continued to serve. The Council House served as the site of the school.

D.O. Calder resigned and John R. Park was employed as Principal and later President.

The Board of Regents reopened the university.

Brigham Young took over the University Timpanogos Branch at Provo and reestablished it as the Brigham Young Academy.

The University moved to Union Academy, a long adobe building located on the corner of Second West and Fourth North streets. The branch school at St. George closed.

The Territorial Legislature appropriated $20,000 to purchase a site and erect a building. Salt Lake City deeded Union Square to the University for a campus. This location is where Salt Lake City's West High School now stands.

A "Museum of the University" was established, with George M. Ottinger app-ointed "Special Teacher of Freehand Drawing."

John R. Park convinced the Board of Regents to establish a scholarship program for Normal students and later to spread the largesse to other programs as well.

The University moved into a building at Union Square. This was the first site that the University could consider its own. The Territorial Legislature amended the charter to allow the Board of Regents to grant degrees.

The University conferred the first bachelor's degrees on graduates. The Alumni Association was organized.

The departments of Fine Arts and Music were organized.

The Territorial Legislature changed the name on February 17 from the University of Deseret to the University of Utah. John R. Park resigned as President because of health problems. He had recognized that the 10 acres at the West High location would not be adequate and had initiated the move to secure the land at Fort Douglas to relocate the University. Joseph T. Kingsbury was appointed acting president. The Chronicle, a student newspaper, was launched.

James E. Talmage was appointed President. The first master's degree was conferred on a student. The University organized the Athletic Association. The U.S. Congress granted the University a 60-acre tract of land from Fort Douglas.

A motion was introduced at the State Constitutional Convention of 1895 to consolidate the State Agricultural College at Logan and the University of Utah into one school in Logan. The motion was defeated, and an article was placed in the Constitution that provided for separate schools.

Joseph T. Kingsbury was appointed President.

The Board of Regents voted to move the University from Union Square to Fort Douglas.

The State Legislature appropriated $200,000 for buildings on the new campus at Fort Douglas, the original site chosen for the University but which had been taken by Patrick Connor during the Civil War.

The University was opened on October 1 for registration of students. The Physical Science, Liberal Arts, and Normal buildings, the first buildings constructed according to the master plan, were completed prior to registration. The library was housed in one room of the Liberal Arts Building, also known as the Library Building (now the Leroy Cowles Building).

The Museum (later Biology) Building was completed.

The Medical School began as a two-year program.

The work leading to a master's degree was formally authorized and announced.

The Law School was formally organized. The Department of Mining and Metallurgical Research was established along with the U.S. Bureau of Mines Experiment Station.

The Administration (later Park), Civil Engineering, Mechanics, and Gymnasium buildings were completed. The library was moved to the Administration Building. Four faculty members were demoted or not rehired because they allowed a graduation day speaker to criticize the conservative nature of the University. A student protest followed by protests from faculty and alumni. Eventually, 21 teachers were lost because of resignations and dismissals. This rebellion against the administrative policies affecting tenure and academic freedom was the subject of the first institutional investigation by the newly formed American Association of University Professors. The inquiry found the University guilty of discharging faculty members for utterly trivial causes.

John A. Widtsoe was appointed President.

The School of Business was organized under the name of the School of Commerce and Finance.

The American Bar Association approved the College of Law.

A stadium with 20,000 seats was completed. It included the option to add 10,000 seats in later construction.

Kingsbury Hall was completed, which opened the doors for greater dramatic and musical productions on campus. The Engineering Hall was completed.

The Union Building (now David P. Gardner Hall) was completed. Dr. Walter P. Cottam, chair, botany, began planting a native plant collection, thus beginning the prized Arboretum collection.

A 61-acre tract of land was ceded from Fort Douglas to the University.

The George Thomas Library Building (now the Museum of Natural History) was completed. The University of Utah nursery school was established in the Department of Home Economics.

The Graduate School of Social Work was organized.

Carlson Hall opened as a dormitory for women. The football team played in its first bowl game, the Sun Bowl, and defeated the University of New Mexico.

The Einar Nielsen Field House was completed.

LeRoy E. Cowles was appointed President. He served in office from 1941-1946. Leonard Kirkpatrick was appointed Library Director.

The Medical School expanded to a four-year program leading to the M.D. degree.

The basketball team won the NCAA championship. Enrollment dropped to 3,418 because of the war.

The Graduate Program was expanded to allow for the granting of doctorates. The post-war influx of GI Bill students increased enrollment considerably and forced the University to expand into temporary buildings from Fort Douglas. Enrollment jumped to 6,821 during the first year after the war ended.

A. Ray Olpin was appointed president. The Graduate School was made an integral part of the University. Enrollment increased to 9,859.

The Outdoor Festival, a U institution for 18 years began to present operas and other musical productions in the stadium bowl. The first doctoral degrees were awarded.

The Utah Symphony was invited to make its home on the University campus, which then led to increased exposure and instruction of the performing arts at the University. The University dance program, particularly ballet, became nationally recognized. A 300-acre tract was ceded from Fort Douglas to the University, more than doubling the University's size. A large increase in students necessitated bringing moveable buildings from the Topaz Relocation Camp and from as far away as VanPort, Oregon.

Roger Bailey arrived from Michigan and organized the first Department of Architecture.

In its first nationally telecast football game, Utah beat BYU, 33-32.

The University embarked on a 10-year building program that radically altered the campus. The decade saw more than 30 major buildings constructed. KUED was established, the 29th educational station in the nation. It proved so successful that the University started efforts to set up an FM radio station.

Construction on the Merrill Engineering Building was started, with the college becoming separate from the College of Mines. The University acquired a 35-acre site on which to build married student housing south of the Veterans' Administration Hospital. The Department of Political Science was established.

A massive building program during the decade of the 1960s produced Pioneer Memorial Theatre, the bookstore, VanCott Hall, a central heating plant, married student housing, much of the medical complex, the Physics Building, the College of Law Building, the Marriott Library, the Special Events Center (now the Huntsman Center), the Health, Physical Education, and Recreation complex, new Biology and Chemistry buildings, and other facilities.

House Bill 58 established the University of Utah campus as the "State Arboretum of Utah."

James C. Fletcher was appointed president.

The School of Business moved to a new three-building complex, its current location.

The Graduate School of Architecture superceded the Department of Architecture.

The new library building opened with a dedicatory address by Wallace Stegner, "The Book and the Great Community." The library was named the J. Willard Marriott Library the following year to honor the $1,000,000 gift for collections from the Marriott family.

There was student activism on several fronts. Anti-war sentiment ran strong and a peaceful sit-in in the Park Building by approximately 500 students emphasized how important reform was to many students.

Many new facilities were completed, including the Social and Behavioral Science Building, the Social Work Building, the Utah Museum of Fine Art, the Browning Building to house most of the earth sciences, the Art and Architecture Building, and the University Village East for married student housing. The University Hospital benefitted from a $60,000,000 expansion project that included a medical library and housing for medical students. The old rifle range at Fort Douglas became the beginning of the University Research Park.

Alfred C. Emery was appointed president.

David P. Gardner was appointed president. The University was 26th in the nation in the amount of federal funds received, and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching indicated that the University had reached the category of a major research university.

New facilities during this period include the addition to the Chemistry Building, the Alumni House, the Student Services Building, and the Olpin Union Building was renovated in the food services area.

The women's gymnastics team won an unprecedented six straight national titles from 1981-86.

Chase N. Peterson was appointed president. He served in office from 1983-1991.

Red Butte Garden was opened to the public.

The Alice Sheets Marriott Center for Dance was opened.

The facilities built during this period included a new dance building, a new Biology Building, and the Language and Communications Building. Kingsbury Hall received a complete renovation. Contributions to campus included the renovation of Gardner Hall, the expansion and renaming of Rice-Eccles Stadium, and the Dumke Gymnastic Training Center.

The George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Institute of Human Genetics was dedicated.

Arthur K. Smith was appointed president. The Business School was renamed the David Eccles School of Business.

The Dolores Doré Eccles Broadcast Center was opened.

The University was selected as the location of the Olympic Village and the venue for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics. Jon and Karen Huntsman pledged $100,000,000 to the Huntsman Cancer Institute, the largest single gift in the University's history. The Humanities Center was named in honor of Obert C. and Grace A. Tanner. Sarah Michalak was appointed Library Director. The graduating law school class was the first in which female graduates outnumbered male graduates.

The Marriott Library addition was dedicated. Included were a Multimedia Center and a 200-seat auditorium.

Jerilyn S. McIntyre was appointed interim president. Plans were announced to cede a tract of land east of Officers Circle in Fort Douglas to the University for the construction of student housing, which will serve as the Olympic Village. The men's basketball team was second in the nation.

J. Bernard Machen was appointed president.

The Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah was dedicated. The sesquicentennial fund-raising campaign, "Generations of Excellence," concludes, bringing more than $541 million in private giving to the University—from Flagship in the Desert, a chronology of the University of Utah, 1850-1998, edited in 1998 by Peter H. DeLafosse, Chair of the Friends of the Marriott Library, commissioned by the Friends of the Marriott Library in 1998.

From an upstart university located in the middle of the American desert, the University of Utah has in recent years gained a national, even international, reputation. And this reputation is largely a result of the University's research efforts and accomplishments.

Over its 150 years, the U has added a concentration on research to its teaching mission. One can see the effect on the campus. There are major buildings, such as the Eccles Institute of Human Genetics and the Center for High Performance Computing, that while devoted largely to research, provide novel education and training of graduate and undergraduate students. And in such areas as genetics, artificial organs, and, more controversially, cold fusion, the U has become nationally known.

In 1972 the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching issued a report that classified universities and colleges by the amount of federal government support they receive for academic science, with Research Universities I being the highest classification. The U of U was one of 50 institutions earning this classification, and it remains in the category to this day. In 1998 funding for research at the U of U reached almost $200 million.

Mines And Earth Sciences

Given Utah's long history as a state rich in natural resources, with an economy heavily dependent on exploiting those resources (silver in Park City and Alta, uranium in the Moab area, copper in Salt Lake County), it is no surprise that academic work in mining was an early strength of the U of U, as exemplified in the College of Mining and Earth Sciences.

Perhaps the greatest change in explosives technology in this century was the development of slurry explosives. Used in the mining and construction industries worldwide, they were developed by Melvin A. Cook BA'33 MA'34 (1949-67) of the faculty of the College of Mines and Earth Sciences (and the father of Congressman Merrill Cook BA'69). Slurry explosives have several advantages over previous explosive technology: they can be handled relatively safely in large amounts, are low in cost, and can move immense tonnages of rocks economically. Their development made mining and other industries that are dependent on explosives more cost-effective.

Another notable member of the College of Mines and Earth Sciences was Antoine Gaudin. He was the first to develop froth flotation, a method of min-eral separation that uses small bubbles of air to which the ore minerals attach and rise to the surface of a concentrator filled with an aqueous solution. Waste materials are separated from valuable metals, such as copper. The technology is widely used today.

Among those who helped spread the name of the University nationwide was Robert S. Lewis, who joined the University of Utah in 1913 as department chair in what was then known as the School of Mines and Engineering. He wrote a text in 1933, Elements of Mining Engineering, which, in its several editions, helped train several generations of mining engineers in universities throughout the country.

The University of Utah has a rich tradition in earthquake and crustal research, starting with the founding of its seismograph network in 1907 by James E. Talmage. Talmage was president of the U from 1894 to 1897, and then taught geology from 1897 to 1907. With his colleagues, he pioneered the discovery of the source of the world's largest continental volcanic field, Yellowstone, as a deep mantle hotspot, and provided important insights into seismic activity and earthquake faults in Utah.

Computer Sciences

The University has not only looked deep within the earth but far into cyberspace. The Department of Computer Science's history is among the most illustrious in its field. One could make a strong argument that the look and feel of today's computers, in particular their use of graphics, were largely a result of the University. Every personal computer carries the imprint of the University's computer science department.

Computer Graphics World magazine listed this as one of the landmark events in computer graphics history: "The University of Utah recruits Dave Evans BA'49 PhD'53 to found the first computer graphics department." Evans created the fertile soil at the University that would so influence the computer industry when he returned to the U in 1966 to join its faculty. When Evans died October 3, 1998, The New York Times wrote: "His best students went on to develop seminal ideas that were instrumental in creating some of the most influential companies in various branches of the com-puter industry."

U of U computer science students who have since become some of the guiding lights of the computer industry are legion. Nolan Bushnell BS'69 is an example. He learned about the amusement park business during summer stints at Lagoon Amusement Park, and studied computer graphics at the U. He combined these two areas of interest into computer games, then unheard of, creating Atari, the company that produced Pong, the first popular computer game in the world.
Alan Kay PhD'69 developed the notion of a graphical user interface while at Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center), which led to such innovations as the design of the Apple Macintosh graphical user interface and, later, Microsoft's Windows. Fellow student Alan Ashton PhD'70 co-founded WordPerfect Corp.

Tom Stockham, who was on the computer science faculty from 1969 to 1981, is the father of digital recording. His work garnered an Emmy Award from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, the first Technical Grammy Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts, and the Jack S. Kilby Signal Processing Medal "for pioneering the field of digital audio processing," awarded by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

One of the seminal figures in computer graphics is John Warnock BS'61 MS'64 PhD'69. As Byte Magazine notes, "Two innovations clearly sparked the desktop publishing revolution: The Mac and John Warnock's Postscript PDL (page-description language). Warnock cut his teeth at Xerox PARC, where he developed graphics imaging standards. In 1982, he and his partner, Charles Geschke, founded Adobe System and developed desktop publishing, graphics, and page design software.

Ronald Resch, who was on the computer science faculty throughout the 1970s, built the first physical structure designed entirely with computer-aided geometric modeling software.

Edwin Catmull BS'69 PhD'74 is today known as a co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios, which created for Disney the first completely computer-generated film, Toy Story. But his place in computer history will probably rest on a computer rendering of his left hand that he modeled in a class at the U of U in 1973. A few years later, this piece of art-cum-technology was used in the film Future World, making history by being the first computer-rendered graphic to appear in a feature film. In 1993 Catmull won a special Oscar, the Scientific and Technical Engineering Award.

Ray Noorda BS'49, founder of Novell, Inc., didn't exactly invent computer networking—the connecting together of separate personal computers so they can work together—but he certainly was the one who promoted the concept within the computer industry when few others were believers.

No discussion of the U of U's computer science department would be complete without mentioning one of the most influential figures in the computer industry, Jim Clark PhD'74. He was a co-founder of Silicon Graphics, a manufacturer of workstations for computer graphics. He later founded, and initially funded, Netscape, which produced the first popular Web browser software used to access the Internet, transforming industry by leading society down the Internet superhighway. More recently, he's been chair of Healtheon Corp., an Internet-based health care information company.

Henri Gouraud PhD'71 developed the Gouraud shading method for polygon smoothing, a simple rendering method that dramatically improved the appearance of objects on a computer screen. Bui Tuong-Phong PhD'75 invented the Phong shading method for capturing highlights in graphical images by modeling specular reflection. Phong's lighting model is still a popular method for creating illumination in computer graphics.


When a computer scientist wants to imagine outer space, he or she can express it as images created on a computer monitor. Physicists, however, fuel the imagination by unraveling the mysteries of real-world outer space. The U of U's Physics Department has enjoyed considerable research success during the past 30 years in cosmic ray physics. During the 1970s, Professors Jack Keuffel, Eugene Loh, George Cassiday, and Pierre Sokolsky developed the atmospheric fluorescence technique for observing cosmic ray tracks in the earth's atmosphere and made the first observation of an extended cosmic ray track in the sky.

In 1991 The Fly's Eye group, under Professors Loh and Sokolsky, discovered a world-record high-energy cosmic ray with an energy of 300 billion-billion-billion electron volts. Such energies were hitherto thought to be extremely unlikely.

Laser physics has been another area of important physics research success. In 1954 Professors Grant Fowles BS'41 and William Bennett discovered what was at the time the second known visible light laser, which used sulfur vapor. Until then, only the Bell Laboratory Helium/Neon laser was known. The U of U group went on to develop metal vapor lasers, as well. Almost 30 years later, in 1983, Professor Fritz Luty and Yi-Hong Yang PhD'84 discovered energy transfer between photo-excited electronic defects and molecular defects in ionic crystals. A result of this research was the development of the first successful vibrational solid state laser. Then in 1996 Professor Valy Z. Vardeny, with Sergey Frolov PhD'96 and Werner Gellermann PhD'81, discovered the first organic polymer laser, opening a whole new class of laser materials.

The U of U Physics Department is ranked among the top 10 in the nation for laser physics. Just this year, Professor Orest Symko, with Research Associate De-Juan Zheng and Research Associate Professor Thierry Klein, patented a miniature thermoacoustic refrigerator that promises considerable energy saving benefits. It uses sound as a source of power.


While minuscule compared to the expanse of outer space, the human body likewise affords a wealth of research opportunities. An area in which Utah excels is bioengineering, which creates man-made devices to replace body parts that don't work as they should. Just as David Evans was the catalyst for interdisciplinary applications in computer science, Willem Kolff served a similar role when he came to the U of U in 1967. The Dutch-born Kolff was already renowned as the "father of artificial organs" for his work in developing kidney dialysis before he came to campus. From his efforts came some of the U's best-known research efforts, including the first practical artificial heart, the Jarvik-7, as well as artificial ears, eyes, kidneys, and limbs. Life magazine in 1991 named him one of the 20th century's most influential Americans. A Kolff student who has enjoyed success in the bioengineering field is robot maker Stephen Jacobsen BS'67 MS'70 PhD'73. He has developed such devices as the renowned Utah Artificial Arm.

The department, which began offering an undergraduate major in 1999, is involved in num-erous pursuits. Jindrich Kopecek, professor of bioengineering, is a polymer specialist working on "magic drugs." These are toxin-carrying drugs that target specific sites, such as where cancer cells are located. The cancer cells consume the drugs, then "explode," releasing their cancer-killing toxin.

Richard A. Normann, also a professor of bioengineering, is trying to create artificial vision via a small video camera that will rest on the side of a pair of eyeglasses and which will be connected to a tiny array of microelectrodes implanted directly in the brain. For the profoundly blind, this approach will bypass the visual system consisting of the eye and optic nerve and, it is hoped, will allow the person to "see" rudimentary visual sensations they otherwise could not.


Faculty in the U of U's Biology Department have made important contributions in a variety of research areas, including better understanding of human biology. In the 1980s, the research group of Mario Capecchi invented a technique for targeting mutation of mammalian genes, using the mouse as a model organism. Gene targeting is now used routinely to create mice with defects in any gene of interest, enabling researchers to study the functional consequences of gene disruption. This technology has led to advancements in understanding the genetic control of development and behavior in mammals. Capecchi joined the U in 1974 and is currently Distinguished Professor of Biology and Human Genetics and a senior investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

The research group of Baldomero (Toto) Olivera has discovered many pharmacologically important molecules in the venoms of marine snails. These extremely potent yet relatively simple compounds have become valuable research tools for neurobiologists and promising therapeutic agents for treating epilepsy and other neurological disorders. Olivera joined the U in 1970 and now holds the rank of Distinguished Professor of Biology.

Theoretical ecologist Eric Charnov (1973-1998) made major contributions that have profoundly influenced current thought in the areas of ecology and evolution. He was one of the inventors of optimal foraging theory, which elucidated the principles and cost-benefit trade-offs that govern an animal's food-seeking behavior. He made equally important contributions to life- history theory, particularly to understanding how organisms invest resources in determining the proportion of males and females among their offspring. He held the position of Distinguished Professor of Biology and received a MacArthur Foundation "genius" award.

The Biology Department's research-doctorate programs in biochemistry and molecular biology and in ecology, evolution, and behavior were recently ranked in the top 15 percent of U.S. institutions. The undergraduate educational program was recently ranked 22 out of 630 nationally.


In 1822 Joseph Fourier invented the theory of Fourier series to study heat transfer, with applications in the study of waves of all kinds. A celebrated theorem of Norbert Wiener, proved in 1938, explains when a Fourier series of one variable has a reciprocal. As part of his study of measure algebras, Joseph L. Taylor ex'64, professor of mathematics, found a far-reaching generalization of this result to systems of functions of many variables. It was a milestone result in harmonic analysis.

Research on the geometry of six-dimensional spaces in the late 1960's showed that 2-dimensional shapes that could be made the same by a continuous motion could not be made the same by an algebraically defined motion, even when the shapes were defined algebraically. In a surprising development in 1983, C. Herbert Clemens showed that the difference between algebraic and continuous motions of algebraic objects depended on infinitely many parameters. This is an example of academic contributions made by the University's math department.


Chemical structures, properties, and reactions captured the imagination of one of the University's most renowned academicians: Professor Henry Eyring (1946-81) of the chemistry department. His development and application of the absolute rate theory for chemical reactions was a seminal research achievement. Whenever possible, chemists like to develop unifying theories that make understanding chemical reactions easier. Eyring's absolute rate theory is an essential foundation to understanding all chemical reactions. His work proved so significant that he won numerous awards for it, including the National Medal of Science. In 1998 he was one of only 75 chemists recognized by the American Chemical Society for truly towering contributions to the development of chemistry in the 20th century.

Calvin Giddings PhD'54 (1957-1996), also of chemistry, developed chromatographic techniques for separating complex mixtures. His techniques, collectively called field flow fractionation, can be applied to almost every separation problem confronting chemists, such as determining the type of pollutants in air and water samples, and identifying proteins in a given sample.

David Grant BS'54 PhD'57 (1958-present) made significant contributions to the field of carbon 13 nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, and through his more recent work in developing the techniques to make NMR spectra of solid samples using magic angle spinning. The chemist's NMR spectroscopy is the physician's MRI diagnostic tool. For the chemist, Grant's work opened new methods of determining the structure of large molecules.

A notable technical discovery, as well as commercial success from a U graduate, is Gore-Tex, an all-weather fabric that seems as common on the backs of skiers during the winter as snow. It was developed by Wilbert (Bill) Gore BS'33 MS'35, a Salt Lake City native.

The Big Picture

Lest one think discoveries at Utah are all about abstract scientific principles written in complex terminology, Salt Lake City native Evelyn Wood BA'29 MA'47 puts that to rest. While a graduate student at the U, she developed what is probably the most famous speed-reading course in the world, which was named after her.

One of the University's notable research successes is usually not considered a research project. It's 300-acre Research Park. The land for the Park was acquired under the aegis of University of Utah President James C. Fletcher as a cooperative arrangement with the state to address the needs of the University's many fields of science. A physicist with a doctorate from the California Institute of Technology, teaching experience at Harvard and Princeton, and several years as an aerospace executive, Fletcher understood the value of research relationships and collaborations between universities and private companies. Expanding research programs and the University's role as a major graduate school in the Intermountain Region helped build Fletcher's case. This coincided with growing awareness of the financial troubles at Utah mines and missile plants, and a need for greater economic diversity. In 1966 an advisory committee to Governor Calvin Rampton JD'39 recommended establishment of a research park associated with the U "to serve the people of Utah by promoting economic growth through attracting new research and development activities."

Today, joint University-industry research projects spawned in campus laboratories are carried out adjacent to the U. With 37 private companies employing 6,000 people, Research Park, according to the Baltimore Sun, "is widely considered one of the nation's most successful [university- related research parks]. And thanks in part to its success, the Salt Lake City-Provo area rates as one of the leading regions in the nation for entrepreneurial growth companies."

The University and Research Park community has included many individual researchers of distinction and established research groups whose work is renowned. With diverse projects carried out University-wide, as the sampling in this article indicates, the research achievements first affirmed by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching just over a quarter century ago underscore the importance of investing in faculty ideas.

—Alan S. Horowitz is a Salt Lake City freelance writer.

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