The university was the product of a merger between the College of California and the Agricultural, Mining, and Mechanical Arts College. The College of California, founded by former Congregational minister Henry Durant from New England, was incorporated in 1855 in Oakland.
With an eye to future expansion, the board of trustees augmented the college's Oakland holdings with the purchase of 160 acres of land four miles north, on a site they named "Berkeley," in 1866.
The boards of trustees of the College of California and the Agricultural, Mining, and Mechanical Arts College decided to merge the two schools to their mutual advantage - one had land but insufficient funds and the other had ample public funds but no land - on the condition that the curricula of both schools be blended to form "a complete university."
In March 1868, the governor signed into law the "Organic Act" that created the University of California. The new university used the former College of California's buildings in Oakland, until South Hall and North Hall were completed on the Berkeley site. In September 1873, the university, with an enrollment of 191 students, moved to Berkeley.
Fiscal problems plagued the new university, and it was not until the 20-year presidency of Benjamin Ide Wheeler, beginning in 1899, that finances stabilized, allowing the university to grow in size and distinction.
John Galen Howard, the supervising architect charged with implementing the new construction of buildings, developed a style of architecture that reinterpreted the grace, dignity, and austerity of classical lines to suit the California environment.
Some of the campus's most elegant and stately structures were built during Howard's tenure, among them the Hearst Memorial Mining Building, the Hearst Greek Theatre, California Hall, Doe Library, the Campanile, Wheeler Hall, Gilman Hall, and Hilgard Hall.
President Wheeler, a classical scholar and able administrator, attracted library and scholarship funds, research grants, and a distinguished faculty to the university. Summer sessions were begun in 1899, to train physics and chemistry teachers and before long broadened the school's scope.
In 1930, Robert Gordon Sproul began a presidency that lasted three decades. His principal concern was academic excellence, and he was committed to attracting brilliant faculty in all fields.
In the 1930s, research on campus burgeoned in nuclear physics, chemistry, and biology, leading to the development of the first cyclotron by Ernest O. Lawrence, the isolation of the human polio virus, and the discovery of a string of elements heavier than uranium.
UC Berkeley is known around the world for it’s academic excellence, with nearly 300 degree programs.