What is now Iowa State University was originally set up by the state legislature as an agricultural college and model farm in 1858. Land was purchased for close to $5,400 the following year. The farmhouse building was completed in 1861. The first official student cohort arrived in 1969. The institution was co-educational from the start, with two women among the first 26 graduates in 1872. It has now grown from such humble origins to cater to about 37,000 students at any one time.
Iowa Agricultural College which became Iowa State College of Agricultural and Mechanic Arts as of 1898, was established on the principles of a land grant university, which stress accessibility and the teaching of the liberal arts alongside more immediately practical subjects. These founding ideals are still reflected in a range of more than 100 majors branching out from agriculture to cover most of the sciences and the arts.
Iowa State was already a pioneer in 1879, when it set up the first state school of veterinary medicine in the US. It acquired its current title, Iowa State University of Science and Technology, in 1949 to reflect its excellence in research and strong focus on technological innovation. Notable inventions that took place on campus include the Atanasoff–Berry computer (or ABC), the world’s first binary computer.
Iowa State is a large, prestigious university with a friendly hometown personality. Its students study with world-class scholars and keep more than 500 student organizations going strong. The campus is also home to the Ames Lab, a research center for the U.S. Department of Energy.
As with any major public university, many Iowa State University alumni have achieved fame or notoriety after graduating. These people include astronauts, scientists, Pulitzer Prize winners, statesmen, academicians, CEOs, entrepreneurs, athletes, film and television actors, and a host of other notable individuals in their respective fields. Among the well-known alumni of ISU are its first black student (and later its first black faculty member), former slave George Washington Carver, who went on to become a prominent botanist and inventor; and astronaut Clayton Anderson.
Academics U.S. News & World Report ranks Iowa State among the top 50 public national universities. Overall, ISU ranks the 111th in the U.S. News & World Report ranking of national universities and the 42nd in the Washington Monthly rankings in 2016.
Iowa State University is organized into eight colleges and two schools that offer 100 Bachelor's degree programs, 112 Masters programs, and 83 Ph.D programs, including one professional degree program in Veterinary Medicine.
Iowa State University offers highly ranked graduate programs through its College of Veterinary Medicine and College of Engineering, as well as an interdepartmental degree program in human computer interaction.
In engineering specialties, at schools whose highest degree is a doctorate, Iowa State's biological/agricultural engineering program is ranked the first, the mechanical and civil are ranked the 9th and the 16th nationally in the U.S. by U.S. News & World Report 2016. Almost all of the engineering specialities at ISU are ranked in the top 30 nationally.
ISU's chemistry and physics programs are considered to be some of the best in the world and are ranked in the Top 100 globally and in Top 50 nationally by Academic Ranking of World Universities Shanghai Ranking 2016.
The most popular majors by number of students are mechanical engineering, finance, kinesiology and exercise science.