University of Wisconsin, Madison


Plaque on Bascom Hall

The University of Wisconsin - Madison was founded in 1848 and is the largest university in the state of Wisconsin. It has undergraduate and graduate divisions, and professional schools in law, medicine, veterinary medicine, and pharmacy. The total Fall 2002 enrollment is 41,552, of whom 28,778 are undergraduates.

The university is located in Madison, Wisconsin just blocks from the state capitol building, on an isthmus between two lakes, Lake Mendota and Lake Monona. In 1971, it was merged with the Wisconsin State University system to create the University of Wisconsin System.

University of Wisconsin, Madison, is the full official name. It is also called UW, UW-Madison, or Wisconsin for short.

The school's sports teams are called the Wisconsin Badgers. They participate in the NCAA's Division I-A and in the Big Ten Conference; its hockey program competes in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

Among U. S. universities, the University of Wisconsin, Madison is frequently listed as one of the "public Ivies"—publicly funded universities providing a quality of education comparable to the best private schools. It is often ranked among the top ten public universities in the United States.

School website: http://www.wisc.edu/
Official athletics site: http://www.uwbadgers.com/

Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF)

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation is a significant source of research support, independent of government grants. It currently contributes about $30 million per year, giving the university's research programs a "margin of excellence."

WARF was founded in 1925 by Harry Steenbock, who invented process for using ultraviolet radiation to add vitamin D to milk and other foods. Rather than leaving the invention unpatented—then the standard practice for university inventions—he patented it, worked with Quaker Oats and pharmaceutical companies to commercialize it, and used the proceeds to fund research.

Warfarin (coumarin) is named for WARF, and the story of its discovery is emblematic of the "Wisconsin idea" and the relationship of the university to the Wisconsin public. In 1933 a farmer from Deer Park showed up unannounced at the School of Agriculture and walked into a professor's laboratory with a milk can full of blood which would not coagulate. In his truck, he had also brought a dead heifer and some spoiled clover hay. He wanted to know what had killed his cow. In 1941, Karl Paul Link successfully isolated the anticoagulant factor, which found commercial application as a rodenticide and is used in medicine for treating circulatory conditions.


Bascom Hall, 1968, with crosses placed by students protesting the Vietnam war, and sign saying
"BASCOM MEMORIAL CEMETARY, CLASS OF 1968"


Sign near Sterling Hall commemorating tragic events of 1970

The 1970 Sterling Hall bombing

In the years 1966 through 1970, the University of Wisconsin was shaken by a series of student protests, and by the use of force by authorities in response. The first major demonstrations protested the presence on campus of recruiters for the Dow Chemical Company, which supplied the napalm used in Vietnam. Another target of protest was the Army Mathematics Research Center (AMRC), clearly identified and centrally located in the Sterling Hall physics building. Founded in 1957 and funded by the military, its precise role in the war was disputed. director J. Barkley Rosser, an eminent logician, publicly minimized any practical role and implied that AMRC pursued only pure mathematics. But the student newspaper, The Daily Cardinal, obtained quarterly reports that AMRC submitted to the Army. The Cardinal published a series of investigative articles making a convincing case that AMRC was pursuing research that was directly pursuant to specific DOD requests, and relevant to counterinsurgency operations in Vietnam. AMRC became a magnet for demonstrations, in which protesters chanted "U.S. out of Vietnam! Smash Army math!" In 1970, Karleton Armstrong and three other men stole a van from computer science professor Larry Travis, filled it with ammonium nitrate and fuel oil mixture, parked it next to Sterling Hall, and exploded it, killing physics graduate student Robert Fassnacht. At that time, it was described as "the single most destructive act of sabotage in United States history." Its severity as an act of domestic terrorism has only been eclipsed by the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995.

Related Entries

  • Undergraduate Projects Lab -- organization associated with the Department of Computer Sciences that provides undergraduates the resource to pursue self-motivated research projects


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