The California Institute of Technology is a small, independent university in Pasadena that carries on instruction and research in science and engineering, with a student body of 900 undergraduates and 1,300 graduate students. Recognized for its outstanding faculty, including several Nobel laureates, and such renowned off-campus facilities as the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the W. M. Keck Observatory, and the Palomar Observatory, Caltech is one of the world’s major research centers and most highly ranked, highly regarded schools of science and engineering.
The Institute traces its origins to a local school of arts and crafts founded in 1891. It has been known as the California Institute of Technology since 1920, when the school was set out on its new course of pursuing scientific research of the greatest importance.
It was at Caltech that Theodore von Kármán developed the principles that made jet flight possible, that Charles Richter published his logarithmic scale for measuring the magnitude of earthquakes, and that astronomer Maarten Schmidt discovered the nature of quasars. Here Linus Pauling determined the nature of the chemical bond, Max Delbrück conducted the studies of bacterial viruses that led to a new branch of biology called molecular genetics, Murray Gell-Mann theorized that all particles are made up of quarks and antiquarks, and Roger Sperry developed new insights into the implications of right-brain and left-brain functions. Nor were the faculty alone in making world-changing discoveries; Caltech alumni have had great impact as well. Charles Townes developed the laser; Chester Carlson invented Xerography; David Ho pioneered the use of drug “cocktails” in AIDS treatment; and Gordon Moore helped found the semiconductor industry. Some alumni, like Simon Ramo and Ben Rosen, have made their mark in the business world, while others have become astronauts, university presidents, government leaders, writers, film directors—even performance artists. Thanks to the accomplishments of people like these, Caltech’s influence has been both broad and deep.