New York University College of Arts and Science

The history of the College of Arts and Science begins with the founding of the University by a number of prominent New Yorkers, led by Albert Gallatin, a member of Jefferson’s cabinet. Unlike other institutions at the time, it was to be nonsectarian and to produce a different sort of elite citizen, not born to privilege but set apart for leadership by talent and effort. To that end it provided a more practical education, what the 19th century called "Useful Knowledge." 

Thus, in addition to offering the standard classical curriculum, early NYU was also a center for science. Samuel F. B. Morse, after whom the current core curriculum is named, invented the telegraph while teaching art and design; John W. Draper invented modern photography; and the American Chemical Society was founded here.

In the arts and culture, too, it can be argued that the College not only participated in, but also generated much of, the creative energy that has characterized Greenwich Village. The original University Building housed ateliers that were the forerunners of the current downtown art scene. And although Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was turned down for a teaching post, literature thrived, with University Building even featured in a novel by the eccentric Theodore Winthrop (1861).

Finally, this neighborhood and this institution have had a long tradition of social and political activism from the Stonecutters Riot over the construction of the University’s first building in 1834 to the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911, a major event in U.S. labor history that took place in what is now the Brown Building.