The University of Illinois

Engine of Innovation
Author: Edited by Frederick E. Hoxie
Charting 150 years of promise and progress
Cloth – $29.95
eBook – $14.95
Publication Date
Cloth: 02/28/2017
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About the Book

The founding of the university in 1867 created a unique community in what had been a prairie. Within a few years, this creative mix of teachers and scholars produced innovations in agriculture, engineering and the arts that challenged old ideas and stimulated dynamic new industries. Projects ranging from the Mosaic web browser to the discovery of Archaea and pioneering triumphs in women's education and wheelchair accessibility have helped shape the university's mission into a double helix of innovation and real-world change.

These essays explore the university's celebrated accomplishments and historic legacy, candidly assessing both its successes and its setbacks. Experts and students tell the eye-opening stories of campus legends and overlooked game-changers, of astonishing technical and social invention, of incubators of progress as diverse as the Beckman Institute and Ebertfest.

Illustrated with over one hundred images, The University of Illinois: Engine of Innovation examines the full range of university achievements and their impact on the state, the nation, and the world.

Contributors: James R. Barrett, George O. Batzli, Claire Benjamin, Jeffrey D. Brawn, Jimena Canales, Stephanie A. Dick, Poshek Fu, Marcelo H. Garcia, Lillian Hoddeson, Harry Liebersohn, Claudia Lutz, Kathleen Mapes, Vicki McKinney, Elisa Miller, Robert Michael Morrissey, Bryan E. Norwood, Elizabeth H. Pleck, Leslie J. Reagan, Susan M. Rigdon, David Rosenboom, Katherine Skwarczek, Winton U. Solberg, Carol Spindel, William F. Tracy, and Joy Ann Williamson-Lott.

About the Author

Frederick E. Hoxie is Swanlund Endowed Chair and Professor of History, American Indian Studies and Law at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Most recently he is the author of This Indian Country: American Indian Activists and the Place They Made and editor of the Oxford Handbook of American Indian History.

Also by this author

Lewis and Clark and the Indian Country cover


"A good book for inspiring the Illini alum or historian. . . . Capture[s] a lot of Illinois' history and the innovators who shaped the institution into what we know of it today."--Smile Politely


"Great public research universities emerged in the United States over the last 150 years. Unlike anything that had come before, they literally changed the world. Hoxie's compilation is a delightful case study of one such university: Illinois. These delightful vignettes reveal the genius of those whose innovation shaped the academic giants we know today."--Stanley Ikenberry, President Emeritus of the University of Illinois

Supplemental Material

UIUC sponsored youtube video on 150 years at UIUC:

Book Chapters:

1.1 Isabel Bevier: Bringing Science into the Home

Department of Human Development and Family Studies:

Notable projects affiliated with HDFS:

Family Resilience Center:

Child Development Lab:

1.2 Interval: Arthur Palmer and the Chemistry of Safe Water

Chemistry at U of I:

Research on safe drinking water and public health:

Virtual tour:

1.3 Interval: Austin Harding, Inventor of the School Band

Illinois Bands today (11 total bands):

1.4 Victor Shelford, Environmental Pioneer

Department of Animal Biology:

Illinois Natural History Survey:

Which is a part of the Prairie Research Institute:

1.5 Interval: Katherine Sharp: Shatteringthe Glass Ceiling of Library Leadership

About UIUC Library’s collections:

1.6 Ven Te Chow: Hydrologist, Educator and Rainmaker
by Macelo H. Garcia

Ven Te Chow Hydrosystems Lab:

1.7 Interval: Stuart Pratt Sherman: Literary Criticism Comes to the University

1.8 Ruth Maslow Lewis and Oscar Lewis: Giving Voice to the Voiceless
by Susan M. Rigdon

Virtual tour on Lewis:

Sociocultural & Linguistic Anthropology at UIUC:

1.9 Interval: Thomas Cureton, the Father of Physical Fitness

10min, 43 second video on Cureton as Illinois innovator:

1.10 Timothy Nugent, "Wheel Chair Students," and the Creation of the MostAccessible
Campus in the World
by Leslie Reagan

Figure 1
Figure 1. Innovation in wheelchair athletics: The University of Illinois remains at the forefront of wheelchair athletics. Here, University of Illinois alumna and world-renowned Paralympic athlete Tatyana McFadden (BA, 2014), trains at the U. of I.'s U.S. Paralympic Training site for wheelchair track and road racing. Photo by L. Brian Stauffer, courtesy of U of I News Bureau.

Division of Disability Resources & Educational Services on campus:

8:43 video “Creating an Accessible World”:

27:59 video “Illinois Pioneers with Dr. Tim Nugent”:

[*I like this one best] 29:16 video “The Game Changer” (from Sept 2016):

1.11 Interval: Ruth andHenry Kahane: Exploring Language's History and Structure

Linguistics at UIUC: under the umbrella of SCLC (the Linguistics website is VERY boring!):

1.12 Alta Gwinn Saunders and the Invention of Business English
by Carol Spindel

Saunders and local business The Green Tea Pot:

1.13 Interval: Shozo Sato: Reinventiing Kabuki Theater

Nick Offerman made a gazebo to honor Sato, who was his mentor! (6:13)
26:46 Illinois Pioneers on Sato:

1.14 John Bardeen, Citizen of Science
by Vicky McKinney and Lilian Hoddeson

23 minute video on Bardeen (from 2010):

1.15 Interval: Carl Woese and the Discovery of the Third Formof Life

IGB page on Woese:

PBS/NOVA next page:

Wikipedia on the Three Domain System:

1.16 Clarence Shelley and the Campaign to Diversify the University
By Joy Ann Williamson-Lott

Project 500 online media exhibit:

Created and Nurtured on the Illinois Campus, then Spread to the World

2.1 Affordable Higher Education
by James R. Barrett

2.2 Interval: Sound on Film

***From the UIUC archives: Contains a clip from the original demonstration!
Video from virtual tour:

2.3 Inventing Professional Architecture
by Bryan E. Norwood

Figure 2
Figure 2. Meditation Hut III "Victor," designed by professor of architecture Jeffery S. Poss. The Illinois School of Architecture remains one of the top ranked architecture and built environment programs in the country. Photo courtesy Jeffery S. Poss.

Gorgeous UIUC architecture department webpage:

Architecture on virtual campus tour:

Let’s highlight this architect:

2.4 Interval: The Hillel Foundation and the Invention of Diversity

Illini Hillel webpage:

2.5 Clarence W. Alvord, the Illinois Historical Survey, and the Invention of Local History
by Robert Michael Morrissey

Illinois Historical Society page:

Alvord on virtual campus tour:

2.6 Interval: Beyond Women's Studies

Department of Gender and Women’s studies:

Women’s Resource Center:

2.7 John Laughnan and the Transformation of Sweet Corn
W.F. Tracy

Virtual tour on supersweet corn:

2.8 Interval: Remarkable Animals: Illini Nellie and Big Al

Illinois’s renowned cow, Illini Nellie!

Department of Animal Sciences:

2.9 2 + 2 = green Innovation in Experimental Music at the University of Illinois
by David Rosenboom

Virtual tour on experimental music:
UIUC Experimental music studios:

Sample works:

2.10 Interval: The Beginning of Public Broadcasting

Virtual tour on public broadcasting:

History of WILL:

2.11 Joseph McVicker Hunt and the Invention of Early Childhood Education
By Elizabeth H. Pleck

Virtual tour on Hunt:

Child Development lab:

2.12 Interval: Samuel Kirk and the Invention of Special Education

Kirk on Virtual campus tour:

2.13 The Invention of the MRI
By Katherine Skwarczek

Virtual tour on Lauterbur:

More on nuclear magnetic resonance:

The MRI today:

***Superfast MRI: If I only had a dream:

2.14 Interval: Nick Holonyak, Jr. and the Development of LED Lights

Video on Holonyak and LED (5 years old):

From UIUC virtual tour:

Figure 3
Figure 3. Innovation in biotechnology: Skin-like, or "epidermal," electronics developed by the Rogers Research Group laminate onto the surface of the skin, much like a child's temporary tattoo, to provide continuous, clinical quality information on physiological health. Photo courtesy J. Rogers, University of Illinois.

Rogers Research group is PHENOMENAL:

2.15 Mosaic: The First Point and Click Internet Browser
By Jimena Canales

Virtual tour on Mosaic:

NCSA page on Mosaic:

2.16 Interval: Superfluidity

Video on Leggett:

2.17 Life is Bottled Sunshine: Discovering and Harnessing the Power of Photosynthesis
By Claire Benjamin and Claudia Lutz

Virtual tour on photosynthesis:

2.18 Interval: Interdisciplinary Scholarship at the College of Law

College of law:


Campus Locations (and in one case, a country) Where Ideas and People Meet To Produce Innovation

3.1 The Morrow Plots
By Kathleen Mapes

Morrow Plots on ACES webpage:

3.2 Interval: Bringing Innovation to the Farm Through the Farmer’s Institutes

3.3 The Story of the University Library
By Winton U. Solberg

4 minute 15 second Video “History of the University of Illinois Library”:

3.4 Interval: Improvising an Innovation: Stadium Terrace Housing and the Arrival of ‘Non-
Traditional Students’

Urbana Free Library page on Stadium Terrace:

3.5 Across the Pacific: The University of Illinois and China
By Poshek Fu

Lots of UIUC archive photos of Chinese diplomat’s visit in 1908:

China Executive Leadership Programs:

Chinese students and scholars association:

3.6 Interval: The Illiac Computers: Product and Source of Innovation

Virtual tour on early computers:

Very cool Illiac timeline:

Figure 4
Figure 4. Blue Waters is the latest version of a series of revolutionary computers that began in the 1950s. One of the most powerful supercomputers in the world, it is housed in the National Petascale Computing Facility (NPCF) in Research Park. Courtesy of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) and the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.

Where supercomputers are today: Blue Waters:

3.7 The Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
By Harry Liebersohn

Figure 5
Figure 5. Inspired by the music of Milos Crvic, Psychosis is a hip hop consideration of the moods and changes of someone dealing with a mental "disorder," illustrated in this performance by a moving ceiling that closes in on the dancers. Photo by Natalie Fiol. Courtesy of the University of Illinois Department of Dance.

3.8 Interval: Ebertfest, Where Hollywood Comes to the Prairie

Figure 6
Figure 6. Ebertfest, a special event of the College of Media that celebrates films that did not receive the recognition they deserved during their original runs, was founded in 1999 by the late Roger Ebert, a University of Illinois journalism graduate and Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic. Courtesy of Thompson-McClellan.

3.9 Interval: Innovation Across Disciplines: the Institute for Genomic Biology

3.10 Interval: The Business Instructional Facility: Designed for Innovation

3.11 The Beckman Institute: Imagining Interdisciplinarity
By Stephanie A. Dick

3.12 Interval: Nevada Street, Home to Innovative Programs in Racial and Ethnic Studies

American Indian Studies:

African American Studies:

Asian American Studies:

Latina/Latino Studies:

La Casa Cultura Latina:

Asian American Cultural Center:

Native American House:


Related to the timeline:



John Milton Gregory (1867-1880)

Selim Hobart Peabody (1880-1891)


Morrill Act (1862)

The Morrill Act subsidizes universities with federal land grants in the West.

6 minute video on Morrill Act:

Women Admitted (1870)

The Illinois Industrial College admits women as students.

Morrow Plots (1876)

Professor George Morrow establishes the first experimental plots to test the sustainability of prairie soils.

First Degrees Granted (1878)

Illinois begins to confer formal degrees based upon the completion of specified coursework.

Name Changed to University of Illinois (1885)

The institution’s name changes to reflect its broad academic course offerings.

Hatch Act (1887)

The Hatch Act paves the way for extension programs to bring innovations to farmers.



Thomas Jonathon Burrill (1891-1894)

Andrew Sloan Draper (1894-1904)

Edmund Janes James (1904-1920)


UIUC at Columbian Exposition (1893)

Graduate School (1893)

Illinois creates a graduate school allowing departments to offer fellowships to advanced students.

Library School (1897)

Pioneer librarian Katherine Sharp establishes the library school at Illinois.

Video on Sharp, Illinois Innovators:

First Chinese Students Arrive (1909)

President Taft’s Visit (1911)

Taft’s is the first visit to the University of Illinois by a sitting U.S. president.

Armory (1914)

Construction begins on the distinctive structure in 1912.

University Press Established (1918)

The Press publishes a history of the University and a study of President Lincoln.



David Kinley (1920-1930)

Harry Woodburn Chase (1930-1933)

Arthur Hill Daniels (1933-1934)

Arthur Cutts Willard (1934-1946)

George Stoddard (1946-1953)


Hillel Foundation Established (1923)

Students organize the first Illinois chapter of Hillel, now the largest Jewish student organization in the country.

Memorial Stadium Dedication (1924)

The stadium is dedicated to the memory of those who died during World War I.

Main Library (1926)

Library Dean Phinneas Windsor co-designs a building to facilitate the rapidly growing book collection.

Video on Windsor from UIUC virtual tour:

Alma Mater Dedication (1929)

Sculpted by Lorado Taft, the statue symbolizes the collaboration, good feelings, and posterity of Illinois students.

Conservation of Alma Mater (by F&S):

Illini Union Building (1941)

The Union becomes a space where students and faculty can make social, intellectual, and

professional connections.

University Airport (1945)

Willard Airport has hosted student aviation clubs, commercial flights, and the University’s Institute of Aviation.

University Acquires Allerton (1946)

Allerton donates the house and grounds for recreation and special events.



Lloyd Morey (1954-1955)

David Dodds Henry (1956-1971)

John E. Corbally (1971-1979)


Jack Peltason (1967-1977)

Morton Weir (1977), William Gerberding (1978-1979), John Cribbet (1979-1984)


Howard Bowen Resigns as Dean of College of Commerce (1950)

Dean of the College of Commerce Howard Bowen resigns after angering the faculty’s conservative members.

Illiac I (1952)

The five-ton Illiac I assists in developing the first electronic musical composition, binary division, and PLATO.

George Stoddard Fired (1953)

Stoddard is fired for attempting to engage the university with national movements, and his religious and political liberalism.

Bardeen’s First Nobel Prize (1956)

Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley win for building the first point-contact transistor.

PBS on Bardeen:

JFK Campus Visit (1960)

Kennedy is the first presidential candidate from a major party to speak on campus.

**Youtube video of Kennedy on campus!!:

Assembly Hall (1963)

The University constructs Assembly Hall to accommodate a rapidly expanding student body.

Virtual campus tour:

AAUP Censure UIUC (1963)

The American Association of University Professors censures Illinois for firing Leo Koch after he publicly endorsed consensual sex outside of marriage.

Krannert Center (1968)

Dean Allen S. Weller leads initiatives to develop the Krannert Art Museum and Center for the Performing Arts.

Figure 7
Figure 7. Chicago-based artist Nnenna Okore preparing Nkata: An Installation, her Fall 2015 exhibition at the Krannert Art Museum (KAM). KAM opened its doors in 1961 as the permanent home for the University's fine art collection and remains a national leader among university art museums. Photo by L. Brian Stauffer. Courtesy of the U of I News Bureau.

Art center:

Project 500 (1968)

Project 500 increased accessibility for disadvantaged high school graduates, primarily African Americans, many of whom were later arrested after protesting ambiguities regarding their financial aid packages and housing situation.

Illiac IV Protests (1970)

Students protest the supercomputer Illiac IV’s development due to its military funding.

Bardeen’s Second Noble Prize (1972)

Bardeen, Leon Cooper, and Bob Schrieffer win for developing the theory of superconductivity.

Video on Bardeen and superconductivity, virtual tour:

Women’s Studies (1978)

Feminist activism on campus prompts the first Women’s Studies courses.



Stanley O. Ikenberry (1979-1995)

James Stukel (1995-2005)

B. Joseph White (2005-2009)

Michael Hogan (2010-2012)

Robert Easter (2012-2015)

Timothy Killeen (2015- )


Thomas Everhart (1984-1987), Morton Weir (1987-1993), Michael Aiken (1993-2001), Nancy Cantor (2001-2004), Richard Herman (2004-2009), Robert Easter (2009-2012), Phyllis Wise (2012-2015), (interim, 2015-2016), Robert J. Jones (2016-)


Beckman Institute (1989)

The Beckman Institute is founded as a center for interdisciplinary research in the sciences.

Mosaic Browser (1993)

Mosaic becomes the first broadly popular web browser.

Bill Clinton’s Visit (1998)

Clinton identifies accessibility to education, climate change, and social security reforms as problems facing students.

Youtube of the visit:

Ebertfest (1999)

Roger Ebert launches the film festival as a venue for films that have merit but receive little attention.

Nancy Cantor (2001-2004)

Cantor is the first woman appointed chancellor.

Double Nobel Prize Recipient (2003)

Anthony Leggett wins the prize in physics, while Paul Lauterbur wins in medicine.

UIUC’s Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize winners:

Institute for Genomic Biology (2007)

The Institute has launched programs in nutrition, food security, and the use of “big data” in medical research.

Chief Illiniwek Retired (2007)

Illinois retires the school’s mascot, Chief Illiniwek, following sanctions by the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

WILL exploring the history of the Chief:

AAUP Censures UIUC (2015)

The AAUP censures Illinois following the Board of Trustee’s decision not to ratify Steven Salaita’s appointment in American Indian Studies.

The AAUP report:



Frederick E. Hoxie is Swanlund Endowed Chair and Professor of History, American Indian Studies and Law at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Most recently he is the author of This Indian Country: American Indian Activists and the Place They Made and editor of the Oxford Handbook of American Indian History.