Summer 2023

UW Turns 175

A black and white photo of men and women sitting at tables, studying in the library.
Men and women study in the College of Agriculture Library on the lower level of Agricultural Hall.


The university's 175th anniversary logo, with red lettering and numbers.

This summer marks 175 years since the founding of the University of Wisconsin, the state’s very first public university. Throughout this time, UW has led the way in everything from groundbreaking research discoveries to defining cultural movements.

The UW–Madison campus will honor these historic moments as part of a yearlong celebration beginning on July 26, 2023, which is 175 years to the day since the university was established. Programming will run through May 2024.

CALS will be making its own contributions to this important occasion, and highlights of the college’s rich history will be included here in the pages of Grow.

The official library for the study of agriculture at UW has been housed in three different locations on campus. Its original home was South Hall on Bascom Hill. Professor and pioneering dairy scientist Stephen Babcock committed his first paycheck to its founding in 1888. In 1903, the collection moved to what was then the recently constructed Agricultural Hall. A sign for the library is still etched into the building’s north facade to this day.

Black and white image of the Steenbock Memorial Library undergoing construction in 1967.
Steenbock Memorial Library was built in 1967 as the College of Agriculture Library. This image shows the front entrance under construction on Babcock Drive. Photos courtesy of the University of Wisconsin–Madison Archives

In 1969, the library relocated to its own building on the corner of Babcock Drive and Observatory Drive. Known as Steenbock Memorial Library, it’s named for biochemistry professor Harry Steenbock. The library’s benefactor, Babcock, was renowned for his butterfat test, a simple but accurate way to measure the quality of milk. But Steenbock was known for developing an inexpensive method of enriching foods with vitamin D, which led to the eradication throughout most of the world of the bone-deforming disease called rickets. About half of the funds for the library’s construction came from royalties for research patents Steenbock had filed with the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.

Students listening to various booths at a STEM majors fair in 2019 in Steenbock Memorial Library.
The BioCommons at Steenbock Memorial Library hosts a STEM majors fair in 2019. Photo by Michael P. King

Today, as part of UW’s General Library System, Steenbock serves CALS, engineering, botany, computer science, statistics, zoology, human development and family studies, consumer science, veterinary medicine, and the Division of Extension. It also houses the university’s archives.

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