It’s a good day for higher education: On February 11, 1826, University College London was founded under the name London University. Its purpose was to act as a secular alternative to the religiously affiliated universities of Oxford and Cambridge.

Contrary to popular belief, philosopher Jeremy Bentham is not the father of UCL and took no part it its creation, though his ideas on education and society inspired the school’s founders, particularly James Mill and Henry Brougham. The school started making history almost as soon as it was created, establishing the first Department of Economics in England in 1827 and becoming the first university in England to offer English as a degree subject in 1828. In 1833, Captain Alexander Maconochie, secretary to the Royal Geographical Society, became the first professor of geography in the UK when he took up a post at the university. London University became University College, London in 1836 after joining forces with King’s College, London. Lawyer, collector, and philanthropist Felix Slade provided the bequest to create the Slade School of Fine Art in 1871; it has since become world renowned as one of the finest art and design educational institutions in the UK. In 1878, UCL became the first British university to admit women on equal terms with men. At the end of the century, chemistry professor William Ramsay discovered krypton, neon, and xenon while working at UCL.

The university continued to grow throughout the 20th century, adding the Institute of Jewish Studies in 1959 and the Mullard Space Laboratory in 1966. The school became the first international link to APRPANET, precursor to the internet, in 1973 and sent the world’s first e-mail that year.

The 21st century saw major movements into nanotechnology and expansion in the medical field. UCL created UCL Partners, the largest academic health science center in Europe, in 2008.

Today, UCL is one of the most respected universities in the world. It boasts more than 150 clubs and societies, and its alumni include some of the greatest thinkers, inventors, and entertainers of modern times.

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