On Feb. 22, Penn State celebrated its 156th birthday. Since then, Penn State has been on the cutting edge of history—from seeing the first atom to hosting a historic speech by Martin Luther King Jr. to developing the first birth control pill. Take a tour through time led by the blue historical markers that dot Penn State campuses.
Blue-and-white historical markers note milestone moments in Penn State’s history, celebrating the intellectual, scientific and physical development of Penn State as one of America's leading universities. Currently there are 74 markers at nine Penn State campus locations—University Park, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Abington, Berks, DuBois, Erie, Fayette, McKeesport and Mont Alto.
The historical markers project, begun in 1989, highlights dozens of Penn State’s accomplishments and traditions through the years including:
- beginning the nation’s first collegiate instruction in ice cream manufacturing in 1892;
- establishing the Ag Experiment Station in 1889;
- marking the first use of artificial insemination of cattle at Borland Lab in 1944;
- discovering “R values” in 1945;
- germinating the idea for Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 during his faculty tenure at Penn State in the 1950s;
- determining wake turbulence in 1965;
- developing the heart-assist pump in 1976;
- and many more.
Markers also highlight treasured parts of the University Park campus such as Old Botany, the oldest building on campus whose exterior has not been altered since 1887; University House, home to 11 Penn State presidents and now part of the Hintz Family Alumni Center; and Old Beaver Field, which once drew crowds outside of Whitmore Lab.
Prominent figures in Penn State’s history are celebrated as well, such as Evan Pugh, the University’s first president; Moses Thompson, who donated much of the original land for Penn State; and George Atherton who championed for federal aid for higher education and was the first president of the Land-Grant College Association; and many others.
Can’t make it to campus? Descriptions, images and locations of all historical markers are online. The historical markers project is funded by the Penn State Alumni Association.
Watch this video to learn more about one of the historical happenings at Penn State—Penn State’s Erwin Mueller who was the first person to see an atom.