#16 Overall Influence #14 Desirability Rank

Cornell University

Private university in Ithaca
By James Barham, PhD

Cornell University was founded in turbulent times. With the Civil War winding down, and less than two weeks after President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, the Governor of New York signed the school’s official charter in the state capital, Albany, where only the day before Lincoln’s funeral procession had passed through the city’s streets.

Two men were behind the drive to establish a first-class university in upstate New York: wealthy businessman Ezra Cornell, the founder of Western Union, who was originally from Ithaca (where the new school was to be located), and Andrew Dickson White, a prominent historian and educator, who hailed from nearby Syracuse. Later on, White would be best remembered as the author of A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896), and from the beginning he envisioned Cornell as a rigorously secular institution with a special emphasis on the natural sciences.

This lack of an original religious orientation, as well as its geographical isolation from the American center of cultural gravity on the East Coast, make Cornell a bit of an odd-man-out among the eight schools that make up the Ivy League. However, the university’s right to a place among that elite grouping is more than justified by the intellectual firepower of its faculty. Moreover, despite its rural setting, Cornell’s sprawling campus and its total university population of over 23,000 (more than twice the size of the town of Ithaca itself) easily make it a rival of the other Ivy League schools in scale.

One of Cornell’s areas of particular strength is medicine. The Weill Cornell Medical School, located in Manhattan, is one of the most selective in the nation. Cornell also runs the Weill Cornell Medical College located in Doha, Qatar.

An astonishing 50 Nobel laureates are connected with Cornell, not to mention many other highly influential thinkers and authors. For example, among Nobel Prize– winners in physics, we many mention:

  • Hans Bethe
  • Richard Feynman
  • Hannes Alfvén
  • Kenneth Wilson
  • Steven Weinberg
  • Sheldon Glashow
  • Pierre-Gilles de Gennes
  • Kip Thorne

Cornell-connected chemistry Nobelists include:

  • Peter Debye
  • Richard Ernst
  • Manfred Eigen
  • Roald Hoffmann

In physiology or medicine, we may mention:

  • George Beadle
  • Fritz Lipmann
  • Barbara McClintock
  • Peter Medawar
  • Harold Varmus
  • Jack Szostak

Four Cornell-connected economists have won the Nobel Prize in their field:

  • Amartya Sen
  • Robert Engle
  • Richard Thaler
  • Robert Fogel

No fewer than four Nobel Prize laureates in literature have studied or taught at Cornell:

  • American novelists, Pearl Buck and Toni Morrison
  • Mexican poet, Octavio Paz
  • Nigerian playwright, Wole Soyinka

However, perhaps the most distinguished of all Cornell-connected literary figures (and one of the Swedish Academy’s worst oversights) is the great Russian émigré novelist, Vladimir Nabokov, who taught here from 1948 until 1959, when the international succès de scandale of his novel Lolita (1955) permitted him to retire from teaching.

Among other distinguished Cornell-connected individuals (in addition to the above), we may mention:

  • Physicists, Freeman Dyson & Huber Reeves
  • Novelists, Kurt Vonnegut & David Foster Wallace
  • Novelist, short-story writer, and essayist, Junot Díaz
  • E.B. White, author of the beloved children’s book, Charlotte’s Web, and co-author of the ubiquitous writer’s manual, The Elements of Style
  • Philosophers, John R. Perry & Thomas Nagel
  • Psychoanalyst, Abraham Maslow
  • Political scientist, Benedict Anderson
  • Journalist, Raj Patel
  • Television personality, Bill Nye
  • Political author and columnist, Ann Coulter
  • Actors, Christopher Reeve & Gillian Anderson
  • Indian industrialist, Ratan Tata
  • Former President of the Republic of China, Lee Teng-hui
  • President of the Republic of China, Tsai Ing-wen
  • US Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg

From Wikipedia

Cornell University is a private Ivy League and statutory land-grant research university in Ithaca, New York. Founded in 1865 by Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White, it has consistently been ranked among the top universities in the world by major educational publications.

Source: Wikipedia


What does this school look for?

Annual Applications




Graduation Rate


Median SAT Score


Median ACT Score



How much does it cost to attend?

Tuition (in-state)


Fees (in-state)


IncomeAverage Net Cost
0 - 30K$7,484
30K - 48K$7,518
48K - 75K$11,869
75K - 110K$23,128

After Graduation

Averages for 10 years after enrolling

Avg Earnings




Campus Life

What's it like to attend this school?

The People

Full time on-campus stats

Student Body






The Campus

Where will you be attending?


300 Day Hall, Ithaca NY 14853

On Campus Crime Rates

Property Crime

12 per 100K

Violent Crime

0 per 100K

City Crime Rates

Property Crime

29 per 100K

Violent Crime

2 per 100K

What is Cornell University known for?

Our answer to this is to show you the disciplines in which a school's faculty and alumni have had the highest historical influence. A school may be influential in a discipline even if they do not offer degrees in that area. We've organized two lists to show where they are influential and offer corresponding degrees, and where they are influential through scholarship although they don't offer degrees in the disciplines.

Top areas of influence with degrees offered

#11 World Rank
#21 World Rank
#10 World Rank
#9 World Rank
#14 World Rank
#11 World Rank
Computer Science
#14 World Rank
#26 World Rank
#11 World Rank
#20 World Rank
#15 World Rank
#14 World Rank
Political Science
#13 World Rank
#14 World Rank
#17 World Rank
#14 World Rank
#15 World Rank
#13 World Rank
#17 World Rank
#15 World Rank
Earth Sciences
#76 World Rank
Religious Studies

Other areas of influence

#18 World Rank
Criminal Justice
#26 World Rank
#26 World Rank
Social Work

Influential People

Who are Cornell University's Most influential alumni?

Cornell University 's most influential alumni faculty include professors and professionals in the fields of Engineering, Physics, and Biology

Justin L. Barrett

American academic

John Perdew

John Perdew

American physicist

Charles E. Sporck

American engineer

Sendhil Mullainathan

Sendhil Mullainathan

Indian economist

John Weakland

American psychotherapist

Alfred Blumstein

American scientist

Kenneth Nichols

Kenneth Nichols

United States Army officer and engineer

Edwin Boring

Edwin Boring

American psychologist

Douglas H. Ginsburg

Douglas H. Ginsburg

American judge

Eric Betzig

Eric Betzig

American physicist

Daniel Kleitman

Daniel Kleitman

American applied mathematician

Joachim Frank

Joachim Frank

German-born American biophysicist and Nobel laureate