Duke University
#29 Overall Influence#12 Desirability Rank

Duke University

Private university in Durham, North Carolina, United States

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By James Barham, PhD

Duke began life as Brown’s Schoolhouse, on a site in what is now the town of Trinity in Randolph County, North Carolina, a little over 70 miles west of its current location in the city of Durham.

The small school experienced rapid growth in the years leading up to the Civil War, and underwent a succession of name changes: to Union Institute Academy (1841), Normal College (1851), and Trinity College (1859). In its cultural roots, the Methodist and Quaker faiths both loom large.

Finally, in 1892 the still-growing college was gifted with a major endowment from the wealthy tobacco entrepreneur, philanthropist, and devout Methodist, Washington Duke. It was at this time that its location was transferred to Durham.

A little later, Washington Duke’s son, James B. Duke, substantially increased the university’s endowment, to a total sum of about $40 million (around $580 million in today’s dollars). In honor of the contributions of the Duke family, in 1924the school changed its name one last time.

Washington Duke’s educational vision was to transform the modest teacher and minister training college into a major research university on the German model that would be capable of intellectually rivalling its Northern peers. In this, he succeeded beyond all expectation. Today, Duke is one of the premier private research universities in the South, and among the top tier of private schools in the country—effectively, the equivalent of an Ivy League school.

In addition to the influence flowing from the German research university model, Duke’s direction was also strongly shaped by its Methodist and Quaker roots, which toward the turn of the new century gave the school a decidedly progressive social impetus.

For example, Trinity College’s 1892 charter stipulated that the university’s doors be open to women on an equal basis with men. Also, in 1900, Duke became the first university in the country to host the renowned African American educator Booker T. Washington as an invited speaker. Native Americans also began to be included among its graduates around this same time.

There are some 15 Nobel laureates with Duke connections, including the:

  • Physicists, Charles Townes and Gerardus ’t Hooft
  • Biochemist, Robert Lefkowitz
  • Cancer researcher, William Kaelin, Jr.
  • Nigerian playwright, Wole Soyinka

Among other notable, Duke-associated scientists, we may mention the physicist and evolutionary theorist, Adrian Bejan. Duke can also boast of three Turing Award–winners:

  • Frederick Brooks
  • Edmund Clarke
  • John Cocke

Among the many other famous people who have been connected to Duke, the following are very notable:

  • Philosopher, Alasdair MacIntyre
  • Novelists, William Styron & Reynolds Price
  • Historian, John Hope Franklin
  • Literary theorist, Stanley Fish
  • Psychologists, Jerome Bruner, Roy Baumeister, & Dan Ariely
  • Economist, Allan Meltzer
  • Television personalities, Judy Woodruff & Charlie Rose
  • Father and son Libertarian politicians, Ron & Rand Paul
  • Lawyer, judge, and Clinton-era special prosecutor, Kenneth Starr

Duke also administers two international sister colleges: a medical school in Singapore and Kunshan University in China.

From Wikipedia

Duke University is a private research university in Durham, North Carolina. Founded by Methodists and Quakers in the present-day town of Trinity in 1838, the school moved to Durham in 1892. In 1924, tobacco and electric power industrialist James Buchanan Duke established The Duke Endowment and the institution changed its name to honor his deceased father, Washington Duke.

Source: Wikipedia


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103 Allen Bldg, Durham NC 27708

On Campus Crime Rates

Property Crime

29 per 100k

Violent Crime

1 per 100k

What is Duke 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

#29 World Rank
#17 World Rank
#35 World Rank
#33 World Rank
#23 World Rank
#20 World Rank
#20 World Rank
Political Science
#26 World Rank
#36 World Rank
Computer Science
#25 World Rank
#78 World Rank
#57 World Rank
#26 World Rank
#31 World Rank
#64 World Rank
#21 World Rank
Religious Studies
#59 World Rank
#30 World Rank
#30 World Rank
#31 World Rank
#55 World Rank
Earth Sciences
#34 World Rank

Influential People

Who are Duke University's Most influential alumni?

Duke University's most influential alumni faculty include professors and professionals in the fields of Biology, Medical, and Philosophy. Duke University’s most academically influential people include Timothy Tyson, Edwin Mansfield, and José Esteban Muñoz.

Timothy Tyson

American historian

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Edwin Mansfield

American economist

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José Esteban Muñoz
José Esteban Muñoz

American academic

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Mo Brooks

U.S. Representative from Alabama

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David S. Taylor

American businessman

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J. Turner Whitted

Computer graphics expert

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Joe M. McCord

American biochemist

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Peter Maas
Peter Maas

American journalist and author

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Jason Gaverick Matheny

American academic

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John P. McGovern
John P. McGovern

American physician

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Gary L. Wilson

American businessman

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Benjamin Ladner

American academic

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