Duke University
#31 Overall Influence#12 Desirability Rank

Duke University

Private university in Durham, North Carolina, United States

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.


What does this school look for?

Annual Applications




Graduation Rate


Median SAT Score


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How much does it cost to attend?

Tuition (in-state)


Fees (in-state)


IncomeAverage Net Cost

After Graduation

Averages for 10 years after enrolling

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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?


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

#22 World Rank #9 USA Rank
Religious Studies
#13 World Rank #10 USA Rank
#40 World Rank #15 USA Rank
Earth Sciences
#24 World Rank #16 USA Rank
#19 World Rank #16 USA Rank
Political Science
#30 World Rank #17 USA Rank
#31 World Rank #18 USA Rank
#54 World Rank #18 USA Rank
#28 World Rank #19 USA Rank
#23 World Rank #19 USA Rank
#34 World Rank #21 USA Rank
#28 World Rank #22 USA Rank
#29 World Rank #22 USA Rank
#41 World Rank #23 USA Rank
#59 World Rank #23 USA Rank
#49 World Rank #25 USA Rank
#54 World Rank #26 USA Rank
#35 World Rank #26 USA Rank
Computer Science
#80 World Rank #27 USA Rank
#95 World Rank #34 USA Rank
#72 World Rank #34 USA Rank

Other areas of influence

#36 World Rank #32 USA Rank
#39 World Rank #32 USA Rank
Criminal Justice
#59 World Rank #49 USA Rank
Social Work

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 Nursing, Political Science, and Religious Studies. Duke University’s most academically influential people include David G. Bromley, Charlie Rose, and John W. Campbell.

David G. Bromley

American sociologist

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Charlie Rose
Charlie Rose

American TV interviewer and journalist

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John W. Campbell
John W. Campbell

American science fiction writer and editor

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Ken Wilber
Ken Wilber

American writer and public speaker

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Jerome Bruner
Jerome Bruner

American psychologist and scholar

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Tim Cook
Tim Cook

American business executive

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James E. Boyd
James E. Boyd

American physicist and administrator

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Russell Kirk
Russell Kirk

American political theorist and writer

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William Styron
William Styron

American novelist and essayist

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Richard B. Spencer
Richard B. Spencer

American white supremacist

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Fred Brooks
Fred Brooks

American computer scientist

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Anne Tyler

American novelist

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