University of Chicago
#5 Overall Influence#8 Desirability Rank

University of Chicago

Private research university in Chicago, Illinois, United States

By James Barham, PhD

The University of Chicago is one of the foremost universities in the world academically, albeit one of the youngest in that august company. In spite of its relatively recent founding, the school has been associated with some of the world’s most important scientific achievements, above all, the first controlled, self-sustaining, nuclear chain reaction (atomic fission), which was achieved in late 1942 by a team led by the legendary Italian physicist, Enrico Fermi, in a laboratory beneath a football field on the Chicago campus.

In another first, in 1952 then-graduate student Stanley Miller, with the assistance of his adviser, the distinguished University of Chicago chemist Harold Urey, demonstrated that organic molecules such as amino acids can be artificially produced in vitro from only inorganic precursor compounds. It is also worth noting that James D. Watson, the co-discover with Francis Crick of the double-helix structure of the DNA molecule at the University of Cambridge—also in 1952—completed his undergraduate education at Chicago.

However, Chicago is famed for far more than its contributions to science. For example, in 1896 renowned philosopher John Dewey founded the “Lab School” on the university’s campus to put his liberal pedagogical principles into practice. For better or for worse, the Chicago Lab School has had an incalculable impact on the course of educational philosophy in America.

In 1952, former University of Chicago President Robert Maynard Hutchins and philosophy professor Mortimer J. Adler teamed up to found the Great Books of the Western World publishing project and accompanying curriculum—one of the most important ancestors of the Great Books programs that are increasing in popularity today throughout the US.

Of the approximately 90 Nobel Prize recipients connected to the University of Chicago, no fewer than 29 have been recognized for their work in economics, including such distinguished names as:

  • Friedrich Hayek
  • Paul Samuelson
  • Kenneth Arrow
  • Herbert Simon
  • Milton Friedman
  • James M. Buchanan
  • George Stigler
  • Robert Lucas
  • Ronald Coase
  • Gary Becker
  • Eugene Fama

Friedman’s free-market views, in particular, have been identified with the university—so much so that he and his close associates (Stigler, Lucas, Coase, Becker, Fama, among others) have come to be known collectively as the “Chicago School” of economics.

The American novelist and Nobelist Saul Bellow was a professor at Chicago, as well as a longtime member of the university’s prestigious Committee on Social Thought.

Of the many other distinguished scholars associated with the Committee on Social Thought, we may mention Hans Jonas, Hannah Arendt, Mircea Eliade, Allan Bloom, and Leon Kass.

In addition, the highly influential political philosopher, Leo Strauss, held the Robert Maynard Hutchins Distinguished Service Professorship at Chicago for 20 years.

Other distinguished Chicago-related individuals include:

  • Astrophysicist, Edwin Hubble
  • Physicists, Luis Walter Alvarez & Carl Sagan
  • Statistician, Nate Silver
  • Novelists, Kurt Vonnegut & Philip Roth
  • Philosopher, Richard Rorty
  • Essayist, novelist, and culture critic, Susan Sontag
  • Historian, Carter G. Woodson
  • Anthropologist, Clifford Geertz
  • Economist, Thomas Sowell
  • Author, radio broadcaster, and oral history pioneer, Studs Terkel
  • Actor, Ed Asner
  • Actor and film director, Mike Nichols
  • Film critic, Roger Ebert
  • Dancer and choreographer, Katherine Dunham
  • Washington Post publisher, Katharine Graham
  • 2020 Democratic Party presidential nomination candidates, Amy Klobuchar & Bernie Sanders


What does this school look for?

Annual Applications




Graduation Rate


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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?


5801 S Ellis Ave, Chicago IL 60637

On Campus Crime Rates

Property Crime

18 per 100k

Violent Crime

1 per 100k

What is University of Chicago 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

#3 World Rank #2 USA Rank
#2 World Rank #2 USA Rank
Religious Studies
#2 World Rank #2 USA Rank
#3 World Rank #3 USA Rank
#5 World Rank #3 USA Rank
#3 World Rank #3 USA Rank
Political Science
#6 World Rank #3 USA Rank
#3 World Rank #3 USA Rank
Social Work
#3 World Rank #3 USA Rank
Criminal Justice
#6 World Rank #4 USA Rank
#7 World Rank #4 USA Rank
#5 World Rank #4 USA Rank
#8 World Rank #4 USA Rank
#8 World Rank #5 USA Rank
#8 World Rank #5 USA Rank
#8 World Rank #5 USA Rank
#10 World Rank #5 USA Rank
#9 World Rank #8 USA Rank
#18 World Rank #8 USA Rank
Earth Sciences
#16 World Rank #10 USA Rank
#15 World Rank #13 USA Rank
Computer Science
#26 World Rank #20 USA Rank

Other areas of influence

#15 World Rank #14 USA Rank
#21 World Rank #17 USA Rank

Influential People

Who are University of Chicago's Most influential alumni?

University of Chicago's most influential alumni faculty include professors and professionals in the fields of Religious Studies, Sociology, and Economics. University of Chicago’s most academically influential people include Milton Friedman, James D. Watson, and Carl Sagan.

Milton Friedman
Milton Friedman

American economist, statistician, and writer

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James D. Watson
James D. Watson

American molecular biologist, geneticist, and zoologist

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Carl Sagan
Carl Sagan

American astrophysicist, cosmologist, author and science educator

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Paul Samuelson
Paul Samuelson

American economist

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Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt Vonnegut

American writer

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Saul Bellow
Saul Bellow

Canadian-American writer

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Harold Innis
Harold Innis

Canadian professor of political economy

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Joseph E. Stiglitz
Joseph E. Stiglitz

American economist, professor, and recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics

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Philip Roth
Philip Roth

American novelist

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Erving Goffman
Erving Goffman

Sociologist, writer, academic

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Richard Rorty
Richard Rorty

American philosopher

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Lynn Margulis
Lynn Margulis

American evolutionary biologist

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