University of Pittsburgh
#71 Overall Influence#987 Desirability Rank

University of Pittsburgh

State-related research university located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States

By James Barham, PhD

University of Pittsburgh (“Pitt”) traces its roots to the Pittsburgh Academy, a preparatory school founded in 1787, when Pittsburgh was still a frontier outpost. Defined in this way, Pitt is the oldest continuously chartered educational institution west of the Allegheny Mountains.

The city of Pittsburgh itself has an interesting history. It was founded in 1758 in conjunction with the construction of Fort Pitt, near the point where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers join to form the Ohio River. This act of founding occurred during the French and Indian Wars, and Fort Pitt was built near the site of an earlier, French-built fort—Fort Duquesne—which had recently been captured and destroyed by British forces. The newly established town was named after the prominent British statesman, William Pitt the Elder.

Over the next several decades, increased immigration into the part of Pennsylvania lying west of the Alleghenies gradually created the demand for an institution of higher learning in the region. For this reason, Pittsburgh Academy’s charter was amended in 1819 to create a full-fledged liberal arts college, originally known as the Western University of Pennsylvania (WUP).

The new university was essentially destroyed by the Great Fire of 1845, which devastated 20 square blocks of downtown Pittsburgh. At first, classes were transferred to a local church that had survived the conflagration, but this church too burned to the ground in 1849. Although WUP continued to exist as a legal entity throughout this trying time, classes had to be suspended for the next several years, reopening only in 1855.

As time passed, WUP continued to expand rapidly, eventually necessitating a gradual move during the 1880s from downtown Pittsburgh to the more-spacious Oakland neighborhood—the site of the present-day Pitt campus. In 1908, WUP’s name was officially changed to the University of Pittsburgh.

The Pitt campus’s signature building, the 42-story, late Gothic Revival “Cathedral of Learning,” was built during the 1920s, and opened for classes in 1931. At 535 feet, the Cathedral of Learning is at present the fourth-tallest academic building in the world (the 787-ft. Main Building of Moscow State University is the tallest).

During the nineteenth century, two prominent astronomers taught at WUP (Pitt’s forerunner): Samuel Pierpont Langley, founder in 1867 of the Allegheny Observatory; and James Edward Keeler, the first astronomer to demonstrate observationally that the rings of Saturn do not rotate in the same way as would a solid disc. Thomas Mellon, the founder of Mellon Bank, also graduated from WUP.

During the twentieth century, Pitt has been home to three Nobelists, namely:

  • Paul Lautebur, co-developer of magnetic resonance imaging — physiology or medicine
  • Philip Hench, discoverer of the hormone cortisone — physiology or medicine
  • Wangari Maathai, founder of the Kenyan-based Green Belt Movement — peace

During the second half of the twentieth century, Pitt became home to a distinctive brand of philosophy, which strove to moderate the reductionist and anti-metaphysical tendencies of logical positivism, without relapsing into the subjectivism of neo-Kantianism, by the limited borrowing of methods and insights from Continental phenomenology and American pragmatism. This syncretistic view has come to be dubbed “neo-Hegelianism.” Its principal proponents were Wilfrid Sellars and his younger colleagues and students, including John McDowell, John Haugeland, and Robert Brandom. These thinkers are often referred to collectively as the “Pittsburgh School.”

Other distinguished Pitt-connected individuals include:

  • Physicist, Benjamin W. Lee
  • Cathode ray tube and television transmission pioneer, Vladimir Zworykin
  • Biologist and genetic engineering pioneer and entrepreneur, Herbert Boyer
  • Novelists, John Irving & Michael Chabon
  • Dancer, choreographer, and actor, Gene Kelly
  • Children’s television personality, Fred Rogers (“Mr. Rogers”)
  • Actor, Joe Manganiello


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)


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?


4200 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh PA 15260

On Campus Crime Rates

Property Crime

11 per 100k

Violent Crime

1 per 100k

City Crime Rates

Property Crime

33 per 100k

Violent Crime

8 per 100k

What is University of Pittsburgh 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

#14 World Rank #12 USA Rank
Social Work
#49 World Rank #17 USA Rank
#26 World Rank #18 USA Rank
#48 World Rank #27 USA Rank
#57 World Rank #28 USA Rank
#55 World Rank #30 USA Rank
#90 World Rank #35 USA Rank
#45 World Rank #36 USA Rank
#59 World Rank #38 USA Rank
Computer Science
#74 World Rank #40 USA Rank
#113 World Rank #41 USA Rank
#125 World Rank #46 USA Rank
#72 World Rank #47 USA Rank
#69 World Rank #48 USA Rank
Political Science
#93 World Rank #49 USA Rank
#145 World Rank #50 USA Rank
Earth Sciences
#76 World Rank #53 USA Rank
#112 World Rank #59 USA Rank
#91 World Rank #69 USA Rank
Criminal Justice
#87 World Rank #74 USA Rank
#181 World Rank #75 USA Rank
#163 World Rank #79 USA Rank
Religious Studies
#172 World Rank #93 USA Rank
#129 World Rank #102 USA Rank

Influential People

Who are University of Pittsburgh's Most influential alumni?

University of Pittsburgh's most influential alumni faculty include professors and professionals in the fields of Social Work, Medical, and Nursing. University of Pittsburgh’s most academically influential people include Michael Chabon, Herbert Boyer, and John Money.

Michael Chabon
Michael Chabon

American novelist, short story writer, essayist

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Herbert Boyer
Herbert Boyer

American researcher and businessman

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John Money
John Money

Psychologist, sexologist and author

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Patricia Churchland
Patricia Churchland

Canadian philosopher

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William C. Wimsatt
William C. Wimsatt

American philosopher

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Paul Churchland

Canadian philosopher

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August Wilson
August Wilson

American playwright

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Lily E. Kay

American historian of science

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David Tepper
David Tepper

American businessman

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Spencer J. Condie

Mormon leader

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Nancy Cartwright
Nancy Cartwright

American philosopher

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Paul Lauterbur
Paul Lauterbur

American chemist

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