University of Wisconsin–Madison
#25 Overall Influence#216 Desirability Rank

University of Wisconsin–Madison

Public research university in Madison, Wisconsin., USA

By James Barham, PhD

The University of Wisconsin was founded at the same time that the eastern part of the Wisconsin Territory became the new state of Wisconsin and entered the union. In accord with its charter, the new state university was physically located in the state capital, Madison.

Today, the University of Wisconsin System has grown into an immense network of more than 180,000 students distributed across some 26 campuses. However, the original Madison location still remains the flagship campus with the largest student body (around 44,000 students) and the most distinguished faculty. The university’s $3 billion endowment allows it to rank third in the US for expenditures on fundamental research.

The university is still growing rapidly, with the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery (for biomedical research), the Wisconsin Energy Institute (for alternative energy development), and the Human Ecology Building all having opened within the past ten years.

In 2007, the university’s Morgridge Center for Public Service undertook a five-year, fund-raising drive to take advantage of $1 million in annual matching funds that the Morgridge family made available to increase support for the Center’s programs and services, especially in the areas of community-based research and engaged scholarship.

Historically, a number of important scientific investigations have been conducted at Wisconsin, including:

  • the “single-grain experiment” (1907–1911) to determine whether cows could live on a diet restricted to one kind of grain, marking the debut of modern nutrition science
  • experiments on the diet of rats conducted by Elmer McCollum and Marguerite Davis in 1913, which led to the discovery of the first vitamin (vitamin A)
  • experiments by Karl Paul Link in 1924 on “sweet clover disease” in cattle, which led to the discovery of anticoagulant compounds such as warfarin and heparin
  • experiments by Har Gobind Khorana in the early 1960s, which led to the decipherment of the RNA code controlling protein synthesis
  • research by Howard Temin, also in the 1960s, which resulted in the discovery of the genetic composition of viruses, as well as the co-discovery (with David Baltimore) of reverse transcriptase
  • James Thomson’s synthesis in 1998 of the first line of human embryonic stem cells

Overall, some 19 Wisconsin-connected people have received the Nobel Prize, including:

  • John Bardeen—physics
  • Alan MacDiarmid and Paul Boyer—chemistry
  • Joshua Lederberg and Edward Tatum—physiology or medicine (in addition to Elmer McCollum, Har Gobind Khorana, and Howard Temin, already mentioned)

Other prominent Wisconsin folks include:

  • Naturalist, John Muir
  • Conservationist, Aldo Leopold
  • Architect, Frank Lloyd Wright
  • Aviation pioneer, Charles Lindberg
  • Richard T. Ely and John R. Commons, founders of the Wisconsin School of Economics
  • Biochemist, Albert Lehninger
  • Mathematician and population geneticist, Motoo Kimura
  • Anthropologist, Clyde Kluckhohn
  • Actors Fredric March, Agnes Moorehead, & Gena Rowlands
  • Poet, Delmore Schwartz
  • Playwright, Lorraine Hansberry
  • Novelists, Marjorie Rawlings, Eudora Welty, Saul Bellow, & Joyce Carol Oates
  • Glass artist, Dale Chihuly
  • 46th Vice President of the United States, Dick Cheney


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)


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?


500 Lincoln Dr, Madison WI 53706-1380

City Crime Rates

Property Crime

27 per 100k

Violent Crime

3 per 100k

What is University of Wisconsin–Madison 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

#26 World Rank #12 USA Rank
#22 World Rank #13 USA Rank
#28 World Rank #13 USA Rank
#20 World Rank #14 USA Rank
#34 World Rank #14 USA Rank
#35 World Rank #14 USA Rank
#22 World Rank #14 USA Rank
#26 World Rank #16 USA Rank
#18 World Rank #16 USA Rank
Social Work
#23 World Rank #17 USA Rank
#21 World Rank #18 USA Rank
Political Science
#54 World Rank #20 USA Rank
Earth Sciences
#25 World Rank #21 USA Rank
#36 World Rank #21 USA Rank
#29 World Rank #23 USA Rank
#46 World Rank #23 USA Rank
#26 World Rank #24 USA Rank
#67 World Rank #24 USA Rank
#32 World Rank #24 USA Rank
Computer Science
#65 World Rank #28 USA Rank
Religious Studies
#36 World Rank #29 USA Rank
#56 World Rank #35 USA Rank
#93 World Rank #52 USA Rank

Other areas of influence

#31 World Rank #27 USA Rank
Criminal Justice

Influential People

Who are University of Wisconsin–Madison's Most influential alumni?

University of Wisconsin–Madison's most influential alumni faculty include professors and professionals in the fields of Social Work, Biology, and Political Science. University of Wisconsin–Madison’s most academically influential people include Saul Bellow, John Bardeen, and Lynn Margulis.

Saul Bellow
Saul Bellow

Canadian-American writer

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John Bardeen
John Bardeen

American physicist and engineer

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Lynn Margulis
Lynn Margulis

American evolutionary biologist

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Charles Lindbergh
Charles Lindbergh

American aviator, author, inventor, explorer, and social activist

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John Searle
John Searle

American philosopher

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Abraham Maslow
Abraham Maslow

American psychologist

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Frank Lloyd Wright
Frank Lloyd Wright

American architect

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Motoo Kimura
Motoo Kimura

Japanese scientist

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Warren Weaver

American mathematician

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Joshua Lederberg
Joshua Lederberg

American molecular biologist

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John Muir
John Muir

Scottish-born American naturalist and author

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Edward Witten
Edward Witten

American theoretical physicist

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