History

After James Madison graduated from Princeton (then called the College of New Jersey) in 1771, he remained for a year of “graduate work” to study Hebrew with President John Witherspoon. In the following decades, other promising students were permitted to stay on after receiving their bachelor's degree, but it was not until 1869 that graduate education at Princeton systematically began to take shape. In that year, three fellowships were established as an experiment to encourage outstanding members of the senior class to continue their studies. The terms of the awards (in classics, mathematics, and philosophy) were considered rather bold in education circles; the awards were given after competitive examinations and each fellow was free to choose where and how he could most profitably spend his year. In 1879, Princeton conferred its first earned doctorates on James F. Williamson and William Libby (both Princeton undegraduates from the Class of 1877).

In this modest beginning, several significant, basic principles were at work: careful selection of candidates, latitude for the students in their programs of study, accessibility of the faculty, and a willingness to experiment. These principles have governed the evolution of the Graduate School at Princeton since its formal establishment in 1900. 

Deans of the Graduate School and Years of Service

  • Andrew Fleming West, 1901 - 1928
  • Augustus Trowbridge, 1928 - 1933
  • Luther Pfahler Eisenhart, 1933 - 1945
  • Hugh Stott Taylor, 1945 - 1958
  • Donald Ross Hamilton, 1958 - 1965
  • Colin Stephenson Pittendrigh, 1965 - 1969
  • Aaron Lemonick, 1969 - 1973
  • Alvin B. Kernan, 1973 - 1977
  • Nina G. Garsoian, 1977 - 1979
  • Theodore J. Ziolkowski, 1979 - 1992
  • Albert Raboteau, 1992 - 1993
  • David N. Redman (acting dean), 1993 - 1994
  • John F. Wilson, 1994 - 2002
  • William B. Russel, 2002 - 2014
  • Sanjeev R. Kulkarni, 2014 -