About Johns Hopkins
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Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Who was Johns Hopkins? And why the 's'?
Answer: First things first: why the extra "S"? Because his first name was really a last name.

Johns Hopkins' great-grandmother was Margaret Johns, the daughter of Richard Johns, owner of a 4,000-acre estate in Calvert County, Md. Margaret Johns married Gerard Hopkins in 1700; one of their children was named Johns Hopkins.

The second Johns Hopkins, grandson of the first, was born to Samuel and Hannah Janney Hopkins in 1795 on the family's tobacco plantation in southern Maryland. His formal education ended in 1807, when his parents, devout Quakers, decided on the basis of religious conviction to free their slaves and put Johns and his brother to work in the fields. Johns left home at 17 for Baltimore and a job in business with an uncle; then, at the age of 24, he established his own mercantile house.

He was an important investor in the nation's first major railroad, the Baltimore and Ohio, and became a director in 1847 and chairman of its finance committee in 1855.

Hopkins never married; he may have been influenced in planning for his estate by a friend, philanthropist George Peabody, who had founded the Peabody Institute in Baltimore in 1857.

In 1867, Hopkins arranged for the incorporation of The Johns Hopkins University and The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and for the appointment of a 12-member board of trustees for each. He died on Christmas Eve 1873, leaving $7 million to be divided equally between the two institutions. It was, at the time, the largest philanthropic bequest in U.S. history.

Question: How long has Johns Hopkins admitted undergraduates?
Answer: Since its founding in 1876. President Gilman and many of the trustees initially advocated an all-graduate institution, but they were pressured into admitting undergraduates during the initial planning stages. Gilman, once the decision was made, welcomed undergraduates warmly. The first undergraduate class received their bachelor's degrees in 1879, while the first PhDs were awarded in 1878. Until the early 1900s, the undergraduate course of instruction required only three years to complete.

Question: When did Johns Hopkins first admit women as graduate students or undergraduates?
Answer: Although a few women graduate students were admitted as early as 1877, the trustees formally approved the admission of women to graduate study in 1907. Those admitted prior to 1907 were considered on a case-by-case basis and usually had a champion within the faculty or administration to press their case. The university's School of Medicine, however, admitted women students from its opening in 1893. The admission of women students was a requirement of a $500,000 endowment raised by the Women's Fund Committee, led by Mary Elizabeth Garrett. It was not until 1969 that the trustees approved the admission of women to undergraduate studies. The first undergraduate women entered (as transfer students) in the spring of 1970.

Question: Is it true that Daniel Coit Gilman's will required that no building should rise higher than the Gilman Hall clock tower, or that the clock tower should not be blocked from view of Charles Street?
Answer: There is no truth to either statement. Gilman retired from Johns Hopkins in 1901 and died in 1908. He left no money to the university, nor did he leave any stipulations as to future construction on the Homewood campus. Gilman Hall, constructed between 1913 and 1915, was named for him to recognize his 25 years of service as Johns Hopkins' founding president. The reason the Milton S. Eisenhower Library was constructed primarily underground is that a building of such size, built above ground, would have dwarfed Homewood House and neighboring classroom buildings. Homewood House, with its Federal style of architecture, served as the model for subsequent campus buildings.

Question: What are the names of Johns Hopkins' past presidents and when did they serve?

  • Daniel Coit Gilman / May 1875 - August 1901
  • Ira Remsen / September 1901 - January 1913
  • Frank Johnson Goodnow / October 1914 - June 1929
  • Joseph Sweetman Ames / July 1929 - June 1935
  • Isaiah Bowman / July 1935 - December 1948
  • Detlev Wulf Bronk / January 1949 - August 1953
  • Lowell Jacob Reed / September 1953 - June 1956
  • Milton Stover Eisenhower / July 1956 - June 1967
  • Lincoln Gordon / July 1967 - March 1971
  • M. S. Eisenhower / April 1971 - January 1972
  • Steven Muller / February 1972 - June 1990
  • William Chase Richardson / July 1990 - July 1995
  • Daniel Nathans (interim) / June 1995 - July 1996
  • William R. Brody / August 1996 - January 2009
  • Ronald J. Daniels / March 2009 - present

Question: Who was the first woman to receive a degree from Johns Hopkins?
Answer: This question requires a two-part answer. The first woman to earn the PhD was Christine Ladd-Franklin, who completed her studies in 1882. The trustees refused to grant her the degree until 1926, however. In the meantime, Florence Bascom earned and received her PhD in 1893.

Question: Who was the first African-American to attend Johns Hopkins?
Answer: Kelly Miller was admitted as a graduate student in mathematics in 1887. He studied for two years before leaving, without a degree, in 1889. He subsequently earned degrees from Howard University and became a prominent educator and advocate of education for African-American children.

Question: What is the official Johns Hopkins motto?
Answer: "Veritas vos liberabit." "The truth shall make you free." Quoted from John 8:32.

Question: What are the official Johns Hopkins colors?
Answer: The university's official colors are gold and sable. Its athletic colors are Columbia blue and black.

Question: Why are the Johns Hopkins University athletic teams called the "Blue Jays"?
Answer: At first, the Johns Hopkins athletic teams were called simply "the Black and Blue," based on the university's athletic colors. Then, in 1920, some undergraduates launched a student humor magazine called The Black and Blue Jay. The "black and blue" came from the colors, of course, and the "Jay" most likely came from the "J" in Johns Hopkins. The student humor magazine became popular and began being quoted nationally in such publications as College Humor and The Literary Digest. In the spring of 1922, the News-Letter occasionally began to refer to Johns Hopkins athletes as "Blue Jays," most likely because some of the editors of The Black and Blue Jay and the News-Letter worked on both publications. The nickname didn't become the standard reference for several years. Both the News-Letter and other newspapers — such as The Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post still referred to Johns Hopkins athletes as "the Black and Blue" well into the 1920s. Sometimes they also referred to Johns Hopkins players as the Blue Jays — and eventually, the Blue Jays became the favored name.

The majority of these Q&As; were provided by James Stimpert, Johns Hopkins University Archives, stimpert@jhu.edu. Anyone desiring further information on Hopkins history may contact the Archives.

The mission of The Johns Hopkins University is to educate its students and cultivate their capacity for life-long learning, to foster independent and original research, and to bring the benefits of discovery to the world.