From its beginnings as the Graduate Department, Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences has dedicated itself to educating the most promising scholars who, through their inquiry and innovation, have made tremendous impact on their chosen field.

But when President Charles Eliot first outlined his vision for a graduate program to equal or surpass European institutions, he faced opposition from faculty, who claimed it would harm undergraduate education. Eliot disagreed. “It will strengthen the College,” he said, and indeed, graduate students have strengthened the University for over 150 years: they are the lifeblood of Harvard’s knowledge ecosystem, generating novel ideas and advancing innovative research beyond disciplinary boundaries.

That boundary breaking spirit inspired the creation of the Division of Medical Sciences, GSAS’s 1914 partnership with Harvard Medical School for students seeking degrees in medical studies. Today, GSAS students forge connections with every Harvard School, studying toward academic degrees, engaging in the JD/PhD program with Harvard Law School, serving as fellows at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute, or teaching undergraduates. These intersections place GSAS at the center of the University and embody the spirit of One Harvard.

Looking to the next 150 years, GSAS will continue to foster the promise of our extraordinary students and develop intellectual leadership in every field and industry. Studying areas inconceivable in Eliot’s day and only faintly imagined today, GSAS students will generate path-breaking research to tackle intractable problems, make discoveries that change how we live, and advance our understanding of the world and our place within it.

Historical elements and materials showcased in GSAS 150: Inquiry, innovation and impact are drawn from the collections of the Harvard University Archives. Curated by Emily Atkins, Hannah Hack, Virginia Hunt, and Juliana Kuipers of the Harvard University Archives with additional support from Kate Bowers, Ed Copenhagen, Skip Kendall and Robin McElheny. GSAS 150 was co-curated with Jennifer Flynn and Ann Hall of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences with support from Emily Crowell. Exhibit design by Katie Craig.