When was Brown Founded?

August 17, 2023
By AdmissionSight
View of Brown University buildings.

When was Brown Founded?

So, when was Brown founded? In 1764, the Baptist church established Rhode Island College, which later became Brown University. In 1765, James Manning, the Baptist minister who had been dispatched to Rhode Island by the Baptists, took the oath of office as the College’s first president.

In the year 1770, Rhode Island College made the transfer to its current location on College Hill, which is located on the East Side of Providence. At this time, construction on the institution’s first structure, known as The College Edifice, also began. In the year 1823, this structure was given the name University Hall.

The Brown family, consisting of Nicholas, John, Joseph, and Moses, played a significant role in the relocation to Providence by sponsoring and arranging a significant portion of the construction of the new structures. Joseph Brown went on to become a professor of Physics at the University, while John Brown served as treasurer of the college from 1775 to 1796. This demonstrated the deep relationship that the family had with the institution.

Part of the history and how Brown was founded, it is said that in 1804, a year after John Brown’s death, the University was renamed Brown University in honor of John’s nephew, Nicholas Brown, Jr., who was a member of the class of 1786 and contributed $5,000 (which, when adjusted for inflation, is approximately $61,000 in 2005, though it was 1,000 times the roughly $5 tuition) toward an endowed professorship.

Nicholas Brown, Jr., was a member of the class of 1786 and contributed $5,000 (which, when adjusted for inflation, is approximately $61,000 The John Carter Brown Library was established as an autonomous historical and cultural research center in 1904, and it was named after John Carter Brown. The John Carter Brown Library is comprised of the libraries that John Carter Brown and John Nicholas Brown owned.

View of university building surrounded by trees.

In Rhode Island, the Brown family was involved in a number of different commercial endeavors, one of which was the slave trade; however, the family’s opinions on the matter were not unanimous. Moses Brown and Nicholas Brown Jr. were ardent supporters of abolition, in contrast to John Brown, who had unreservedly upheld the institution of slavery.

In 2003, the University established the University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice in order to acknowledge its long and complicated relationship with slavery. Brown University was the first educational institution in the United States to welcome students of all religious persuasions and backgrounds.

Part of the history of how Brown was founded, Pembroke College was first formed as a Women’s College at Brown University in 1891. This college eventually changed its name to Pembroke College. In 1971, “The College,” which was the name of the undergraduate school, was amalgamated with Pembroke College to become a coeducational institution. Ruth J. Simmons made history when she became the first female president of Brown University in 2001. She was also the second woman to lead an Ivy League university.

What is Brown Known for?

Brown was founded to rank among the top 20 universities in the country. Brown University is a member of the prestigious Ivy League, but the school’s admissions requirements are a little less stringent than those of the other Ivies.

Brown University places high importance on students who have reached a particular academic threshold and have distinctive and diversified academic interests. These students are the ones who stand to benefit the most from Brown’s open curriculum. For instance, a bright student might be interested in combining computer science and classics in order to recreate ancient items through the use of digital modeling.

Brown also places a particular emphasis on the applicant’s extracurricular activities and writings; the university seeks individuals who are active and who are strongly involved in their own passions. The university places high importance on the arts and looks favorably upon applications that contain some element of the arts, such as a portfolio showcasing creative writing or visual arts. Even for students interested in studying STEM fields, Brown places high importance on students who are active participants in the liberal arts.

There are eighty different majors, or “concentrations,” as they are known at Brown University, which students can choose to study at the Ivy League school.

An education at Brown is built on the Open Curriculum, which serves as its foundation. Students who follow this liberal educational philosophy are not required to study any particular core curriculum or allocation of subjects. The only things necessary for them to graduate are if they:

Completing a concentration and all of the requirements connected with it.

  • Complete at least 30 courses
  • Maintain enrollment for a minimum of eight academic terms.

Write in a way that demonstrates your ability.

Students are given the opportunity to investigate a wide variety of topics and experiences, including ones that may not appear to be directly relevant to their area of emphasis.

Students have the option of pursuing an independent concentration, which they construct with the help of the professors and with their consent, rather than selecting one that is already established in the program.

The prestige of the history of Brown and how it was founded shows that Brown is well-known for its illustrious and extremely competitive Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME). Students participating in this eight-year program of undergraduate education and professional studies in medicine spend the first four years of the program working toward either an AB or ScB degree. The last four years of the program are spent working toward an MD.

The Brown-RISD Dual Degree Program is another noteworthy program that is offered. Students attend both Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) concurrently over the course of five years, pursuing their academic and artistic interests along the way, and ultimately graduating from both institutions with an AB or ScB from Brown and a BFA from RISD. Students must submit an application to both Brown University and RISD, as well as a separate admissions committee for the Brown|RISD Dual Degree program, in order to be considered for participation.


The Van Wickle Gates, which were a gift to the class of 1876 from Mr. Van Wickle, is considered to be the origin of the first of many traditions that are associated with Brown.

Convocation, mid-year convocation, and graduation are the only times when the gates are opened during the academic year. It is said that if you go through the main door more than twice, you will not graduate from high school, you will never get married, and you will be cursed for all of eternity.

The Campus Dance, which takes place once a year in September, has been going on since the middle of the 1800s. Concerts, speeches, and class dinners were typical components of commencement ceremonies during that time period. In the year 1886, dancing emerged as the most well-liked pastime, and to this day, more than 14,000 visitors come to the festival to dance and listen to music amidst streams of hundreds of paper lanterns.

Gala is the only school-wide formal dance held throughout the academic year, and it is put on by Brown’s Class Coordinating Board in the midst of the spring semester. Back in the 1960s, headlining acts included well-known musicians such as Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, and Bonnie Raitt. The themed event, which features modern acts such as Kendrick Lamar, Modest Mouse, and Lauryn Hill, is currently attended by hundreds of students.

Josiah Carberry, a fictitious professor of psychoceramics (the study of ‘cracked pots,’ also known as “cracked pot studies”) is at the center of a comical tradition. Students have the opportunity to contribute spare change to a bogus Josiah S. Carberry Fund on Friday the 13th by placing it in broken pots that have been strategically placed across campus (the money goes to purchase various library books).

Extracurricular Activities

Brown University is home to more than 500 student organizations, some of which include performance troupes, club sports, and governing bodies in addition to community service groups.

Brown Esports is not just one of the most well-liked groups on campus but also the most well-established esports and gaming organization in the Ivy League. Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design students make up the majority of its membership (in fact, many student groups have shared populations based on their proximity to one another). The group welcomes players of all skill levels, and there are currently close to one hundred students competing on a variety of teams.

There are currently eleven all-male, all-female, and coed a cappella ensembles on Brown’s campus, so to say that a cappella singing is a popular hobby on campus would be a significant understatement. The Brown Derbies are the oldest, continuously performing tenor-through-bass a cappella group at Brown. They have a reputation for delivering high-energy performances due to the fact that they were created in 1982.

Those who would rather watch than participate in a kind of entertainment may find the Brown Lecture Board’s guest speaker series or podcast series to be more to their liking (known as the BLB). The BLB hosts a wide variety of cultural figures for in-person recording sessions as well as talks at its headquarters. Author John Green, actress Keke Palmer, and comedian Hasan Minhaj are among the notable guests who have visited in recent times.

What Majors is Brown Known for?

Since its founding, Brown University has been known to be a prestigious research institution as well as the seventh-oldest college in the United States. A commitment to academic quality, intellectual freedom, and creating an impact to serve people, communities, and society better is at the core of the University’s teaching, research, and scholarship. This commitment is at the heart of everything the University does.

Students working in a project in a room.

Brown University makes a major and long-lasting contribution to the expansion of knowledge in all subfields of academic inquiry as a result of its pioneering educational practices and ground-breaking research. The following are some of Brown University’s most popular areas of study:

Computer Science

The field of computer science has become an indispensable resource for researching an ever-expanding variety of subjects, from the workings of the human mind to the depths of space.

The use of computational methods is becoming increasingly important in cutting-edge work across the board in the sciences as well as in many areas of the liberal arts. The computer science curriculum for first-year students at Brown is intended to provide a foundation in both the practical and theoretical aspects of the field while also providing an in-depth study of selected subfields.

Traditional topics like analysis of algorithms, artificial intelligence, databases, distributed systems, graphics, mobile computing, networks, operating systems, programming languages, robotics, and security are included here, while novel areas like games and scientific visualization are also present.


Students gain a better understanding of markets, corporations, and financial institutions, as well as the public discussion about economic policy, which includes taxation, government expenditure, trade, globalization, health, and welfare, through the study of economics.

The study of economics focuses on how individuals, businesses, and governments decide how to utilize their available resources in order to achieve their goals. The concentration in economics prepares students for graduate study in fields such as business and law, as well as for graduate study leading to teaching and research in economics.

Male student reading a book in the hallway.

Additionally, the concentration in economics can serve as a stepping stone to employment in business, and finance, as well as non-profit and government organizations. Students have the choice of pursuing either business economics or the standard concentration, both of which also provide a professional track as an additional option.


The study of history focuses on how societies and cultures from different parts of the world evolved throughout the course of time. Students who major in history develop skills in writing and critical thinking, as well as in understanding issues from a range of points of view.

The history department provides students with the opportunity to study a wide range of topics, from ancient Greek and Roman civilizations to the histories of Africa, the Middle East, the Americas, and Asia. These topics are covered in a variety of different classes that are offered throughout the year. Some classes focus on the history of a specific nation (like China or Brazil), while others emphasize a specific era in that nation’s or country’s history (e.g. Antiquity or the 20th century).

Students are able to engage in a variety of activities and gain a wide range of perspectives on both the past and the present if they take advantage of our extensive course offerings.


Quantity, structure, space, and change are the topics that are investigated by mathematics, which is a grouping of scientific disciplines that includes geometry, algebra, and calculus.

Brown students who want to concentrate on mathematics have the opportunity to investigate these ideas because of the department’s extensive course offerings and adaptable concentration requirements. Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degrees are both possible upon completion of the focus (the latter is strongly recommended for students interested in pursuing graduate study in mathematics or related fields).

Calculus with many variables, linear algebra, and abstract algebra are the first subjects that concentrators study when they begin their education. After completing these prerequisites, students can choose from a wide range of advanced subjects offered at the 1000 and 2000 levels to further their education. The completion of a thesis project is an additional available option for students.

International Relations

The concentration in International Relations has two main goals: the first is to inspire students to think creatively about pressing global issues, and the second is to provide them with the analytical tools, language skills, and understanding of other cultures necessary to assist them in navigating this process. In order to accomplish this goal, the specialization draws from a wide range of disciplines, some of which are as follows: political science, history, economics, anthropology, sociology, psychology, religious studies, and area studies.

Young woman smiling in front of the camera.

The International Relations (IR) focus is structured with a multidisciplinary core at its center and two sub-themes: political economy and society, and security and society. There is a language requirement that must be fulfilled over the course of three years, and it must be connected to the student’s chosen area of the world. A capstone project that incorporates research in a second language is required of all students who choose to concentrate in that area.

How Hard is it to Get Into Brown?

Bear in mind that getting into Brown is extremely challenging. 46,568 individuals submitted applications to be a part of the undergraduate Class of 2025. There was a total of 2,569 admissions, representing a 5.5% acceptance rate. Early Decision was granted to 885 of the 1,724 first-year applicants, which is almost half of the total student body.

View of Brown University gate made of bricks.

There were 696 applicants for the five-year Brown University/Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Dual Degree program, but only 15 students were accepted into the program. This gave the program an acceptance rate of 2.2%.

Even more competitive is the eight-year Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME), which combines undergraduate education with professional study in medicine. This program has received 3,516 applications, but only 53 students have been accepted, giving it an acceptance rate of 1.5%.

These data provide evidence that Brown is a popular school among candidates who excel in their fields. Although Brown University has an extremely low acceptance rate, the likelihood that you will be accepted there depends on the quality of your application and may be greater or lower than average.


Brown University, a member of the Ivy League and known for its distinctive academic environment, has a history that intrigues many scholars and prospective students. Brown University’s founding reflects interest not only in the university’s chronological history but also in the principles and cultural context that led to its establishment. Understanding the foundation of Brown provides a glimpse into the educational ideals and societal needs of its time.

Digging deeper into Brown University’s founding reveals more than just a historical date; it uncovers the legacy of an institution committed to intellectual freedom and diversity.

Brown’s founding is intertwined with important social movements and educational philosophies that have shaped the university’s unique approach to learning. By exploring the answer to this question, one can appreciate the rich tapestry of influences and innovations that make Brown a distinctive and revered place for higher education.

If you wish to know more about how Brown was founded, if you need help putting the finishing touches on your college applications,  at AdmissionSight, we have over 10 years of experience guiding students through the competitive admissions process

AdmissionSight can help you put your best foot forward when applying to college this fall. Contact us today for more information on our services.


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