The University of Pittsburgh, originally named the Pittsburgh Academy, began life in a log cabin on the edge of the American frontier.

The driving force behind Pitt’s foundation was Hugh Henry Brackenridge, a person of remarkable foresight and vision. He had high hopes for Pittsburgh, noting, “this town must in future time be a place of great manufactory. Indeed the greatest on the continent, or perhaps in the world.”

The Pitt Panther

The University of Pittsburgh adopted the panther as its mascot. Pitt adopted the panther as its mascot at a meeting of students and alumni in the fall of 1909. The panther was adopted for five reasons:

  • The panther was a fearsome animal & indigenous to the area
  • It was historically considered noble
  • The happy accident of alliteration
  • Panthers can be naturally gold in color, thus matching one of Pitt’s colors
  • No other college or university had a panther mascot at the time

Cathedral of Learning

The Cathedral of Learning, which is still the tallest educational building in the U.S., is a 42-story gothic cathedral. Inspired by the vision of Chancellor Bowman, the cathedral was partially funded by 97,000 area school children, each of whom contributed a dime to buy a brick for the cathedral.

Polio Vaccine

The Salk polio vaccine, developed at Pitt, was declared safe, effective, and potent.

Jonas Salk and a team of Pitt researchers were the first to develop a successful vaccine for the three types of polio virus.

A massive testing of the vaccine in the U.S. and parts of Canada followed. The scope of the trials was unprecedented in medical history. In a few years, polio cases dropped from a high of 57,900 to barely a handful.

AAU election

Pitt was elected to the Association of American Universities(AAU), an organization comprising the leading research universities in North America.

Founded in 1900, the AAU’s mission was to advance the international reputation of U.S. research universities. It has since opened its membership to two Canadian universities.

Today, the association focuses on issues that are important to research-intensive universities, such as funding, policy issues, and graduate and undergraduate education.

World's first double transplant operation

Pitt surgeons Thomas Starzl and Henry Bahnson performed the world's first double transplant operation.

Pittsburgh's transplant programs are internationally renowned, for good reason. Surgeons at Pitt—in conjunction with the hospitals of UPMC Medical Center—perform more types of organ transplants than at any other institution. These transplants include liver, kidney, pancreas, small bowel, liver/small bowel, heart, heart/lung, double-lung, single-lung, and multiple-organ transplants.

BioVenture / Life Sciences Greenhouse

Pitt, in conjunction with Carnegie Mellon University, unveiled a $600 million plan to boost Pittsburgh’s biotechnology industry, an effort that could create 5,000 new jobs over the next 10 years.
Pitt and CMU plan to use their excellence in life and computer sciences to focus on drug discovery, therapeutic strategies for neurological disorders, tissue engineering, and medical devices. Of the millions they plan to raise, $270 million will go to new university buildings on both campuses, and additional money will be allocated for the hiring of up to 55 new bioscience faculty. The remaining money would be used to fund new companies, partnerships, entrepreneurs, and research.

National Institutes of Health

The University of Pittsburgh ranked in the top ten for attracting research funding from the National Institutes of Health, and between 1995 and 2002, research money given to the university increased by 82 percent, for a total of $425 million.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) have been particularly generous to Pitt, and the university received more NIH bioengineering grants than any other institution. When compared with other similar schools, the Graduate School of Public Health ranked third in NIH funding, and the School of Pharmacy ranked sixth. Pitt's medical school is 12th nationally.