Mission & History

The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences educates graduate students to seek answers to life’s most challenging questions by leading in the advancement, application, and preservation of knowledge. We carry out this mission by investing in and drawing upon the strengths of a collaborative, diverse, and inclusive community of scholars and researchers.

Warner House

Established by an act of the Yale Corporation in August 1847, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences was originally called the “Department of Philosophy and the Arts,” enrolling eleven students who had completed four-year undergraduate degrees. The program offered seminars in chemistry and metallurgy, agricultural science, Greek and Latin literature, mathematics, philology, and Arabic. The faculty consisted of two full-time science professors, Benjamin Silliman Jr. and John P. Norton, and five Yale College faculty members who offered advanced courses in their subject areas. This was the first program at Yale to focus on research and scholarship. Professional training was already being offered in medicine (1810), theology (1822), and law (1824).

History of Yale Graduate School


Yale Awards the First PhD in the United States

At Commencement in 1861, Yale University awarded three PhD degrees, not only the first ever awarded at Yale, but also the first in the United States.


Breaking Barriers in Diversity and Inclusion

In 1876, Edward Alexander Bouchet (Yale College Class of 1874) was the first self-identified African American to earn a PhD in the United States. His degree was the sixth doctorate in physics awarded in the US.


The Graduate School is Founded

In 1892, the Department of Philosophy and the Arts was officially renamed the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and Arthur Twining Hadley was appointed dean. Hadley later became Yale's 13th president.


The First Women to Earn Yale PhDs

In 1892, women were admitted into the Graduate School as students in full standing. In 1894, Elizabeth Deering Hanscom and six others were the first seven women to earn a Yale PhD.


First PhD Awarded to an African-American Woman

In 1926, Otelia Cromwell became the first African-American woman to earn a PhD from Yale. Her degree was in English and her doctoral thesis on Elizabethan drama was published by Yale University Press in 1928.

Deans of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, 1892- present

  • 2014-Present: Lynn Cooley
  • 2010-2014: Thomas Pollard
  • 2004-2010: Jon Butler
  • 2002-2003: Peter Salovey
  • 1998-2002: Susan Hockfield
  • 1993-1997: Thomas Applequist
  • 1992-1993: Richard C. Levin
  • 1991-1992: Judith S. Rodin, First Woman Dean of the Graduate School
  • 1986-1991: Jerome Jordan Pollitt
  • 1979-1986: Keith Stewart Thomson
  • 1978-1979: Wendell Richard Garner
  • 1973-1978: Jaroslav Pelikan
  • 1969-1975: Donald Wayne Taylor
  • 1961-1969: John Perry Miller
  • 1956-1961: Hartley Simpson
  • 1950-1956: Edmund Ware Sinnott
  • 1930-1950: Edgar Stevenson Furniss
  • 1916-1930: Wilbur Lucius Cross
  • 1910-1916: Hans Oerter
  • 1895-1910: Andrew Phillips
  • 1892-1895: Arthur Twining Hadley, First Dean of the Graduate School