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Science Hill (Yale University)

"Science Hill" redirects here. For other uses, see Science Hill (disambiguation).
File:Yale University Kline.jpg
Kline Biology Tower, Yale's tallest building, from Sachem Street

Science Hill is a precinct of the Yale University campus primarily devoted to physical and biological sciences, contained in the Prospect Hill neighborhood of New Haven, Connecticut. Originally a 36-acre residential estate known as Sachem's Wood, it was purchased by the university in 1910 and has been allocated to large-footprint buildings for scientific laboratories and the main buildings of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.


The topography of present-day Science Hill was primarily formed during the Wisconsinan glaciation.[1] The Laurentide ice sheet flattened the soft sandstone of New Haven Harbor but had less effect on its surrounding, hard trap rock formations like East Rock and West Rock.[2] Science Hill is a portion of a sandstone drumlin that was sheltered from glacial erosion by a traprock ridge, Mill Rock, to its north.[3][4] The south–north rise of Science Hill is approximately Script error: No such module "convert". at a 4.5% grade, processing northward to a peak elevation of Script error: No such module "convert". above sea level near the Yale Divinity School.[5][6]


Sachem's Wood estate (1784–1910)

The Science Hill site is not known to be inhabited until 1784, when it was purchased by James Hillhouse, New Haven's largest landowner.[7] Hillhouse built a wide road, now Hillhouse Avenue, to extend to the foot of the hill, but planned to use the ridge itself for his own residence, and called the tract "Temple Square."[7] Hillhouse bequeathed the land to his son, James Abraham Hillhouse, who erected a family estate known as Sachem's Wood, a name derived from Hillhouse's supposedly Native American facial features.[8] Hillhouse commissioned a secluded mansion, known by the same name and designed by Ithiel Town at the present-day site of Kline Biology Tower.[7] After Sachem's Wood was completed in 1828, surrounding lots were developed into revivalist mansions, but the large Hillhouse tract remained an undivided estate.

Science education at Yale College came in 1802 with the appointment of Benjamin Silliman as professor of chemistry. Although Silliman was given a basement laboratory on Old Brick Row, sciences were marginal within the university's buildings and curriculum over the first half of the nineteenth century.[9] In 1847, the Sheffield Scientific School was founded as a separate school of Yale, and it began expanding its campus between the university's main campus and Sachem's Wood. Although a corporate entity of the university, the school was socially and administratively segregated from the rest of Yale; Yale College students did not attend its classes, and Sheffield students lived in societies and dormitories separate from the undergraduate college.[10] Over time, the division caused Yale's science education and research efforts to suffer.[11]

Purchase by Yale and early growth (1910–1945)

File:Sachem's Wood cropped.jpg
The Hillhouse family mansion at the present-day site of Kline Biology Tower

By the turn of the 20th century, there were few large, undeveloped tracts of land near Yale's campus. The largest was Sachem's Wood, which a group of Yale alumni purchased from the Hillhouse family in 1905, hoping to give Yale room to expand.[12]:331 Seeking to build new science facilities and bring the Sheffield Scientific School under greater university control and strengthen university science research, Yale raised funds from Olivia Sage to purchase the estate in 1910, renaming it Pierson-Sage Square.[7][12][13] It was the largest single acquisition of land since Yale's founding, and the university drew up two early site plans for the property: a Frederick Law Olmsted site plan in 1905, and a university-wide master plan by John Russell Pope in 1919. Neither was comprehensively enacted, but elements of both are evident throughout the present-day site.[14][15]:144

File:Sloane Physics Laboratory from front or north side.jpg
Sloane Physics Laboratory, the first science building completed after Sachem's Wood was purchased by Yale

Shortly after the land acquisition, a gift was received from brothers Henry and William Sloane for a new physics laboratory.[12]:331 Within the decade, Yale built chemistry, zoology, and botany laboratories, and new buildings for the Forestry School, and Peabody Museum, all in the Gothic Revival style popular at Yale in the early 20th century.[16] The new facilities allowed Yale to demolish its older science buildings on its central campus, including the original Peabody Museum and Sloane Physical Laboratory, making room for the residential college system.[17] Meanwhile, the Sachem's Wood mansion, preserved for the Hillhouse family in the purchase agreement, was increasingly surrounded by large laboratory facilities. After the death of the last Hillhouse heir, Yale demolished the mansion in 1942.[7]

Expansion of science facilities (1945–present)

After World War II, residential overcrowding and an influx of married students prompted Yale to build temporary quonset huts on undeveloped areas of Pierson-Sage Square.[12]:406 The advent of the "atomic age" prompted a second period of laboratory building.[18] University president A. Whitney Griswold relied on modernist architects for these facilities, breaking with pre-war gothic fervor.[19]:53 He commissioned Paul Schweikher to design Gibbs Laboratory, and Eero Saarinen for Ingalls Rink, and Philip Johnson for the Kline Biology Tower, Chemistry Laboratory, and Geology Building. Like Olmsted and Rogers, Saarinen and Johnson were also called upon to improve the site plan; Saarinen's vision contributed modestly to the configuration, while Johnson's buildings gave Science Hill a central courtyard.[15]:144[20] In 1966, the construction of Wright Nuclear Structure Laboratory allowed Yale to house the first emperor Van de Graff particle accelerator.[21][22] Once the most powerful accelerator of its type, it was decommissioned in 2011 as other particle research facilities became more useful to the field.[23] At the end of the 20th century, Yale President Rick Levin announced a commitment to substantially increase investment in sciences and medicine.[24][25] In the years following, the university has launched at least five major building and renovation projects, including new buildings for biology, chemistry, environmental science, and the Forestry School.[26] <div class="thumb tnone" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right:auto; width:99%; max-width:Expression error: Unrecognized punctuation character "[".px;">


University organizations and departments

The departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences with facilities on Science Hill are: Astronomy; Chemistry; Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry; Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology; Geology & Geophysics; Physics, and Applied Physics. Some biology faculty have joint appointments in the Yale School of Medicine and have laboratory space within the medical campus.

Most offices and laboratories of the Yale School of Forestry are housed on Science Hill, with a few to its north at Marsh Hall. The school first came to Science Hill in 1924 with the completion of Sage Hall as its new main building.[27] In 2008, the school opened Kroon Hall adjacent to Sage. The school also occupies several former mansions at the top of Science Hill.

Connecticut's largest natural history museum, the Peabody Museum of Natural History, relocated from downtown New Haven to the southeastern corner of Science Hill in 1925. The museum is Yale's main repository of scientific collections, including fossils, minerals, archeological artifacts, and animal specimens. As its collections have grown, they have been shifted among at least five science hill buildings, and are currently housed in the museum and the adjacent Kline Geology Laboratory and Environmental Science Center.[28] The museum also hosts permanent and rotating exhibitions for visitors.

Two facilities of the Yale University Library are located on Science Hill. The Center for Science & Social Science Information, formerly the Kline Science Library, is housed in the lower levels of Kline Biology Tower, and a geology library resides in Kline Geology Laboratory.

The Yale Sustainable Food Project is housed in a mansion at the top of the hill and possesses a farm across the street.

Architecture and art

File:Yale Modern Head.JPG
"Modern Head," at the crest of Hillhouse Avenue

The dominant architectural styles of Science Hill are Gothic revival and mid-century modernist. Later buildings, like the Environmental Science Center and the Bass Center, have attempted to harmonize these earlier styles.[29][30] Several buildings are recognized as important architectural monuments, most notably Eero Saarinen's Ingalls Rink and Philip Johnson's Kline Biology Tower.[19][31][32]:157–8, 164–5

For most of its history, Science Hill has been criticized for its lack of site planning.[19]:54 Architectural historian Elizabeth Mills Brown appraised its 1960s incarnation as Yale's "most poorly integrated, inefficient, and incoherent complex," observing that undeveloped land had offered too much freedom to plan comprehensively.[15]:144 More recently, a campus plan commissioned by the university articulated similar concerns, calling the area "an ill-defined and unattractive pedestrian environment" lacking a "sense of place and focus."[33] Since 2000, Yale has invested significant resources in improving buildings and connecting areas within Science Hill.[25][34]

Several sculptures adorn the hillside. To commemorate his work to found the Sheffield Scientific School, a statue of Benjamin Silliman cast by John Ferguson Weir resides outside the Sterling Chemistry Laboratory.[35] A Roy Lichtenstein sculpture entitled "Modern Head" was placed at the base of Science Hill, near Hillhouse Avenue, in 1993.[36]

List of buildings

Name Photograph Year Built Architect Description
Sachem's Wood 150px 1828[7] Ithiel Town; Alexander Jackson Davis[7] Originally named Highwood, "Sachem's Wood" described both the mansion, at the present-day site of Kline Biology Tower, and the surrounding estate. The name derived from James Hillhouse's supposedly Native American facial features.[8] After acquiring the estate in 1910, Yale demolished the home in 1942.
340 Edwards Street c.1900[37] unknown A Spanish revival mansion, now housing the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence
380 Edwards Street 1903[37]:66 Richard Clipston Sturgis[37] A colonial revival mansion originally located at 285 Prospect Street, it was relocated to Edwards Street in 2003 to accommodate the new Chemistry Research Building.[38] It houses laboratories and offices of the Forestry School.
301 Prospect Street 1907[37] A stucco, colonial revival mansion, now housing Forestry School offices and the Yale Sustainable Food Project.
360 Edwards Street c.1910[37] unknown A brick, colonial revival mansion. Currently a university-owned residential building.
Sloane Physics Laboratory 150px 1912 Charles C. Haight[15]:143 The first science building on the Sachem's Wood property was this gothic revival laboratory named for the same donors as a razed physics laboratory near Old Campus
Osborn Memorial Laboratories 150px 1913[15]:143 Charles C. Haight[15]:143 A gothic revival laboratory originally intended for zoology and botany. It is entirely constructed of masonry.
Sterling Chemistry Laboratory 150px 1923[39]:57–58 William Adams Delano[39]:57–58 The first of many buildings donated to Yale by John Sterling, it is the largest gothic building on Science Hill and the last laboratory building constructed before World War II.
Sage Hall 150px 1924 William Adams Delano[39]:209 The Forestry School's second building, Sage Hall was designed in the same gothic style as the nearby Sterling and Osborn Labs
Peabody Museum 150px 1925 Charles Klauder Replacing an earlier building on High Street, an enlarged building was designed to accommodate an Apatosaurus skeleton and other collections.[40]
Accelerator Laboratories 1953[15]:144 Douglas Orr[15]:144
Josiah Willard Gibbs Laboratory 150px 1955 Paul Schweikher; Douglas Orr J.W. Gibbs Lab was Science Hill's first modernist building, constructed to house physics research facilities. It is also home to the Department of Astronomy.
Ingalls Rink 150px 1958 Eero Saarinen The ice rink was Saarinen's first building commission at Yale and is the only athletic facility in the Science Hill area.
Bingham Oceanographic Laboratory 1959 An extension of the Peabody was created to house oceanographic collections. It was demolished in 2001.[28]
A.W. Wright Nuclear Structure Laboratory 1966[41] Douglas Orr[42]:40 Name for an early Yale physicist, the compound is a low-slung, concrete structure built to house a Van de Graaff particle accelerator.
Kline Geology Laboratory 150px 1963 Philip Johnson; Richard Foster Part of Johnson's Kline Science Center, the building connects to the Peabody museum and contains offices and labs for the Department of Geology & Geophysics.
Kline Biology Tower 150px 1965 Philip Johnson; Richard Foster Built on the site of Sachem's Wood, the 16-story laboratory building is surrounded by a Johnson-designed courtyard and contains a library in its basement.
Bass Center for Molecular & Structural Biology 1993 Michael McKinnell This biology building completed the quadrangle created by the earlier Johnson complex. Its designed is intended to harmonize surrounding modernist and gothic buildings.[29]
Class of 1954 Environmental Science Center 150px 2005 David M. Schwarz The Environmental Science Center houses Peabody collections and environmental science laboratories. It replaced Bingham Laboratory.[28]
Class of 1954 Chemistry Research Building 150px 2005 Bohlin Cywinski Jackson Built to consolidate laboratories in Sterling and Kline Chemistry Laboratories.
Kroon Hall 150px 2008 Hopkins Architects The faculty and administrative building of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. Kroon Hall was rated LEED Platinum in 2010.


  1. ^ Alter, Lisa (1995). "Geology of Connecticut". Yale-New Haven Teacher's Institute. Retrieved 2 March 2014. 
  2. ^ Dana, James Dwight (1870). On the geology of the New Haven region with special reference to the origin of some of its topographical features. New Haven: Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor. Retrieved 22 February 2014. 
  3. ^ Zeilenga de Boer, Jelle (2013). New Haven's Sentinels. Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 978-0819573742. Retrieved 22 February 2014. 
  4. ^ Dana, James Dwight (1891). On the Four Rocks of the New Haven Region, East Rock, West Rock, Pine Rock, and Mill Rock, in Illustration of the Features of Non-volcanic Igneous Ejections: With a Guide to Walks and Drives about New Haven. Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor. pp. 49–50. Retrieved 22 February 2014. 
  5. ^ "Yale Science Hill Master Plan". Nitsch Engineering. 
  6. ^ New Haven Quadrangle—Connecticut—New Haven Co. (Topographic map). 1:24,000. 7.5 Minute Series. United States Geological Survey. 1972. 41072-C8-TF-024. Retrieved 22 February 2014. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g "New Haven Historic Resources Inventory" (PDF). City of New Haven. Retrieved 15 February 2014. 
  8. ^ a b "The Hillhouse Place: Records and Memories of the New Site for Yale's Coming Expansion". Yale Alumni Magazine 19 (1): 636–637. 1909. 
  9. ^ Adkisson, Kevin (2 October 2010). "How Science Was Built: 1701-1900". Yale Scientific. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  10. ^ Barber, William J. (1993). "The Fortunes of Political Economy in an Environment of Academic Conservatism: Yale University". In Barber, William J. Economists and Higher Learning in the Nineteenth Century. Transaction Publishers. p. 141. ISBN 9781412822169. 
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  18. ^ Pierson, George W. (1976). Yale: A Short History. Yale University. 
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  20. ^ Rey, Michael (2006). "The David S. Ingalls Hockey Rink". In Pelkonen, Eeva-Liisa; Albrecht, David. Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future. Yale University Press. p. 243. ISBN 9780972488129. 
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  35. ^ Falhman, Betsy (1997). John Fergueson Weir: The Labor of Art. Newark, DE: University of Delaware Press. pp. 154–155. ISBN 9780874136029. 
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  38. ^ "Yale Relocates Historic Prospect Street House to Adjacent Lot on Edwards Street". Yale News. 21 May 2003. Retrieved 2 March 2014. 
  39. ^ a b c Pennoyer, Peter; Walker, Anne (2003). The Architecture of Delano & Aldrich. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. ISBN 9780393730876. 
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  41. ^ "About Us". Wright Laboratory for Weak Interactions and Particle Physics. 3 March 2014. 
  42. ^ Carroll, Richard C. (1979). Buildings and Grounds of Yale University (3rd ed.). New Haven: Yale University. 

Further reading

  • Holden, Reuben A. (1967). Yale: A Pictorial History. New Haven: Yale University Press. 
  • Kelley, Brooks Mather (1999). Yale: A History (2nd ed.). New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300078435. 
  • Pinnell, Patrick L. (2012). The Campus Guide: Yale University (2nd ed.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton Architectural Press. ISBN 9781616890643. 


External links

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