The formation of the Association of American Universities in 1900 signified that the research universities had become a self-conscious group within American higher education. At that date, though, the rubric of 'research university' would have been considered redundant; the province of a true university was then held to be higher learning, graduate education, and the advancement of knowledge through research. Most of the universities whose histories will be followed in this book were charter members of the Association: California, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Princeton, Stanford, Wisconsin, and Yale. Illinois and Minnesota joined shortly thereafter, and Caltech and MIT were admitted during the interwar years. By that era it had become apparent that all American universities were not fulfilling the same functions as AAU members, especially the select group studied here. These sixteen institutions tended to head any list of quantitative indicators of university research -- number of PhD.s produced, volumes in the library, or dollars expended for research. More importantly, they led all others in the quality of their faculties as judged by their academic peers. Although the fortunes of individual universities would fluctuate over the four decades of this study, their commitments to academic quality remained salient. At the end of the 1930s, for example, these sixteen universities led all others in the number of distinguished scientists on their faculty.
These sixteen are among the best-known American universities, and included in their reknown is an appreciation for their numerous contribu-