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History of the George Washington University

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A Legacy of Leadership in Innovation

The George Washington University (GW) was originally founded as Columbian College in Washington, D.C., in 1821 by an act of Congress to fulfill the vision of our first president and now namesake’s vision that our nation’s capital be an educational center to prepare leaders. GW is now the largest national institute of higher education in Washington with over 20,000 students from all 50 states and 130 countries. Notably, GW’s medical school was added just years after the college’s formation, which now extends its reach further than ever before with our new online graduate programs.

1821 – Columbian College is founded on February 9 by an act of Congress, signed by President Monroe.

1825 – The School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) is founded, making it the 11th oldest medical school in the U.S.

1873 – Columbian College changes its name to Columbian University, admits its first female students and begins offering doctoral programs.

1904 – Columbian University becomes the George Washington University (GW) under an agreement with the George Washington Memorial Association.

1921 – GW moves to its current location in Foggy Bottom.

1928 – GW’s Department of Medicine splits into the School of Medicine, the School of Nursing and the University Hospital.

1991 – GW opens the Virginia Science and Technology Campus, in Ashburn, devoted to graduate study and cutting-edge research.

1948 – GW opens the GW Hospital.

1972 – SMHS introduces its Health Sciences programs.

1996 - The University purchases the Mount Vernon College for Women in the city’s Foxhall neighborhood, fully integrating the facility into the GW community.

2001 – SMHS launches online graduate programs in Clinical Research Administration.

2010’s – SMHS launches online graduate programs in Health Care Quality and Regulatory Affairs.