The College of Natural Sciences was formed in 1970 when the College of Arts & Sciences was split into the Colleges of Liberal Arts and Natural Sciences. The move was controversial, and then dean John Silber of the Arts & Sciences was fired by Regent Frank Erwin. (Read “John Silber Gets the Last Word” in The Alcalde for more on that story.) Since that time, the College of Natural Sciences has gone on to become one of the largest and most productive colleges of science in the nation.


1883 – Formal opening of The University of Texas at Austin
1884 - Departments of Chemistry and Physics established
1915 - UT confers first PhD (Carl Gottfried Hartman, Zoology)
1925 – Biology Laboratory building completed
1931 - Chemistry building (now Welch Hall) completed
1933 – Physics building (now Painter Hall) completed
1933 - Geology building (now W.C. Hogg/CNS Dean's Office) completed
1933 – Home Economics building (now Gearing Hall/School of Human Ecology) completed
1939 – First telescope at the McDonald Observatory
1941 – Marine Laboratory (now Marine Science Institute) established in Port Aransas
1951 – Experimental Science Building completed, the largest building for science research in the U.S.
1967 – Brackenridge Field Lab established on shores of Lady Bird Lake
1969 – Patterson Hall completed
1970  College of Natural Sciences officially established
1974 – Department of Computer Science begins offering undergrad degrees
1980 – Institute for Fusion Studies opens
1997 – UTeach program established
1999 – Biology programs reorganized into the School of Biological Sciences
2005 – Jackson School of Geosciences splits from the college
2005 – Freshman Research Initiative established
2010 – School of Human Ecology formed within the college
2013 – School of Biological Sciences is dissolved and three new biology departments are formed: Integrative Biology, Molecular Biosciences and Neuroscience.

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Former Deans of the College

Mary Ann Rankin (Served 1994 - 2011)

Dr. Mary Ann Rankin oversaw, with her administrative team, the development of numerous new interdisciplinary research initiatives, construction of new science buildings and the establishment of several successful programs for undergraduates, including the Freshman Research Initiative and the UTeach program for math and science teacher preparation. Research centers that were established or grown substantially during Rankin’s deanship included the Waggoner Center for Alcohol and Addiction Research, the Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology, the Center for Learning and Memory, and the Marine Science Institute. Several new world-class buildings came on-line during Rankin’s tenure as dean, including the Norman Hackerman Building, the Louise and James Robert Moffett Molecular Biology Building, the Applied Computational and Engineering Sciences Building, the Neural Molecular Science Building and the Larry R. Faulkner Nano Science and Technology Building.

Rankin received her bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry from Louisiana State University, was a National Science Foundation pre-doctoral fellow at the University of Iowa and Imperial College Field Station, Ascot, England, and was awarded a doctorate in physiology and behavior from the University of Iowa in 1972. She was a National Institutes of Health post-doctoral fellow at Harvard University until joining The University of Texas at Austin in 1975 as an assistant professor of zoology. In 1986, she was promoted to professor. Rankin was chairman of the Division of Biological Sciences from 1989 until her appointment as dean of the College of Natural Sciences in 1994.

Robert E. Boyer (Served 1980 – 1994)

Geologist Robert E. Boyer’s service as dean to the College of Natural Sciences spanned 14 years. The college’s 20thanniversary celebration occurred during his tenure over the 1990-1991 academic year, which was branded “The Decade of the Nineties: Launching the 21st Century with Excellence in Science.”

Boyer and his group of faculty established both the Institute for Science and Mathematics Education and the Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology, helping The University of Texas at Austin build one of the most competitive science programs in the nation. He also started the Hall of Honor and the Hall of Honor Awards to help recognize distinguished faculty as well as prominent donors who aided the college and the university by increasing the influence of the sciences in society. His work with the Natural Sciences Foundation Advisory Council helped the college make numerous networks to businesses, corporations and public officials. Also, his fundraising goals for the college’s 20thanniversary brought in approximately $27 million.

Boyer obtained a bachelor’s degree from New York State’s Colgate University and then earned a master’s degree from Indiana University (Bloomington). He received his Ph.D. in 1959. He was awarded the rank of full professorship at The University of Texas at Austin in 1967, became the chairman of the Department of Geological Sciences in 1971 and was then finally raised to the position of dean in 1980. He is currently professor emeritus of geological sciences.

A.R. Shrank (Served 1973 – 1974, 1976 – 1980)

Paul Olum (Served 1974 – 1976)

Samuel P. Ellison (Served 1971 - 1973)