ACES: History and Goals

The University of Illinois is recognized worldwide as one of the great public universities, and the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) has been there from day one. In ACES we use what we discover through cutting-edge research to ensure nutritious and safe food, sustainable and innovative agriculture, strong families and communities, and environmentally sound use of natural resources. The end result? Betterment of the lives of people, not only in Illinois but around the world.

The College of ACES is a global leader in the most promising areas of scholarship in the agricultural, consumer, and environmental sciences. We are known for our globally competitive students, our first- class discovery research, and the innovative knowledge we share.

1904: An ACES professor and his assistant take soil samples in the Morrow Plots

ACES professor Cyril Hopkins (right) and his assistant, James Pettit, taking soil samples in the Morrow Plots, April 1904.

The College of ACES has played a formative role in our state’s flagship university. Led by activist Jonathan Baldwin Turner, a movement gained ground in the mid-1800s to provide higher education for anyone in the nation who aspired to learn. In 1862, at a time when 85 of every 100 Illinoisans lived on farms, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Land-Grant College Act.


The University of Illinois (originally Illinois Industrial University) opened for business in March 1868, with agriculture as one of the first programs of study. The U of I is one of the original 37 public institutions created by the Morrill Act, which provided federal funding to establish colleges to teach agriculture and industrial arts.

The twin towns of Champaign and Urbana were selected for the new university, in part because they sit on some of the richest soils in the world. The Hatch Act of 1887 established the agricultural experiment station, which brought a new research focus. The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 created the Cooperative Extension System, established to take knowledge from university laboratories to each state’s citizens. These activities continue today.

Since those first days, the College of ACES has grown steadily in its national and international presence, continually adapting to meet new challenges and opportunities in our core domains. Our robust array of disciplines in agricultural, consumer, and environmental sciences forms a strong foundation for our leadership, as we educate each new generation and tackle the world’s complex issues.