When Texas A&M was founded in 1876, Louis Pasteur was proving the existence of microorganisms and dispelling the concept of spontaneous generation. Gregor Mendel was perfecting the basic concepts of genetics through his experimentation with peas. Fewer than 100 microscopes existed in the entire United States. Maps of Texas showed West Texas as Indian Territory.

The “faculty” of Texas A&M College consisted of one mathematician and one person designated to teach agricultural chemistry and scientific agriculture. Science as a discipline and education in the classical form at the new land-grant institution were disapproved of by the governor and state legislators, whose concept of the land-grant college was limited to teaching practical applications and job skills. Science and mathematics existed merely to supply instruction to applied fields. This was a new concept to higher education; so new that when the president of the college, Thomas Gathright, and the faculty were unable to meet these objectives, they were relieved of their duties – after only three years of service.

Texas A&M itself was a college until the 1960s, and as such, it had “schools” rather than colleges. In 1924, its School of Arts and Sciences was established with four distinct subject areas: liberal arts; business administration; preparation for teaching; and science. Chemistry and physics were actually within departments in the School of Engineering.

After World War II, encouraged by America’s entrance into the atomic age and its rising faith in science, more students sought training in the pure and natural sciences. This effort was aided by the success of the Texas A&M Research Foundation, established by President Gibb Gilchrist in 1944. Between 1948 and 1958, the proportion of students enrolled in the School of Arts and Sciences rose rapidly in comparison to enrollment in agriculture and engineering. By 1957, it comprised 25 percent of the student body.

Following Texas A&M’s elevation to university status in 1963, the College of Science with departments in biology, chemistry, mathematics, and physics emerged in 1966 under the leadership of its first dean, Clarence Zener. The Cyclotron Institute, which conducts research in the nuclear aspects of chemistry, physics, biology and engineering, was organized in 1963 and placed under the administration of the College in 1971. Finally, the current College of Science became complete in 1984 when the Institute of Statistics, established in 1962, was renamed the Department of Statistics.

Past Deans

Valen Johnson
2018 – present
Meigan Aronson
2015 – 2018
Physics & Astronomy
Joseph Newton
2002 – 2015
Richard Ewing
1992 – 2000
John Fackler
1983 – 1991
John Beckham
1981 – 1982
Thomas Sugihara
1978 – 1981
John Beckham
1977 – 1978
John Prescott
1969 – 1977
Horace Byers
1968 – 1969
Clarence Zener
1966 – 1968
Physics & Astronomy