From its founding in 1890, the University of Chicago has occupied a singular place among American universities. Lacking the ancient lineages and social cachet of the Ivy League schools (Chicago welcomed women and Jews at a time when Harvard, et al, excluded the former and imposed strict quotas on the latter), Chicago, which is consistently ranked among the world’s top 10 universities, has always been known for its fierce intellectualism. ‘I think the one place where I have been that is most like ancient Athens’, the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead once declared, ‘is the University of Chicago’. Indeed, whereas the Ivy League universities, Stanford and their ilk, admitted – and continue to admit – their undergraduates based on such qualities as athletic ability, family connections, and that vague attribute known as ‘leadership’, students came to Chicago because they prized what it still venerates as ‘the life of the mind’. (Chicago’s students score on average higher on the SAT – a national standardised test that assesses academic aptitude – than do those at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford).