The Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition’s passion for implementing research, education, and outreach to promote a safe, nutritious, accessible, and affordable food supply can be traced all the way back to our university’s first president.
In 1872, President John Milton Gregory established the School of Domestic Science and Arts as a means of providing full courses of instruction in the “arts of the household,” including food sciences. This initiative was a progressive idea for women’s education and established the University of Illinois as a leader in the field.
The school began operating in 1874 under Louisa C. Allen’s guidance. President Gregory hired Allen to oversee and organize courses for the School of Domestic Science and Arts, including Foods and Dietetics, Domestic Hygiene, Household Esthetics, Home Architecture, and Landscape Gardening.
Under Allen’s six years of leadership, nine certificates and four bachelor’s of science degrees in Domestic Science and Arts were granted. These degrees are believed to be the first of their kind earned in the United States.
In 1881, President Gregory resigned from the university and the School of Domestic Science and Arts was without a champion. Lack of public demand, coupled with staffing and financing difficulties, led to the school’s dismantling under President Selim H. Peabody. While some food sciences, like dairy technology, continued in other departments, research housed in the School of Domestic Science and Arts halted for the next 19 years.
In 1900, President Andrew S. Draper reinstated the School of Domestic Science and Arts as the Household Science Department led by renowned food chemist Isabel Bevier. Bevier collaborated with College of Agriculture Dean Eugene Davenport to rename the department to emphasize its scientific nature. Bevier’s 21 years at the University of Illinois would see exponential growth in the department, both in enrollment and in course offerings.
In the 1920s, the department underwent another rebranding to be called Home Economics. Several departmental changes occurred in this decade, including the addition of graduate courses and the extension of undergraduate courses.
In 1943, the department formally divided to allow for more specialized coursework. The new divisions included: Child Development and Family Relationships, Foods and Nutrition, Home Management, Institution Management, and Textiles and Clothing.
In 1947, the Board of Trustees approved a new department housed in the College of Agriculture called the Food Technology Department. Louis B. Howard, well known for his research on food processing and his contributions to wartime food programs, became the head of the Food Technology Department in 1948. The next several decades would usher in steady growth and change for both the Food Technology Department and the Division of Foods and Nutrition.
On the heels of the College of Agriculture’s 1995 reorganization into the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, the Department of Food Science (formerly the Food Technology Department) and the Division of Foods and Nutrition merged in 1996 to form the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition (FSHN).
Today, the department offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in addition to serving the community through Extension and outreach programs. FSHN houses four comprehensive programs of study leading to a Bachelor of Science, including Dietetics, Food Science, Human Nutrition, and Hospitality Management. The department also offers a Master of Science (thesis and non-thesis) program, a Ph.D. degree program in either Food Science or Human Nutrition concentrations, and a Professional Science Master’s degree program.
Over a century in the making, the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition continues to strive to be a global leader in food, nutrition, and hospitality sciences. Help write the next chapter in FSHN’s history by becoming a student in one of our programs or by providing support for scholarships for the next 100 years of enhancing human health.