Founded in 2001, the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley sprang from the generosity and inspiration of Berkeley alumni Thomas and Ruth Ann Hornaday.
Believing that “you can’t have peaceful institutions without peaceful people,” the Hornadays wanted to create an interdisciplinary research center that would promote the science of inner and interpersonal peace. They found synergy between their interests and the research of UC Berkeley psychologists Dacher Keltner, Philip and Carolyn Cowan, and Stephen Hinshaw.
Together they imagined an organization that would not only sponsor academic research but also disseminate that research to parents, teachers, and other practitioners, helping them apply scientific findings to their personal and professional lives.
The Hornadays made an initial gift to establish the Center (originally called the Center for the Development of Peace & Well-Being), its fellowship program, and a series of public events. Together with funding from The Herb Alpert Foundation, the Hornaday’s gift also enabled the Center to launch Greater Good, a magazine reporting on groundbreaking new research into compassion, happiness, and altruism. The magazine offered a unique service to readers, providing a bridge between science and practice.
The Center published the first issue of Greater Good in 2004, and the response was overwhelming. The Utne Reader named it one of the best new publications of the year, and it nearly sold out of its first few issues.
Since that time, the Center has launched a variety of programs and initiatives—including its Raising Happiness parenting blog, seminar series for health professionals, summer institute for educators, and Science of Happiness online course—that build on the Greater Good mission to make “the science of a meaningful life” accessible and practical to the general public, bringing new research findings out of the lab and into families, schools, workplaces, and beyond.
Below is a timeline covering some of the milestones and highlights from the Center’s history so far.
2001: Berkeley Center for the Development of Peace and Well-Being is founded by Thomas and Ruth Ann Hornaday, under Founding Director Dacher Keltner
2002: Center awards its first research fellowships
2004: Greater Good magazine publishes its first print issue
2006: Greater Good reaches 5,000 magazine subscribers; organization is renamed the Greater Good Science Center
2007: Launch of Half Full parenting blog (later renamed Raising Happiness), created by Christine Carter, Ph.D.
2009: Greater Good relaunches as an online magazine; GGSC initiates its Science of a Meaningful Life seminar series, with support from the Quality of Life Foundation
2010: Publication of two anthologies of Greater Good articles: The Compassionate Instinct (W.W. Norton) and Are We Born Racist? (Beacon Press)
2011: 1 million+ website visitors, 2 million+ website pageviews; GGSC launches its Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude initiative, funded by the John Templeton Foundation
2012: GGSC launches its Education Program, with support from the Einhorn Family Charitable Trust, to meet the needs of K-12 education professionals who want to apply the science of social-emotional well-being to their work
2013: The GGSC’s Education Program hosts its first Summer Institute for Educators; the GGSC hosts its first major conference, “Practicing Mindfulness and Compassion”
2014: The Science of Happiness online course begins, enrolls more than 125,000 students in its first run
2015: GGSC launches Greater Good in Action, an online clearinghouse of the top research-based practices that foster happiness, resilience, kindness, and connection
2016: 5.5 million website visitors, 10 million+ pageviews
2018: GGSC launches “The Science of Happiness” podcast, in partnership with PRI. 6.2 million website visitors, 13.1 million pageviews.
Growing the Greater Good
Sather Gate image by John Morgan