I was a freshman at Emory University in Atlanta. It was September, 1963, my first academic quarter at the university. I was in my first class in Political Science 101 just prior to the lecture.

So who invented the term 101? Shouldn’t the number actually be 1?

I do know this. The first society with a written language, the Sumerians, had a 6 based numerical system. They gave us the fabulous gifts of a 360 degree circle and a 24 hour day. Perhaps they would have offered, had they had universities, Political Science 6.

Of late and in 1963, I just haven’t known who to credit for our 101 designation. Then through the “magic” of Google and Wikipedia I found the source:

“The term was first introduced by the University of Buffalo in 1929. It was used as a course catalog, the first known usage of the term by Oxford English Dictionary. Based on this usage, the term “101” has been extended to mean an introductory level of learning or a collection of introductory materials to a topic.” The Wikipedians relied in part on Slate.com.


Is that extension of the term 101 because to muddle through the Buffalonian catalogue one needed an introductory course? Or, perhaps, a buffalo? Or, a tank? Ah, what those long, cold, Buffalo winters can produce besides Buffaloes.

Returning from these almost 180 degree tangents, there I was on the first day of class. Should that be called day 101? Or, perhaps, day 6?

On that day, the professor stepped buoyantly to the lectern. He looked at us all deeply. Loudly and clearly he uttered, “Governments were established so we could sleep at night.” Sounded reasonable to me. Made more sense than calling an introductory course 101.