The School of Oceanography at the University of Washington is a national leader in oceanographic research and education. The UW Oceanographic Laboratories, founded in 1930 and directed by Professor Thomas G. Thompson, were the precursor of the School. The School of Oceanography was organized formally in 1951, under the directorship of Richard Fleming. It hosts the oldest undergraduate program in the nation, graduating its first student, Alyn Duxbury, in 1955, who went on to become one of the founding figures of oceanography science and education. It is the only oceanography department to offer all degrees: Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Masters of Science and Doctor of Philosophy.
Originally housed in what is now called the Old Oceanography Building (where teaching laboratories are still maintained), the School occupies modern laboratories in four principal buildings at the southwestern edge of the University of Washington campus overlooking Portage Bay: the Marine Science Building, the Ocean Teaching Building, the Ocean Sciences Building, and Benjamin Hall. Additional facilities are located at the UW's Friday Harbor Laboratories on San Juan Island. The School of Oceanography's numerous seagoing research projects, originally conducted on the R/V Brown Bear, now utitilze the modern capabilities of the R/V Thomas G. Thompson and the R/V Clifford Barnes, and the R/V Rachel Carson that joined the department's research fleet in 2018.