Madison is the capital of the U.S. state of Wisconsin and the seat of Dane County. As of July 1, 2019, Madison's estimated population of 259,680 made it the second-largest city in Wisconsin by population, after Milwaukee, and the 81st-largest in the United States. The city forms the core of the Madison Metropolitan Area which includes Dane County and neighboring Iowa, Green, and Columbia counties for a population of 654,230.
Located on an isthmus and lands surrounding four lakes-Lake Mendota, Lake Monona, Lake Kegonsa and Lake Waubesa-the city is home to the University of Wisconsin–Madison, the Wisconsin State Capitol, Henry Vilas Zoo, lakes, and an extensive network of parks and bike trails. Madison has historically been a center for progressive political activity, protests, and demonstrations. The presence of the University of Wisconsin–Madison (the largest employer in the state) as well as other educational institutions has a significant impact on the economy, culture, and demographics of Madison.
Madison is a growing technology economy, and the region is home to the headquarters of Epic Systems, American Family Insurance, Exact Sciences, Promega, American Girl, Sub-Zero, Lands' End, a regional office for Google, and the University Research Park, as well as many biotech and health systems startups. A 2018 report ranked Madison 14th among the top fifteen cities worldwide for venture capital deals per capita.
Madison, which is named for US Founding Father James Madison, is home to eight National Historic Landmarks, including one UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Before Europeans, humans inhabited the area in and around Madison for about 12,000 years. In 1800, the Madison area was Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) Country. The Native Americans called this place Taychopera (Ta-ko-per-ah), meaning "land of the four lakes" (Mendota, Monona, Waubesa, and Kegonsa). Effigy mounds, which had been constructed for ceremonial and burial purposes over 1,000 years earlier, dotted the rich prairies around the lakes.
Madison's European origins begin in 1829, when former federal judge James Duane Doty purchased over a thousand acres (4 km²) of swamp and forest land on the isthmus between Lakes Mendota and Monona, with the intention of building a city in the Four Lakes region.