"On This Day" In Engineering History Blog

"On This Day" In Engineering History

Tune in to find out about significant engineering events that took place "on this day".

Previous in Blog: December 29, 1876: The Ashtabula Horror   Next in Blog: January 10, 1901: Drilling for Oil at Spindletop
Close
Close
Close
3 comments

January 3, 1825: America's First Engineering College Opens

Posted January 03, 2007 10:40 AM by Steve Melito

Today is the 181st anniversary of the opening of the Rensselaer School, the first engineering college in the United States and, according to one historian, "the first school of science and school of civil engineering, which has had a continuous existence, to be established in any English-speaking country." The Rensselaer School's founder, Stephen van Rensselaer III, was a soldier, statesman, and landowner who graduated from Harvard University and served as regent of the State University of New York. On November 5, 1824, van Rensselaer sent a letter to his friend Rev. Dr. Samuel Blatchford, announcing the establishment of a school in Troy, New York "for the purpose of instructing persons who may choose to apply themselves in the application of Science to the common purposes of life." In his letter, van Rensselaer asked Blatchford to serve as the school's new president and named Amos Eaton, a graduate of Williams College, as the first senior professor. A lawyer by trade, Eaton had spent nearly five years in prison, during which time he studied botany and geology while tutoring the sons of the jail's board of governors.

The efforts of van Rensselaer, Blatchford and Eaton ensured that the Rensselaer School opened as planned on Monday, January 3, 1825 at the Old Bank Place, a building in Troy's north end. On December 28, 1824, the Troy Sentinel published a notice from Rev. Blatchford, announcing the opening of the Rensselaer School. A day later, the Board of Trustees met to formalize methods of instruction. Unlike other colleges, the Rensselaer School would require students to perform their own experiments instead of just watching demonstrations. Eaton, who had advised the New York State legislature about the Erie Canal after his release from prison, thrived in this dynamic environment. As news of Eaton's professorial skills spread in academic circles, graduates from older institutions such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Columbia flocked to the Rensselaer School. "I am inclined to believe that competent instructors may be produced in the school at Troy", van Rensselaer wrote, "(and) who will be highly useful to the community in the diffusion of a very useful kind of knowledge."

Today, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) still values its hands-on approach to undergraduate education. Indeed, as the Christian Science Monitor reports, "Rensselaer's approach is nothing short of revolutionary among research universities".

Reply

Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.
Anonymous Poster
#1

Re: January 3, 1825: America's First Engineering College Opens

01/04/2007 8:28 AM

In Canada It was UNB in 1855

Reply
Anonymous Poster
#2

Re: January 3, 1825: America's First Engineering College Opens

01/04/2007 10:48 AM

Maybe Rennselear was the 2nd engineering school- or the first non military engineering school.

From the West Point Military Academy website:

"President Thomas Jefferson signed legislation establishing the United States Military Academy in 1802. He took this action after ensuring that those attending the Academy would be representative of a democratic society.

Colonel Sylvanus Thayer, the "father of the Military Academy," served as Superintendent from l8l7-l833. He upgraded academic standards, instilled military discipline and emphasized honorable conduct. Aware of our young nation's need for engineers, Thayer made civil engineering the foundation of the curriculum. For the first half century, USMA graduates were largely responsible for the construction of the bulk of the nation's initial railway lines, bridges, harbors and roads."

Reply
Guru
United States - Member - New Member Technical Fields - Technical Writing - New Member Popular Science - Weaponology - Organizer Hobbies - Target Shooting - New Member Engineering Fields - Nuclear Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 3464
Good Answers: 32
#3
In reply to #2

Re: January 3, 1825: America's First Engineering College Opens

01/04/2007 11:50 AM

Point well-taken. Thanks for passing that along!

Reply
Reply to Blog Entry 3 comments
Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.

Previous in Blog: December 29, 1876: The Ashtabula Horror   Next in Blog: January 10, 1901: Drilling for Oil at Spindletop
You might be interested in: Conveyor Chain, Leaf Chain, Protocol Stack Software

Advertisement