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As in this year's Calendar there first appears a Department of Engineering, the following historical sketch of its development during the past forty years has been prepared for the Technic. The matter here submitted formed a part of a much more extended paper on Engineers and Engineering Schools read before the Engineering Society early in the
present school year.

The Department of Engineering in this University grew out of the Scientific course. In the Calendar for 1852-3, civil engineering is mentioned as a study. In November 1853, Alexander Winchell was appointed professor of physics and civil engineering, but was transferred in 1855 to the chair of geology; and W. G. Peck, a graduate of West Point, at the head of the class of 1844, who had recently resigned his commission of captain in the U. S. army, was made professor of civil engineering. He was expected to become the permanent head of the new department, but in 1857 he was induced to accept a professorship at Columbia College, New York. As the author of Peck's Mechanics many have known him.

Professor DeVolson Wood, a graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, N. Y., was his successor, first as assistant professor, and afterwards as professor in 1859, and held the chair until the summer of 1872. He then resigned to accept a professorship at the Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, N. J., with which school he is still connected.  He has written several books on engineering subjects, one of the most recent and valuable of which is his Thermodynamics. Under Professor Wood's able management, during his fifteen years of service, this department attained a high degree of excellence and became widely and favorably known.

Of course the number of students in engineering was for some time very small. In 1857 six students were mentioned as studying civil engineering in their senior year; but the course, with the degree of C. E., was authorized by the Board of Regents, Dec. 22, 1858. The first degrees, two in number, were conferred in 1860. There were three graduates in 1861; one in 1802; five in 1803; one in 1864; and six in 1865. During the civil war some attention was paid to fortification and military science. There were seven graduates in 1866, and eight in 1867, of whom two received the degree of mining engineer. From this time until 1872 several students graduated in mining, and the yearly number receiving degrees in both branches rose to seventeen.

It may be remarked in passing that the number of graduates from year to year by no means represents one fourth of the number of students receiving instruction. The lower classes each year are usually much larger than the graduating class. In addition to the special students who complete most, but not all, of the required course, not a few, upon receiving their training in surveying, drafting, or other work, embrace opportunities which offer to engage in the practice of that branch, and pursue their studies no further at the University. Some find the mathematical and technical work more severe than they anticipated, and drop out of the course. Others, who have entered without a clear understanding of the aims and duties of the engineering profession, conclude that it is not one for which they have a natural aptitude

Even before 1872 the civil engineering course had become too extensive for one instructor to care for, and assistance had been obtained for short terms. In the spring of 1872 Charles S. Denison, class of '71 University of Vermont, came to Michigan as instructor in drawing, and Assistant Professor Joseph B. Davis, U. of M., '68, was, in June, 1872, given charge of surveying. The writer, Harvard, '62, and Mass. Institute of Technology, '68, was called from practice in New England to succeed Professor Wood. The unbroken term of service of these three instructors, who have directed the technical part of the course in civil engineering, is remarkable, and the almost daily intercourse through twenty-four college years has served but to knit closer the ties of friendship and esteem.

In 1875, the Legislature of Michigan, at the solicitation of a member from the Upper Peninsula, voted the establishment of a School of Mines at this University, and appropriated funds for two years for the new professorships created by the act. The same act also made provision for a professorship in architecture. Professor William H. Pettee, Harvard, 61, came from that University to take the chair of Mining Engineering, Byron W. Cheever, U. of M., '63, conducted the work in Metallurgy, and W. L. B. Jenney, C. E., a well-known architect of Chicago, was appointed professor of architecture.

The Legislature of 1877 failed to renew these appropriations. Professor Jenney was given indefinite leave of absence, which terminated the architectural course just established; while Professor Pettee, transferred to the chair of Geology, continued to instruct such students as desired work in mining engineering.

An act of Congress, passed in 1879, authorizing the detail of assistant engineers of the navy to teach marine engineering and iron ship building at colleges and technical schools, opened a way of starting a course in mechanical engineering with but little additional expense. Professor Mortimer E. Cooley, U. S. Naval Academy, '78, was detailed by the Secretary of the Navy, on the request of President Angell, in 1881, and, after four years of such detailed duty, resigned from the navy and became definitely connected with this University. Mr. C. G. Taylor, a graduate of the school at Worcester, Mass., came to the shops in 1883, and has been superintendent since 1885. The first degree in mechanical engineering was conferred in 1883.

The small frame building, veneered with brick, in which the first shop-practice was carried out, has gradually given place to the present Mechanical Laboratory, with its foundry, forge-shop, iron and wood-working rooms, drafting rooms, testing laboratory, etc. The newer and more commodious ones of the new Engineering building have replaced the rooms for instruction, which for many years comprised the larger part of the south half of the south wing of University Hall. It is not unlikely that the department before long may find its present quarters crowded, if the rate of increase in attendance of recent years is maintained.

Professor Henry S. Carhart, Wesleyan University, '69, came from Northwestern University to take the chair of Physics here in 1886, and soon was prepared to offer so much work in electricity, a branch especially attractive to him, that the University was able to open a course in Electrical Engineering. There had already been a demand for such a line of work, and the movement of students in that direction continues to be very large. In 1889 Assistant Professor George W. Patterson, Yale, '84, Mass. Inst, of Technology, '87, came to the University as instructor.

Professor Cheever died in 1888 and Professor Edward D. Campbell,  U. of M., '86, succeeded to his work in 1890. In the same year Assistant Professor Frank C. Wagner, U. of M., '84, joined the staff in Mechanical Engineering. The number of graduates in 1890, when the first electrical degrees were granted, was twenty, viz., twelve civil, one mining, four mechanical and three electrical engineering students.  The number in all classes was 159. The attendance rose to 203 in 1890-91; 243 in 1891-92; and has considerably exceeded three hundred the present year. The number of engineering degrees conferred last commencement was fifty.

The tone of the department is excellent, and the outlook for the future is most encouraging.

The Michigan Technic

1896, New Series, No 9

Pages 15 – 18

Development of the Engineering Department

By Charles E. Greene