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Engineering education at The University of Michigan changed significantly after World War II. From 1940 to 1970 technology advanced more than it had during the eighty-three years following the award of the first engineering degree in 1857. In this thirty-year period, scientific and technological developments exponentially expanded the knowledge and technique the engineer must master in order to solve problems in a society becoming more and more complex and dynamic. The changes during this period enabled the College to serve these evolving needs of the state, the nation, and society at large with marked success.

In 1940 the College focused almost exclusively on undergraduate education. By 1970 the College was committed to graduate education as well. Enrollment figures for this period show an increase in undergraduate enrollment from 2,155 to 3,273; for graduate enrollment, 258 to 948, making a total increase from 2,413 to 4,221. The brief postwar enrollment bulge of 1947-48, when enrollments jumped to about 4,500 students, over 3,800 of them undergraduates, created short-term problems.

The emergence of graduate education as a second basic function of the College had a lasting impact. This was contingent on the development of research as a third basic function of the College. For instance, federal and private funding of College research during the 1965-66 academic year was $10 million. This was more than double the state funding of the College general fund budget for that year, and almost 50 times the amount of research funding ($215,700) for the 1940-41 year. The development of North Campus also reflects the role of research in the College. Many of the buildings completed between 1940 and 1970 were research facilities. Graduate education and research also significantly affected the goals of the undergraduate curriculum, as well as the content of undergraduate courses. These developments brought about changes in the nature of the departments, the activities of the faculty, and the concerns of the students.

Changing social needs and student concerns have affected the undergraduate curriculum. Industry needs engineers with sound technological training to sustain present levels of achievement as well as those capable of innovative design in new fields. Government institutions at all levels also need engineers with training in business, law, economics, and sociology. Students increasingly use the undergraduate engineering curriculum as a foundation for careers in nontechnical fields such as law, medicine, and dentistry.

The graduate curriculum also is faced by conflicting needs. Graduate education must prepare students for careers in research as well as design. To provide the specialized training needed for research, most graduate programs have become exclusively oriented toward science and technology. Developments in modern technology increasingly demand that engineering education be based on strong foundations of science and mathematics. Thus science and mathematics compete with engineering, social science, and the humanities for the limited number of credit hours available.

As a consequence of these diverse pressures on engineering education, the College structure has been modified substantially. Some departments have been dissolved; others have been formed. Changes in name, such as that from aeronautical to aerospace, indicate significant changes in the nature of the programs. Since technological knowledge now tends to become quickly outdated, the College must provide courses and programs for practicing engineers, especially those in Michigan industry. Research has become increasingly important for the economic, social, and medical welfare and, as a consequence, has become an integral part of the College activities.

The development of engineering education at Michigan can be seen as a dialectical progress from technology to science to design. Prior to World War II, experience-proven materials and techniques were studied as tools to solve practical problems that tended to be static and clearly defined. With the dramatic technological advances made during the war, mathematics and science became essential in developing new, and improving existing, technology. Recently, complex socio-technological problems and systems have emerged, as well as the need for more sophisticated applications of technology to industrial development. As a consequence, applied design to solve practical problems of complex dynamic systems has come into the curriculum.

Before World War II the College was concerned primarily with undergraduate education to prepare students for careers in industrial design, production, manufacturing, technical development, and sales. Industrial experience was more important than advanced academic preparation. During the war, scientists and mathematicians led the way in designing the advanced technology to meet defense needs. Basic physical and chemical laws were exploited to develop new technology and products. Where existing materials formerly had been used, new materials were now created. The distinction between science and engineering became blurred, as science and mathematics were used to develop new materials and instrumentation, to establish more complex data about materials and processes, and to base design principles on more sophisticated modeling techniques. In addition, science and mathematics formed the basis of new fields such as nuclear energy, electronics, aerodynamics, and computers. These developments tended to subordinate practical skill and experience to research and theory. The emphasis was on scientific fundamentals and subsystem details. Specialization developed at the expense of concern for the integration of a technical system. These trends were strengthened by massive government expenditures for basic research and for the space and defense programs.

Research. — Research has been an organized activity of the College since the Department of Engineering Research was formed in 1920. In 1947-48, the Department of Engineering Research became the Engineering Research Institute to conduct "research in the fields of engineering and the physical sciences." In March of 1949 the Engineering Research Institute became a University institution. In 1957-58, when federal funding became massive, the University of Michigan Research Institute was formed as an administrative unit, responsible to the University Vice-President for Research. Underlying these administrative changes were the incremental increase in research activity and a shift in research support for the College. From 1920 to 1940 the cumulative total of research funding for the College was about $2 million. Since 1951-52, research funding per year has been more than $2 million, and during the 1960s it averaged about $8 million per year. The sources of research funding also have changed markedly since the two-to-one ratio funding ($2.00 of industrial support for every $1.00 of federal support) of 1941-42.

Sources of Government Funds (approximate figures)



NASA  1,485,000  3,666,000  2,550,000

NSF     220,000     600,000  1,150,000

HEW     165,000     385,000     185,000

AEC     160,000     240,000     360,000

The expanded research activities enabled faculty members to conduct more of their professional activity in close conjunction with students and led to much course and curriculum development, especially at the graduate level. Departments such as Nuclear Engineering and Meteorology and Oceanography developed from research activity.

In a typical academic year of the 1960s, research funds went to 175 faculty members, 350 undergraduate students, and 670 graduate students. The distribution of the 1965-66 College research salary budget showed: graduate students, $2,875,000; supporting staff, $1,850,000; faculty, $1,065,000; undergraduates, $535,000; and research staff, $315,000, making a total of $6,640,000. About 90 percent of the doctoral students were supported as research assistants.

North Campus. — The North Campus development during the 1950s and early 1960s enabled the College to integrate science and research with engineering education. The Cooley Laboratory, dedicated on October 24, 1953, was the first building on North Campus. The basic complex of the North Campus laboratory facilities developed quickly with the completion of the Automotive Engineering Laboratory, the Aeronautical Engineering Laboratory, and the Fluids Laboratory (later to be named the G. G. Brown Laboratory in honor of the Dean who initiated the North Campus development). The Ford Nuclear Reactor in the Phoenix Laboratory, also completed during this period, supplemented this complex.

As early as 1955-56 plans had been made to move all College of Engineering activities to North Campus in phases: first, graduate laboratory and research activities; second, upper class and graduate instruction; and eventually, freshman and sophomore, as well as cognate instruction. In the 1960s government research funds enabled the College to complete most of the first phase of its projected move to North Campus. This enabled the College to develop its graduate program by attracting outstanding new faculty and providing laboratory space for the doctoral students. It has been estimated that each Ph.D. student requires about 600 square feet of laboratory and office space continuously per year.

Plans for continuing the move to North Campus resumed again in the late 1960s under Dean Gordon Van Wylen. In 1970 the State appropriated funds for preliminary planning of the Water Resources Educational Facility, which will integrate laboratory, office, and classrooms into a single building. This building will be devoted to both undergraduate and graduate education and will be interdepartmental, housing the water resources faculty from three departments — Civil Engineering, Chemical Engineering, and Meteorology and Oceanography.

Curriculum and Department Developments. — Developments in education and research significantly altered the curriculum and departmental structures of the College. After the 1970-71 academic year only four departments existed in name as they had in 1940, and even those departments had undergone notable changes.

During the 1960s the College granted more than 50 percent of the master's, and more than 70 percent of the doctorates, in engineering awarded in the state of Michigan. After 1946 the number of graduate-level degrees awarded each year rose steadily. From 1951-52 to 1969-70, the master's degrees awarded went from 210 to 400, and the doctorates from 30 to 100.

The master's degree has served both as a terminal degree and as a step toward the doctorate. The master's program allows the student to take specialized and design-oriented engineering courses, many of them available to students whose undergraduate training has been in mathematics, physics, or chemistry rather than in engineering.

In addition to the M.S., M.S.E., and the Ph.D. degrees, most departments offer two-year Professional Degrees. The Professional Degree (Mechanical Engineer, Civil Engineer, etc.) was approved by the faculty in 1958 as an advanced degree oriented toward practice and application rather than to the research-oriented Ph.D. degree.

As with graduate education, undergraduate education in 1970 was significantly modified from what it was in 1940. In addition to the changes resulting from new emphasis on engineering fundamentals, science, mathematics, the social sciences, and the humanities, the undergraduate curriculum was changed substantially in 1968, when the faculty approved a 128-hour undergraduate engineering program. In 1940 a total of 140 credit hours was required for the B.S.E. degree. After 1952-53, when the concept of level of achievement was substituted for this specific credit-hour requirement, the requirements for graduation ranged from 131 to 138 hours, depending on various sequences in mathematics, chemistry, and physics. The new 128-hour undergraduate curriculum was developed to meet such additional needs as preparation for graduate school and the new challenges of integration of social concerns with technical training.

The faculty approved additional interdepartmental undergraduate programs at the end of the 1970-71 academic year. Engineering physics, in existence since 1928, was merged with science engineering, in existence since 1953-54, to form an Engineering Science degree program. It stresses a strong foundation in mathematics, science, and the engineering sciences in lieu of advanced departmental specialization. The Applied Mathematics program, developed in 1965 from the engineering mathematics program, was continued. An interdisciplinary Environmental Sciences Engineering program and an undesignated interdisciplinary Bachelor of Science in Engineering program also were established in 1970-71.

The disappearance of such departments as Mechanism and Engineering Drawing, Geodesy and Surveying, and Metal Processing reflects the change in emphasis from skill-based experience to science-based design, as well as the impact of the computer in engineering education. Computer research at Michigan had begun in 1953 at the Willow Run laboratories. A continued research program enabled the computer to become a practical design tool. Subsequently, the Electrical Engineering department began teaching digital computer techniques, and the Aerospace Engineering department began teaching analog computer techniques. In the 1960s, computer-aided design programs developed in every discipline. Because various departments taught different aspects of computer science, it was not until 1971 that Computer Engineering was established as an undergraduate program in the renamed Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. A graduate program in Computer, Information and Control Engineering (CICE) however, had been formed in 1968 from the Aeronautical Engineering graduate program in Information and Control, instituted in 1953, and the Electrical Engineering Systems Option of the early 1960s. The CICE program continues as an interdepartmental graduate program.

Other interdisciplinary programs, with significant non-engineering involvement, and interdepartmental programs grew out of research activities. The Bioengineering program for graduate studies in the application of analytical methods to the many subsystems of living systems was established in 1963 as an interdisciplinary program of the College and the Medical School. Graduate programs in Water Resources Engineering and Water Resources Sciences have involved Civil Engineering with other units of the University, especially the schools of Public Health and Natural Resources, since the mid-1960s. In 1940 the only interdisciplinary programs existing were the graduate ones in Public Administration and Public Health Engineering.

In 1940 the College had combined five- or six-year programs with the Schools of Business Administration, Forestry, Law, and Education. The first three were abolished in 1945. Combined programs with the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts began in 1946 with an L., S., and A.-Civil Engineering program and in 1947 with an L., S., and A.-Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering program. In 1961 a combined undergraduate degree program between any engineering department and L., S., and A. was approved; it leads to a B.S.E. degree, plus an A.B. or B.S. degree.

In 1940 the College had a joint five-year program with Albion College. In 1941 combined programs with Kalamazoo College and Western State Teacher's College were approved. By 1970 combined programs with many institutions in the state of Michigan and with several in other states had been established. Relationships with the rapidly growing Michigan junior college system led to numerous transfers each year into the College from community and junior colleges.

Members of the College of Engineering faculty have been active in engineering education throughout the world. Since the International Cooperative Administration contract was instituted with The University of Michigan in 1956-57, faculty members have gone to Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America. In addition, many faculties from departments such as Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering and Nuclear Engineering have helped technical institutions abroad to train staff and develop courses.

In an AID program to develop the Indian Institute of Technology at Kanpur, India, The University of Michigan joined a consortium of nine major institutions in the United States. At Kanpur an entirely new institute of technology was established. During the 1960s the curriculum was organized, major facilities constructed, and strong research and graduate programs developed.

Within the United States, College members have helped develop programs at Tuskegee Institute. Other faculty training and exchange programs have been associated with the computer-in-education grant, TV instructional network programs, National Science Foundation summer institutes to train teachers, and the College's Engineering Summer Conferences.

Civil Engineering. — Research and graduate studies have moved to the forefront in the subfields of soil mechanics, hydraulics, hydrology, and structures. New and revised courses in water supply, waste disposal, transportation, city planning and construction now embody urban and environmental factors. These form the basis of new graduate degree specializations such as construction, environmental science, sanitary, and water resources engineering. The graduate program in construction engineering (1954) emphasized the business and economic aspects of construction and then its management aspects. Structural engineering now involves structural dynamics, earthquake engineering, and plastic design. Transportation and traffic engineering concerns urban traffic and includes land use, political, and social parameters of urban planning. Hydraulic and hydrological engineering studies, such as the effect of urbanization on run-off, are part of the University's Water Resources Program and the Sea Grant Program. The Solid Waste Program began in 1964, and the Solid-Waste Laboratory was established two years later. Since the early 1960s sanitary engineering studies have developed in the areas of anaerobic digestion of sludge and algae growth factors and of chemical and physical methods of water treatment.

Engineering Mechanics. — In 1940 most of the Engineering Mechanics faculty had been trained as civil engineers but, through an interest in structural analysis, had chosen a career in applied mechanics. Today this faculty has backgrounds in aeronautical engineering, civil engineering, mathematics, mechanical engineering, and meteorology because mechanics now encompasses a wide range of professional application. By 1970 a much higher level of applied mathematics was required. The use of the digital computer allows students and research workers in mathematics and mechanics to solve problems that were unsolvable a few years earlier. The engineer can now predict effects accurately and inexpensively before designs are made and hardware built. Most master's and Ph.D. graduates from the department engage in teaching or research, and provide technical support for the design activities in large companies. Although the role of the mechanics graduate in industry is basically the same as in 1940, the level and scope of the activities have been enlarged tremendously.

Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering. — The University of Michigan now produces about two-thirds of the graduates in naval architecture and marine engineering in the United States. The present curriculum emphasizes theory in analytical matters and stresses economic imperatives and creativity in the design courses. The old model basin has been modernized and is complemented by a wave and maneuvering basin that has been built on North Campus.

Aerospace Engineering. — The former Department of Aeronautical Engineering has grown dramatically, especially in graduate programs and associated research activity. After World War II the large enrollment of Air Force officers in guided missiles and astronautics graduate programs strengthened the courses in guidance and control, instrumentation, high-speed aerodynamics, and rocket engines. The breadth of research activity now includes research on the upper atmosphere through instrumentation of sounding rockets and satellites, experimental and theoretical research in gas dynamics, research in the areas of automatic control, computers, and communications systems, and in solid mechanics.

In 1968 the graduate program in Information and Control Engineering, established in the early 1950s, became a part of the interdepartmental program in Computer, Information, and Control Engineering. Upper-atmosphere research contributed to the interdepartmental graduate degree program in aeronomy (the study of planetary atmospheres). Research in gas dynamics led to courses concerned with improving the atmospheric environment.

Electrical and Computer Engineering. — Research and enrollments in the department grew sharply after World War II. Curriculum changes and the new Systems Engineering-Electrical and Electrical Science master's degree programs had three bases: (1) the application of the computer in all phases of education and research, (2) the advent of systems engineering, and (3) the expansion of the field of electrical science to include physical electronics, materials, electromagnetic field theory, and physical processes.

The department's research is conducted in eight research laboratories, most of which are on North Campus. The Power Systems Laboratory research is in the generation, transmission, and utilization of electric power. The Bioelectrical Sciences Laboratory research is in electrophysiology and neurophysiology. The Cooley Electronics Laboratory research is in acoustics-optics, communications, information processes, instrumentation, and solid-state circuits. The Electron Physics Laboratory research is with (1) solid-state materials and devices for the generation, amplification, detection, and control of electromagnetic energy from microwave through optical frequencies and (2) basic phenomena in gases and solids. The Radar and Optics Laboratory research is with radar systems, coherent optics, holography, optical data processing, and general electronic systems and analysis. The Radiation Laboratory research is in the radiation propagation and scattering of electromagnetic energy. The Space Physics Research Laboratory research is in experimental and theoretical studies of space environment. The Systems Engineering Laboratory research is in computers, control systems, and information systems.

Almost all graduate study is conducted in seminar sessions directly related to faculty research activities — in programs such as Optics, Solid-State Materials and Devices, and Bioelectric Sciences. The undergraduate programs were affected by the introduction into the curriculum of the digital computer and intermediate-level mathematics courses in systems and vector fields. The undergraduate Machinery Power option was dropped in 1958, when courses in network synthesis, computers, instrumentation, and semiconductor electronics began to enter the curriculum. In 1968 three undergraduate program options were formed to emphasize the wider scope of electrical engineering: Electronics and Design; Electrical Science; and Computer, Information, and Control.

Humanities. — The change in name of the department from English to Humanities reflects the broadening of the humanities and social science education of the engineer. In 1968-69, Great Books courses replaced the freshman composition courses. Advanced courses in rhetoric and scientific and technical communication were implemented at the senior level. While courses in literature were continued, new courses such as "the philosophy of technology" were introduced. In addition, an interdisciplinary elective program in American Studies was established.

Chemical Engineering. — The Department of Chemical Engineering was separated from Metallurgical Engineering at the end of the 1970-71 year. In 1940 Chemical Engineering activities centered on the application of engineering sciences in petroleum exploration, production, and refining. Later, the curriculum emphasized fuels and furnaces, technology of industries, materials, unit operations, and independent research. Core courses now include thermodynamics, rate operations, separations processes, and material properties, while laboratory experience and equipment and process design continue to receive emphasis. Numerous computer applications came to the forefront in the 1960s. Interest in petroleum continues; new areas include biochemical and biomedical engineering, process dynamics, pollution control, ultrasonics, catalysis, the accurate measurement of enthalpies, and polymer rheology.

Materials and Metallurgical Engineering. — Specialization in materials within the department of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering was the first of the present materials-oriented curriculums in the country to receive national accreditation (1957). Paralleling the evolution in the study of metals has been a change in the emphasis of metallurgical engineering activities. The extraction of metals from ores and the industrial chemistry of metal refining after World War II gave way to emphasis on the modification and control of properties through structural changes. This draws heavily on physics as well as chemistry and has related metallurgy to polymers and ceramics. Although emphasis continues in the metallurgical area, now there is concern for the coordination of the mechanical, electrical, thermal, and chemical behavior of all materials to their structures.

Mechanical Engineering. — The Department of Mechanical Engineering absorbed Production Engineering (previously Metal Processing) in 1956 and Engineering Graphics in 1968. Research and the Ph.D. program expanded rapidly when the Automotive and Fluids Laboratories were built on North Campus. Research has been in four major areas. Automotive engineering and combustion research is concerned primarily with air pollution. Mechanical systems research is in dynamic analysis, computers, and biomechanics, and in the development of orthetic and prosthetic devices. Materials and processing research is in machinery, numerical control, plastic deformation and welding, as well as with the basic properties and behavior of solids. Thermal-fluids sciences research is in the areas such as cavitation and multiphase flow, heat transfer, fluid dynamics, and thermodynamics. The 17 departmental laboratories integrate research with instruction, and new graduate sequences have been developed in all areas.

Industrial Engineering. — Since becoming a separate department in 1957, Industrial Engineering has had a steady increase in enrollment and has experienced a notable shift from the M.S.E. to the Ph.D. program. The three main areas of graduate study are: (1) computer aided design, (2) operations research, and (3) human performance. Research activities expanded when the National Institutes of Health supported operations research and human performance methodology in the study of medical systems. The department has pioneered in the area of hospital administration.

Nuclear Engineering. — The Nuclear Engineering Department was organized in 1958 to offer graduate programs emphasizing materials, nuclear fission reactor systems, and plasma analysis and diagnostics. The undergraduate program was initiated in 1965 as a result of the rapid growth of the nuclear power industry. The formation of the Nuclear Engineering department coincided with the construction of the Ford Nuclear Reactor on the North Campus. The Reactor gives students direct access to an operating reactor and provides a powerful source of neutrons and gamma radiation for research purposes.

Research in nuclear engineering has concentrated on the design of nuclear fission reactors, on the use of neutron scattering to study structures of materials, and on controlled fusion. Consequently, the three principal areas of graduate activity are fission reactors, materials, and controlled fusion and plasmas. The undergraduate program is devoted to the analysis, design, and operation of fission power plants in order to train nuclear engineers for the increasing number of nuclear power plants in operation.

Meteorology and Oceanography. — A chair in meteorology was created in 1954 in the Civil Engineering department, and the subsequent program transferred in 1961 to the Department of Engineering Mechanics. In 1963, with the addition of an oceanographer from the College of Literature, Science, and Arts, the Department of Meteorology and Oceanography was founded. Graduate degrees were offered in the late 1950s, and an undergraduate degree was instituted in the early 1960s. Research involves lakes and oceans as well as the atmosphere and stratosphere — from the chemistry of lake water and it’s bearing on marine life to studies of air pollution for both government and industry.

Student Activities. — Student chapters of most of the professional societies serve as an introduction to the engineering profession and contribute to departmental activities. Tau Beta Pi heads the honor societies and provides a wide range of services for engineering students. The Michigan Technic, the student magazine, is published six times a year. It is supplemented by Datum, a bimonthly engineering student newspaper which replaced The Arch. Representatives from these groups, along with other interested students, form the Engineering Council, since 1927 the student government of the College of Engineering. Ingenor, a journal issued twice a year since 1966, is devoted to serious articles and discussions on aspects of the fields of engineering, technology, society, and engineering education.

The College and Industry. — As one of the most important sources of highly trained personnel for industries in the state of Michigan, the College has established continuing relationships with industry. These relationships enable academic activities in research and teaching to remain vital, and enable the College to help Michigan industry incorporate modern knowledge-based technology into its experience-based procedures. The relationships have also led to continued support of the College by industry. This support, in the form of corporation matching-gift policies, matching grants to departments conducting programs for employees, tuition support for these employee-students, and contributions or discounts on much unit equipment over the years, has been crucial to the growth of the College.

Much of this support has resulted from the Industry Program, approved by the faculty in April 1952 to encourage "closer association of the College educational and research programs with industry." Industry is kept in contact with recent engineering developments and current research in physical sciences, while graduate student and faculty research activities develop in industry-related fields.

Thirty companies participated as subscribing members to the Industry Program from 1955 to 1970 and benefited from its many services and activities.

The Chrysler Center for Continuing Education, dedicated in 1967, was built with a $1,250,000 gift from the Chrysler Corporation supplemented by individual donations from Chrysler executives and money from the Engineering Summer Conference fund. The Center is primarily a classroom building for the Summer, Fall, and Spring Conference courses of the Continuing Engineering Education Program. This program was developed to keep practicing engineers and scientists in industry, government, and academic institutions abreast of rapidly developing technology.

J. C. Mathes

The University of Michigan, an Encyclopedic Survey Supplement, Pages 123 - 136.

History of the University of Michigan

College of Engineering

1940 - 1970