« PreviousContinue »
SCIENTIFIC, TECHNICAL AND ENGINEERING SCHOOLS
The development of the schools of science and technology in the United States is, practically, an affair of the last half of the nineteenth century. In a large measure the same is true of similar institutions in Europe, for although there are isolated examples of earlier foundations both in Europe and America, it is only during the past fifty years that in number and importance they have come to rank with older systems of intellectual and professional training. Their comparatively recent origin is readily accounted for when it is remembered that they are nearly all schools in which science is taught with a view to its practical application and that the admission to the college curriculum of any part of what is now generally included under the term "science" was a rare novelty in the early part of the century. The modern scientific school or engineering college is largely indebted for its being to Archimedes, Galileo, Bacon, Kepler, Newton and a host of others who by creating exact science made applied science possible. The idea of a school of science or of a college in which the applications of scientific discovery might be taught was of slow growth at the beginning, and naturally so, for their successful development demanded the evolution of methods of instruction entirely new and often in violation of accepted tradition.
A class of professional schools had existed, indeed, almost as long as education itself, namely, schools for training candidates for the so-called "learned" professions, law, medicine and theology, but it will not be claimed that they had much
'The author begs to express his appreciation of the assistance generously rendered by officers of many of the institutions referred to in this paper who kindly furnished information in the form of printed circulars, catalogues and other important publications, much of which he has made use of, and much more of which he would have gladly used had the limits of space permitted.
in common, either as to method or material, with the modern school of science.
The earliest technical schools, those of a hundred years ago or more, almost without exception grew out of the industrial demands of the locality in which they were founded. One of the best examples is the famous School of mines at Freiberg which has enjoyed a long and illustrious career and many of the earlier European schools belong to the same class. To these and the more modern schools of science and technology the United States is greatly indebted, especially on account of the generous welcome that has always been extended to American students and for the inspiration with which many of them have returned to take their part in the wonderful educational evolution which the last half century has witnessed.
But in all cases European methods have been adapted rather than adopted. Political, social and material conditions have largely influenced educational foundations, and while the nearly one hundred schools of science and engineering scattered over the United States have many points of resemblance, there is much individuality, particularly among the strongest and best, and it is believed that their several types represent important advances in the direction of scientific and technical education which will not be without interest to educators in other parts of the world.
The limit necessarily put upon the length of this paper makes it impossible to consider historically or otherwise all of the institutions which would properly come under its title. A not very exact classification based on organization easily divides all into three groups, and the end in view will be best accomplished by selecting for more careful description some of the more important representatives of each group. The order of presentation will be, in the main, chronological according to the date of establishment, and this will be departed from only when necessary to include the leading types of the several groups.
In the first group will be included those schools and col
leges devoted practically exclusively to science and technology, which have independent foundations and which are not under state or government control. These have almost invariably originated in private endowment, often of one man, and rely for their support upon the income from their endowment and from tuition fees.
The second group embraces those schools which are closely affiliated with other colleges or schools forming universities, sometimes without a distinctly separate faculty or special organization, whose work has been largely individualized, sometimes having a distinguishing name, and not under state or government control. Some members of this group are wholly or partly supported by separate endowments and fix and collect their own tuition fees, while others depend upon sharing the common resources of the larger whole of which they are a part.
In the third group are included that very large and important class of schools supported largely, if not entirely, by state and government appropriation.
The organization of some of these resembles in an important particular that of the first group in the fact that they enjoy a separate existence as schools of science or technology, being independent of any college or university affiliation. The majority, however, are not thus independent, and must be regarded as departments of a college, or schools or colleges of a university. A few of them originated in private endowments and do not rely entirely on the state or national government for support, but yet are so largely dependent on that source of revenue that they fairly belong to the group. Something of the origin, history and development of a few of the principal representatives of these three groups will be given, to be followed by some general statements relating to requirements for admission, courses of study, degrees and other matters of interest or importance.
The first endowment and organization of a school of science in the United States was that of the Rensselaer
polytechnic institute in 1824. The founder, Stephen Van Rensselaer, was born in New York November 1, 1765, and died in Albany January 26, 1839. He was known as the "eighth patroon," having inherited his rank and estates from ancestors who had for generations ruled over that enormous feudal estate purchased and colonized early in the 17th century by Killian Van Rensselaer of Amsterdam, Holland. Stephen Van Rensselaer lost his baronial rights on the establishment of the colonial government during the revolutionary war, and the extent and value of the estate, which included the entire territory now comprised in the counties of Albany, Columbia and Rensselaer, were considerably diminished, but after graduating from Harvard college, he took active steps looking to the improvement of the very large property still remaining, and also rapidly became a prominent figure in the politics of the new nation, being in many ways peculiarly fitted for public duties and responsibilities. His early interest in engineering is proved by the fact that he was the first to propose a canal connecting the Hudson river with the great lakes. As a commissioner of the state, he made a personal investigation of the route, and in 1811 a report which was received with favor. The war of 1812 with Great Britain intervening to postpone action upon this important enterprise, he entered the military service as commander of the United States forces on the northern frontier. At the close of the war he again took hold of the canal project and became chairman of the canal commission. In the discharge of his duty as such, he caused to be made by Professor Amos Eaton in 1821-23, a geological survey along the line of the canal from Albany to Buffalo, the examination being also extended some distance into Massachusetts. The importance of the results of this work so impressed itself upon him, together with the lack of men capable of properly conducting such enterprises, as to convince him of the desirability and necessity for scientific and technical education. Professor Eaton, who executed this early geological survey for Van Rensselaer, was a man of many