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abandoning the idea of culture and placing the instruction upon a more utilitarian basis. If English be regarded as a means to an end instead of linguistic drill, if the aim of teaching French and German be to read fluently the language of to-day instead of laboriously to decipher the meaning of the poets of centuries ago, true zeal on the part of students will arise and a truer culture will result.
At the close of the college course the student presents a thesis showing his ability to apply the principles and rules of engineering in the investigation or design of a special problem. The tendency has been strong to abandon subjects which involve mere descriptions or compilation, and to insist upon those that will require the student to exercise his own powers. Thus the value of the work to the student has been greatly increased, and the theses of each class are a source of stimulus to the following ones. Although the view held by some that theses should be monographs setting forth important conclusions of original investigations, is one that can not in general be realized, it is a gratification to note that each year a few theses are produced which are sufficiently valuable to warrant immediate publication.
The formation of engineering clubs among students for the discussion of the details of professional work is one of the most important tendencies of recent years. No exercise is so valuable to a student as one entirely originated and performed by himself, and the preparation of a paper which is to be presented to and criticized by his fellows ranks highest of all among such exercises. Recently there has been forced upon my
notice a remarkable activity in the three engineering clubs of a certain engineering college, more than fifty papers having been read and discussed during the year by a total of about three hundred and fifty students, besides a number of others read before the mathematical club. In meetings of this kind the scientific and economic questions under discussion in the engineering journals receive a detailed attention which the professor in the class room often finds it impossible to give, while the advantage to students in expressing themselves in debate is very great.
Occasional lectures to classes by practicing engineers have been introduced in many institutions during the past decade, and with uniformly good results. In engineering education there is no conflict between theory and practice, and every professor cordially welcomes distinguished engineers to explain their great structures and achievements to his classes. It is an inspiration to students to see and hear those men who have so successfully applied sound science to economic construction, and whose influence has been uniformly to elevate the standard of the profession.
After four years of work the engineering student receives his degree and is ready to commence the actual work of life. What the letters are that designate the degree is a matter of small importance. Moreover, if we examine the lists of alumni who graduated ten or fifteen years ago, the conviction arises that their particular course of engineering study has not been an absolute factor in determining their actual line of engineering work. It is found that graduates in civil engineering are engaged in mining, in machinery and
in electricity, and that graduates in other courses are employed upon work in which they received no especial technical instruction. Thus it appears also that the particular course of engineering study is not so important a matter as students and the public generally suppose. In fact, a young man thoroughly grounded in fundamental principles and well trained how to apply them has almost an equal chance for success in all branches of engineering practice.
Looking now over the field of tendency thus briefly outlined, it is seen that there has been ever present a powerful impulse towards specialization, to which, indeed, nearly all others have been subordinated. This has demanded a higher standard of admission, great thoroughness in all fundamental subjects, and a rigid adherence to scientific methods. Engineering education has had an active and healthy growth; it now enjoys the respect and confidence of the public, and its future is sure to be more influential than its past. It is not specialization that has caused its success, but rather the methods which specialization has demanded. Those methods have resulted in imparting to students zeal and fidelity, a love of hard work, a veneration for the truths of science, and a consciousness of being able to attack and overcome difficulties; these elements of character are, indeed, the foundations of success in life.
Looking now forward into the future, it is seen that in our efforts for the promotion of engineering education a wide field for work still lies open. The student should enter the engineering college with a broader training and a more mature judgment. The present methods of instruction are to be rendered more thorough and more scientific. In particular, the fundamental subjects of mathematics, physics and mechanics are to be given a wider scope, while the languages and the humanities are to be so taught as to furnish that broad, general culture needed by every educated man. In general let it be kept in mind that education is more important than engineering, for the number of men who can follow the active practice of the profession will always be limited. Hence let it be the object of engineering education to influence the world in those elements of character that the true engineer possesses, so that every graduate may the duties of life with a spirit of zeal and integrity, with a firm reliance upon scientific laws and methods, and with a courage to do his work so as best to conduce to the highest welfare of his country and of mankind.
A QUARTER CENTURY OF PROGRESS IN ENGI
BY PROFESSOR ROBERT FLETCHER.
Director of the Thayer School of Civil Engineering, Dartmouth
College, Hanover, N. H.
THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF THE STATUS OF 1870.
The Committee of Civil Engineers” which edited the Reports of Smeaton in 1812 made this observation: “Before or about the year 1760 a new æra in all the arts and sciences, learned and polite, commenced in this country (Great Britain). Everything which contributes to the comfort, the beauty and the prosperity of a country, moved forward in improvement so rapidly and so obviously as to mark that period with particular distinction.” After brief reference to the enormous development of manufactures, internal navigation, harbor works, military and naval establishments, etc., they add: "This general situation and condition of things gave rise to a new profession and order of men called CIVIL ENGINEERS."
The “æra” was that of Brindley, the early canal builder; Smeaton, who first bore the title of the new order; Metcalfe, the blind road builder ; Rennie and Telford, whose various works covered the kingdom; and Watt and Stephenson, whose mechanical triumphs gave to mankind all the potentialities of the steam engine and locomotive.