Oregon State UniversitySpecial Collections & Archives Research Center

College of Engineering Photograph Collection, 1920-2013

Historical Note

Instruction in engineering at Oregon State dates back to the 1880s, when mathematics professors incorporated concepts in engineering as a part of their teaching of math. In 1889, Grant Adelbert Covell was appointed to the first professorship exclusively devoted to engineering and soon following this appointment, he formed the Department of Mechanical Engineering. The first two graduates of this new department received their degrees in 1893. Soon after the first undergraduate degrees in mechanical engineering were awarded, the college established instructional departments in three other branches of engineering: Electrical (1897), Mining (1904), and Civil (1905).

In 1908, a School of Engineering was formed to bring the four engineering departments together under a single administrative umbrella. Covell served as the school’s first dean. Chemical Engineering, which was established in 1917 as an independent department reporting to the President’s office, later incorporated into the school in 1932. Other engineering curricula established at OSU that expanded the school further included Industrial Engineering (1943), Nuclear Engineering (1968), and Computer Science (1974). In 1947, the Schools of Agriculture and Engineering reached an agreement to cooperatively administer curriculum in Agricultural Engineering (later to become Biological and Ecological Engineering).

Other benchmarks reflecting the growth of engineering curricula at OSU are the establishment of a doctorate program in engineering in 1945 and the upgrade of the school to the status of college in 1983. Since the inception of engineering coursework in 1889, it is estimated that a total of about 29,000 students have received degrees in engineering at Oregon State.

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