Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/269

This page has been validated.

furnishing a supply. Manufacturers and leaders of industrial enterprise soon found that they could not afford to do without the services of young men trained in scientific principles. In this way, by reversing the usual law of supply and demand, these schools contributed powerfully to advance the technical development of the country, far indeed beyond the measure that may be inferred from the mere number of their graduates.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology was chartered in 1861, and first opened to students in 1865. Its claim to recognition as a leader in the development of technical education may perhaps be summarized as follows: It was the first school in the world to institute laboratory instruction in physics and chemistry to students in large classes as a part of the regular course of each candidate for a degree; the first to equip a mining and metallurgical laboratory for the instruction of students by actual treatment of ores in large quantities; the first to establish a laboratory for teaching the nature and uses of steam, and a laboratory for testing the strength of materials of construction in commercial sizes; and the first in America to establish a department of architecture. Later still, it was the first school in America to establish distinct and specialized courses of study in electrical engineering, in sanitary engineering, in chemical engineering and in naval architecture.

The success of the school has been commensurate with its progressiveness. It stands to-day the largest, most complete school of its class in the United States, and one of the largest in the world. The number of its students is 1,176, the number of its teachers, including lecturers, 175. Excluding lecturers, the number of students per teacher is only 8.7, a ratio which is a good general index of the character of the instruction. The students come from 40 States and Territories of the Union and from 12 foreign countries.

Before passing to a more detailed description of the work of its various departments, some general characteristics of the school should be mentioned. The first is the great variety of its courses and the specialization of its instruction. It is a college of general technology, embracing almost every branch of study which finds application in the arts. There are thirteen distinct courses of study: Civil and topographical engineering, mechanical engineering, mining engineering and metallurgy, architecture, chemistry, electrical engineering, biology, physics, general studies, chemical engineering, sanitary engineering, geology and naval architecture. These several departments mutually support and reinforce each other, and allow a specialization of the instruction which would be impossible in a smaller college with a less numerous staff of instructors. Thus, at the Institute of Technology, there are not only professors of civil engineering and of