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Committee on the Organization of a Technological School records

Identifier: RG-06-002
The records of the Committee on the Organization of a Technological School range in date from 1912 to 1916 and are arranged in one series. They partially document the planning and preparation for the School of Engineering, including negotiations with the Maryland Legislature, development of the curriculum (i.e., admissions standards, course offerings and degree requirements), the search for faculty, establishment of scholarships and design of the buildings. The records apparently were assembled by John B. Whitehead but also include correspondence of committee members Joseph S. Ames and B. Howell Griswold. It is likely that these records are only a small portion of what was generated by the committee; there are, for example, no committee minutes. Nevertheless, they do cover a variety of topics relating to the establishment of the School and present a broad picture of the efforts of the committee.


  • 1912-1916


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In January 1912, the Maryland State Legislature, citing its obligation "to extend to the people of this State the opportunities and facilities for education in applied sciences and advanced technology", appropriated $600,000 to the University to establish "a school or department of applied science and advanced technology." In addition to the original grant, the University was to receive $50,000 annually beginning January 1, 1913. There were virtually no restrictions on how the money was to be spent, except for the stipulation that sufficient funds be set aside for the provision of 129 scholarships for Maryland residents. University President Ira Remsen, faced with the task of building this "technical school" from scratch, appointed a Committee on the Organization of a Technological School to oversee planning of the school's curriculum, hiring of faculty members and construction of buildings. The Committee consisted of Joseph S. Ames, Professor of Physics and Chairman of the Committee, John B. Whitehead, Professor of Applied Electricity, and B. Howell Griswold, a Trustee of the University. Each of these men figured prominently in the Committee's correspondence, with Whitehead, in particular, leading the search for prospective faculty members.

The Committee's first task was to determine the general course of instruction for students. The members desired to prevent a situation which had arisen at technical schools in France and Germany in which students received their degrees after merely taking a certain number of courses, which meant that a student's eligibility for a degree could be determined on little more than class attendance. From the outset, therefore, Whitehead insisted that all graduating students pass standard examinations before receiving their degrees.

Another area of concern was the nature of the basic training which the students would receive in their first years at Hopkins. All of the Committee members were aware of the importance of training engineers who were more than technicians; knowledge of foreign languages and economics in particular were considered essential for an engineer. Thus the Committee decided, for the first two years of undergraduate study, that all students would be required to take courses in mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, English, Economics and business law before proceeding into specialized engineering courses. A reading knowledge of French, German or Latin was also required of all students, and professors of French and German submitted appropriate reading lists to the Committee. The school, officially designated the School of Engineering and Applied Science, was divided into the departments of Civil, Electrical, and Mechanical Engineering, and granted the degrees of Bachelor of Engineering, Bachelor of Science, and Doctor of Philosophy, with the Ph.D. offered only in Electrical and Civil Engineering.

After defining the curriculum, the Committee began assembling a faculty. The search was led by Whitehead, who wrote to colleagues at institutions all over the country soliciting recommendations. Whitehead repeatedly made clear the type of man which he wanted: young, promising in his field (though not necessarily "renowned"), with some experience in either teaching or industry, and with "an inclination for university work." The search for professors continued through the summer and fall of 1912; the number of negative replies received testifies to the difficulty of the task. By November of 1912, however, the Committee had appointed two professors: Charles Tilden, Professor of Engineering Mechanics, and Carl Thomas, Professor of Mechanical Engineering.

Tilden was a graduate of Harvard, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering in 1896. A former employee of the New York Rapid Transit Commission, he had taught Civil Engineering at Cornell and the University of Michigan before coming to Hopkins. Thomas had received a Mechanical Engineer's Certificate from Cornell in 1895, and had worked for various industrial companies including the Westinghouse Machine Company, the General Electric Company, and the Maryland Steel Company before accepting posts at New York University, Cornell, and the University of Wisconsin, where he was Professor of Steam and Gas Engineering.

In addition to the two new professors, Whitehead himself took the post of Professor of Electrical Engineering. Whitehead received a Certificate of Proficiency in Applied Electricity in 1893 from Johns Hopkins. He also took a Bachelor of Arts degree in Applied Electricity from Hopkins in 1898 and a Ph.D. in physics (also from Hopkins) in 1902. He had worked for the Westinghouse Company and the Niagara Falls Power Company before returning to Hopkins in 1897 to study for his advanced degrees.

Another important matter before the Committee was the distribution of scholarship funds. One of the reasons for the founding of the technological school was to keep prospective engineers who were residents of Maryland from leaving the state for their education. To attract qualified students to the new school, the legislature had guaranteed scholarships to 129 residents. Twenty-one of the scholarships were reserved for three students each from the following seven schools: Loyola College, Maryland Agricultural College, Mount Saint Mary's College, Rock Hill College, Saint John's College, Washington College, and Western Maryland College. Six scholarships were to be awarded to any resident of the state, regardless of place of residence, and the remaining scholarships were to be divided among students chosen by their local state senators. Due to the high educational standards adhered to by the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, an especially close relationship developed with that high school; Whitehead recommended in a letter to William Welch (Chairman of the Administrative Committee of the University) that advanced standing in mathematics be granted to Poly graduates in order to entice them to the Hopkins program.

Construction of a building to house the School of Engineering began in 1913. Costing a total of $285,500, the "laboratory" (as it was then called) was to contain classrooms, storage rooms, and an auditorium. The building, later named Maryland Hall in recognition of the Legislature's assistance, was erected "on the south quadrangle of the Homewood development," and was dedicated on May 21, 1915.

In early 1913, preliminary announcement of the Johns Hopkins School of Technology was made to the public. The opening of the school was set for October 1913, and by that time there were eighty students enrolled. In February 1914, Whitehead, Ames, Thomas, and Griswold presented a report to the Legislature detailing the progress of the school. This report mentions for the first time a "Department of Engineering", and it was after the issuance of this report that the Committee went out of existence.


Transferred by Cynthia Requardt, Manuscripts Librarian, Special Collections Department of the Milton S. Eisenhower Library.

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Finding aid prepared by James Knighton.

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Part of the Special Collections Repository

The Sheridan Libraries
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3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA