Thomas Clark Shedd, Hardy Cross, and the “Broad Aspects” of Civil Engineering

In February, the University Archives acquired the papers of Thomas Clark Shedd, Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Illinois from 1925 through 1958. Comprising correspondence, publications, photographs, a field notebook, and even a slide rule, Shedd’s papers document his research on railway and bridge design as well as his interest in teaching and the development of the structural engineering curriculum. This acquisition is important not only for shedding light on his career and research, but also for his influence on the Department of Civil Engineering (now Civil and Environmental Engineering), especially in terms of its instructional mission.[1] Most notably, his papers include a great deal of correspondence with his colleague and long-time friend, Hardy Cross, Professor of Civil Engineering at the U of I from 1921 to 1937. Shedd’s papers thus complement the University Archives’ substantial collection of administrative records and personal papers relating to civil engineering, including Hardy Cross’ papers.

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History of the Engineering Open House

“Engineers, as all citizens, have a stake in the future,” Dean Daniel Drucker wrote in his welcome letter for the 1975 Engineering Open House.[1] Echoing this sentiment a year later, he noted the global and societal importance of the work of the University of Illinois Engineering faculty, students, and alumni:

Photo of visitors at an Engineering Open House exhibit, ca. 1959. Found in Record Series 11/1/12.
Photo of visitors at an Engineering Open House exhibit, ca. 1959. Found in Record Series 11/1/12.

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Joseph Tykociner and the “Talking Film”

When Joseph Tykosinki-Tykociner arrived at the University of Illinois in 1921, little did the itinerant electrical engineer know that his dream of inventing sound motion pictures would reach fruition less than a year later. Tykociner, like many enterprising inventors of the early 20th century, developed his ideas during an era in which the academic discipline of engineering became firmly established—the creation of which bridged the gap between the roles of the “inventor” and the “scientist.” Indeed, as a discipline, electrical engineering was only a few decades old. Founded in 1891, the Department of Electrical Engineering (now the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering) at the University of Illinois was initially a unit within the Department of Physics. President Andrew S. Draper separated the two departments in 1895, wishing to develop electrical engineering into a formidable department that could respond to increasing demands for individuals trained in the “principles of electricity, as it applied in the design, production, and operation of such electrical equipment as telephone and telegraph apparatus, power plants, and city and industrial systems.”[1] Continue reading “Joseph Tykociner and the “Talking Film””

Capturing and Preserving Engineering’s History

In 1950, Nathan M. Newmark began work on perhaps the most important project of his career—the design and construction of the earthquake-resistant Latino-Americana Tower in Mexico City. This was to be no ordinary building, however, given the difficulties of construction on the city’s unique geological strata prone to seismic activity. As Professor of Civil Engineering, Newmark had been at the University of Illinois since 1930, first as a student and then as a faculty member since 1937. Having a reputation as a brilliant researcher, Newmark’s expansive knowledge of structural engineering earned him many accolades. Shortly after the 43-story building was completed in 1957, a 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck Mexico City. Amid the destruction, the Latino-Americana building remained standing and intact, “as a symbol of the value of painstaking attention to detail in aseismic design.”[1] Continue reading “Capturing and Preserving Engineering’s History”