Department of Civil Engineering

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This entry is currently under development. Please do not consider the entry authoritative until it has been completed.

Civil Engineering student Elizabeth Pugh with telescope in the restored Brydone Jack Observatory. Record group/Fonds PR; Series 2; Sub-series 3; File 677; Item no. 6 April 1985.

Previously named: Civil Engineering and Surveying, Civil Engineering and Applied Mechanics

Established: 1889

History: The study and practice of Civil Engineering at UNB began with the combined efforts of Dr. William Brydone Jack and Lieutenant Governor Sir Edmund Head to establish a course in Civil Engineering and Surveying on the Fredericton campus. At the time of his appointment as a professor at the University in 1840, Brydone Jack held a background of training in mathematics and physics, which assisted with the overall introduction of the Applied Sciences at UNB. Before the official approval of a civil engineering course at the University, Dr. Brydone Jack provided lectures in surveying as part of his Mathematics course, which also included some fieldwork. The main objective for Brydone Jack and Head was to implement more practical subjects in the University's curriculum, which had originally focused on the Liberal Arts and the Sciences. The instruction of Applied Science was not valued to the same degree as the classical subjects prior to the major changes made to the University in the 1850s. Sir Edmund Head wrote to the Chief Justice (also Chancellor of the University) in 1852, convincing him to make an appeal to the College Council regarding this goal. In 1853, the University received funding from the College Council for lectures and practical teaching in Civil Engineering and Drawing, also providing certificates of proficiency for students who successfully completed the course of lectures.

The first lecture was given in the winter of 1854 as part of a three-month course. Following the granting of the Charter to the University of New Brunswick, a one-year certificate course in Civil Engineering and Surveying was introduced in 1859. The Civil Engineering students focused on entering the field of railway building, the most common career for them at the time. Throughout the 1860s, 70s, and 80s, there was no single staff member responsible for teaching engineering at UNB. Special courses were lectured by Arts instructors along with the occasional person who possessed actual experience in the field. For example, lectures in Chemistry involving subjects on heat, light, and electricity were required for students in Engineering. In the early 1870s, a Science Course was established and consisted of three loosely-organized departments: Mathematical, Natural Science, and English. Under the Department of Mathematics, there were Civil Engineering courses such as Surveying and Levelling, Principles of Navigation, as well as a course titled Land Surveying and Engineering, offered in rotation for a number of years. In 1889, two new Chairs were established at UNB, one for Experimental Science (later named Physics), and the other for Civil Engineering and Surveying. Allan Wilmot Strong was the first chairperson and professor appointed to teach Civil Engineering and Surveying. There were four courses under this Department following its establishment: Civil Engineering and Applied Mechanics, Descriptive Geometry and Drawing, Surveying and Practical Astronomy, and Mathematics and Mathematical Physics. Civil Engineering was laid out as a four-year program by 1892, with more than seventeen courses required for Engineering students. Emphasis was placed on both railway and bridge surveying and design. There were around twenty-three courses the following year and diplomas were granted to students who completed the program. Course offerings were initially quite diverse under this Department, as students were also taught Chemistry, English, Logic, Astronomy, and Geology. A Bachelor degree in Engineering was not offered until the 1899-1900 academic year, when there was a significant increase in student registered for Engineering at the university. The Master's degree in Engineering was also made available to any person with a minimum of two years of experience in the profession, a submitted thesis, and a successful examination. Those who previously received a diploma in Civil Engineering were eligible under the same conditions. There were thirty-one courses offered by the Department at this point.

By 1903, course offerings grew to forty-one courses which covered multiple branches of Civil Engineering including Railroad, Hydraulic, Highway, and so on. Some of the courses included Steam Engine, Mechanics, Road and Highway Construction, Metallurgy, and Law of Contracts. Theory courses were also taught to complement the practical work. Other branches that later became separate engineering programs and departments at UNB were taught under Civil Engineering and Applied Mechanics in these earlier years, making the course quite broad in scope altogether. In 1907, the Bachelor degree offered under Engineering was divided and both a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering and a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering were offered. From the beginning of the twentieth century up to the Second World War, the University of New Brunswick was heavily occupied with developing its schools of Engineering and Forestry. In 1909, both the Faculty and the Department of Applied Science were established at UNB. This department held four-year programs in Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Forestry. Apart from the required arts and science courses in the first two years, there were more specific courses for an Engineering or Forestry student's third and fourth year. Course offerings under 'Civil Engineering and Mechanics' decreased since other newly-specified categories or programs took on some courses originally offered through Civil. There were eight course offerings that began in a student's second or third year, including Mechanics of Materials, Applied Mechanics, Materials and Foundations, Structures, and Designing. By 1922 there were ten courses with some introducing newer content in Reinforced Concrete, Elementary Mechanics, and Strength of Materials. Between 1920s and 1940, progress was slow but steady in the Engineering department at UNB, with students enrolling at a moderate pace. The curriculum remained mostly unchanged until the 1940s, when ex-service students began enrolling and more staff members were hired. By the 1948-49 academic year, there were twenty-one courses offered under Civil Engineering. Some courses throughout the 1950s included Water Power Engineering, Public Health Engineering, Engineering for Foresters, Water Treatment and Water Supply, and Sewage Treatment.

Class sizes grew rapidly and forty-two Civil Engineering courses were offered by 1961. Undergraduate enrollment was even more frequent during the 1970s and course offerings peaked at sixty-two in 1973 with nearly twenty staff members coordinating the classes. A slight decrease occurred when around fifty-five courses were offered through the 1980s. The 1990s saw fifty-eight Civil Engineering courses offered on average. Throughout the 2000s, the Department offered more diverse subjects such as Earthquake Engineering, Intro to Finite Elements, Bridge Design, Embankments, and Concrete Technology. The Department held twenty-three professors at this time, and has kept around fifty-four course offerings for most of the previous decade up until the 2012-2013 academic year.

Physical location: Sir Edmund Head Hall

Faculty: Engineering

Notes: The year that a certain department was established can be a subjective figure. For the purpose of this wiki, the year that a department is considered first established is the first year it was listed in the academic calendar as an independent chair with no other affiliation, unless documentation can demonstrate otherwise.


  • Baird, A. Foster. “The History of Engineering at the University of New Brunswick”. The University of New Brunswick Memorial Volume. Ed. Alfred G. Bailey. Fredericton: University of New Brunswick, 1950. 75-86.
  • Harris, Robin S. A History of Higher Education in Canada, 1663-1960. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1976.
  • UNB Calendars (UA RG 86) 1870-71, 1889-90, 1891-92, 1892-93, 1894-95, 1900, 1903, 1904, 1907, 1909, 1913, 1921, 1922, 1948-49, 1958-59, 1960-61, 1972-73, 1980-81, 1992-93, 1995-96, 1999-2000, 2008-09, 2012-13.
  • Wade, Scott and Hugh Lloyd. Behind the Hill. Fredericton, NB: Published by the Students’ Representative Council, the Associated Alumni and the Senate of the University of New Brunswick, 1967.

--HollyMiller 28 January 2013 (ADT)
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