The First Hundred Years

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President, E. G. M. Cape and Company
Montreal, Quebec



This is one in a series of speeches given at the University of New Brunswick and published by the University

I would like to first thank you, Mr. President, for the honour you have conferred, not upon the person of your speaker, but upon the Engineering profession, in writing as you did to say "it was decided that we should have an Engineer deliver the Founders' Day Address." It is an honour indeed for an engineer to be invited to address any audience. Too frequently members of our profession are regarded, and not without reason, as people who are inherently inarticulate, somewhat absorbed in their work, inclined to leave to others the less arduous, but somewhat more glamorous task of talking about the work engineers do or about the opinions they hold.

This year, in fact this very day, the 154 year old University of New Brunswick is celebrating the One Hundredth anniversary of the institution of instruction in engineering within its halls and that celebration may be regarded as unique in that, up to this date at least, no other university in Canada has embarked upon the celebration of a similar event. Indeed the building in which the first lecture in Engineering took place dates back to 1828 and itself constitutes a museum piece among Canadian collegiate buildings.

The one hundredth birthday of a Canadian university still attracts some attention in academic circles, there being only five known as engineering degree granting universities which have to date attained that antiquity. In the United States the entrance of another university to this charmed circle is in the news with some regularity in recent years and, of course, in Europe it can almost be said that universities of less than 100 years of age are the exception rather than the rule.

But Engineering is a relatively young profession, and while many great engineering works and monuments of the past, dating back to those great Egyptian and Roman structures, have endured through the ages, it was not until during the past 150 years that formal instruction in engineering in the universities began. The reasons for this would make an interesting subject of research, and undoubtedly these reasons would be linked, among others, with the fact that public works were carried out by military engineers, and where works were sponsored by private interests they were frequently under the supervision of men trained in pure science who would have been puzzled by today's expression "applied science."

Let us look briefly at the world situation concerning technical education for the 100 years immediately prior to the inauguration of engineering instruction at the University of New Brunswick. This is stated so concisely by a report of the S.P.E.E.+ 1923-1929, well known to educators that I quote two short paragraphs:--

“In 1750, France alone had a recognized profession of engineers and a school for their recruitment and training. In 1800, the engineering profession was first emerging in England and could scarcely be said to exist in the United States. There was then no school of applied science in the entire English-speaking world. Germany was a scattered group of agricultural states possessing two small mining academies and a very feeble school for surveyors and builders. France had two flourishing schools for civil engineers and two others for military engineers, and she had created the most notable scientific school in the world.

By 1850, France was still the world’s leading center of engineering education. Great Britain had but three centers of engineering instruction and only one professional chair of engineering. The United States had one established school of civil engineering and three other schools of applied science in a rudimentary stage of development. Germany was in the early stages of her great industrial advance with eight rapidly developing polytechnic schools, three mining academies and numerous technical schools of lower rank. Switzerland had not yet established her federal polytechnic school. The institutions referred to in the United States are the U.S. Military Academy, West Point—which was operating really as a polytechnic school in 1817, though originally founded in 1802; the Rensselaer School—which later became the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1824, and so well favourably known as the first professional school of civil engineering in the English-speaking world; then in 1845 Union college introduced Civil Engineering. Dartmouth founded the Chandler Scientific School in 1851 and the University of Michigan introduced instruction in engineering in 1852. For the record it should be said that, while not strictly engineering schools, the Lawrence Scientific School at Harvard and the Department of Philosophy and Arts at Yale, later to become the Sheffield Scientific School, were founded in 1847.

Such was the world situation as far as engineering education was concerned when what was acknowledged to be a “time of crisis” came to King’s College, New Brunswick, namely, the decade from 1850 to 1860. Throughout this decade King’s College was engaged in a struggle for its very existence. It became the victim of political, religious and personal intrigue and of what is known today as professional jealousies arising out of various controversies, the chief of which appears, from this distance, to have originated from the suggestion of certain far-seeing men possessed with a gift of prophecy that instruction should be given in subjects which were the forerunner of the present engineering course.

The story of this controversy is woven into the very fabric of the University of New Brunswick tradition; it is vitally interesting, instructive and well recorded by several competent authorities in that delightful “Memorial Volume” published on the occasion of the celebration, in 1950, of the 150th anniversary of the granting of the Charter of Incorporation.

It must be assumed that most of this audience would have carefully perused this volume. To those who have not I commend it to their attention.

To one approaching this epic from a neutral standpoint and conversant with the history of this and other Canadian institutions involved in similar struggles for survival –struggles which must have seemed to present almost insurmountable difficulties—it must become evident that the story of the University of New Brunswick was far from being one of only average difficulty. Indeed, the unbiased historian might well say that due to isolation and being surrounded by an area relatively poor in financial, natural and population resources, its problems exceeded those of other Canadian institutions and survival was only achieved because of the indomitable and stubborn spirit of the persons devoted to maintaining the institution. It is a tradition which should be, and undoubtedly is, an inspiration to the present generation of students of this University.

When the scholarly Dr. Edwin Jacob, who presided over the destinies of King’s College for 30 years said in 1851—

“To those who would make the college a polytechnic institution, we may not promise much more in the way of merely practical teaching, we must not listen to the cry which calls us from the pursuit of truth and virtue to the lower paths and grosser occupations of the multitude, we will not yield to the suggestions which would tempt us to pander to the unworthy passions . . . . . . .”

He was merely expressing in a somewhat more dignified manner the thoughts of the distinguished Dean of Arts in a certain Ontario University when, in an unguarded moment, he stated that in his opinion the graduates of the Engineering faculty were little more than “educated plumbers”, an expression which the students in other faculties will not today, after fifty years, allow to lapse into disuse. As one reads the record, Dr. Jacob fought a clean but hard fight and there is little evidence to support anything but that he had a rigid conviction that the university would become a vocational school if the principles he expounded were not observed. It is easy at this point, one hundred years later, to criticize that great man and say he laced vision. In the United States, with a population of 35 million in 1866, there were but six engineering colleges of established reputation and only 300 men had been graduated in the previous 31 years. One cannot be surprised that Dr. Jacob was still unconvinced in 1854 of the value or the wisdom of engineering education.

It remained for two men, Dr. William Brydone-Jack, who came in 1840 to King’s as Professor of Mathematics, Natural History and Astronomy, and Sir Edmund Head, Governor of New Brunswick from 1847 to 1854, to bring to fruition the movement to establish engineering instruction here. Foster Baird++ wrote:--

“I regard these two men as having laid the foundations of our academical engineering structure of today”

and, indeed, Sir Edmund Head is described in your “Memorial Volume”, previously mentioned, as the man whose foresight as Governor of New Brunswick saved the college from destruction. Sir Edmund Head after completing his term as Governor of New Brunswick, became Governor-General of Canada from 1854 to 1861. He was described by Lord Elgin, who preceded him, as a gentleman of highest character, the greatest ability and the most varied accomplishments and attainments”. In addition he had been a fellow of Merton College, Oxford, (1830-37) and well qualified to speak with authority and conviction on matters pertaining to education.

No apology is offered, therefore, for underlining here an appreciation of Dr. William Brydone-Jack, the man who appears, from all records available, to have been the master mind behind the action of Sir Edmund Head. William Brydone-Jack was a Scot who had studied at St. Andrews and had come under the influence of its famous Principal, Sir David Brewster, on of the greatest mathematicians of his time. He was a man of outstanding and vigorous personality, which was soon felt both in the lecture room and in the Fredericton community, and to engineers today across this country it seems that his personality has been impressed upon the succeeding generations of Brydone-Jacks. Two of his sons became prominent in Engineering, one E. B. Brydone-Jack as Professor of Civil Engineering first at the University of New Brunswick then at Dalhousie University, later to become first Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Manitoba. A second son, Robert Brydone-Jack, became engineer of construction of the White Horse Pass and Yukon River Railway. A third, A. C. Brydone-Jack, was a prominent barrister of Vancouver and a fourth was a distinguished surgeon—Wm. D. Brydone-Jack, a graduate of Edinburgh University. The next and what might be called the present generation are also prominent in the profession in the persons of H. D. Brydone-Jack—Chief Engineer of all construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway and Brydone Millidge one of Canada’s prominent engineering-industrialists.

Dr. William Brydone-Jack was in truth one of the intellectual giants of his time and his forward thinking is perhaps best manifested by notes in his personal diary of 1867 to which are attached sketches of a proposed biplane and calculation in aerodynamics.

It was a fortuitous thing that the cause of engineering education in New Brunswick was sponsored by two such champions so that in 1852, when Sir Edmund head wrote a letter to the chief Justice of the Province, also Chancellor of the college, advocating in strongest terms a course in engineering, little time was lost. A committee was formed and reported that “more specific attention might be given to Civil Engineering” among other things. The report was implemented forthwith and, on April 2nd, 1853, a statute is to be found authorizing the appropriation of funds to “defray the expense of lectures and practical instruction to be given in Civil Engineering and Drawing.”

Advertisements in the press followed on December 10th 1853 and the first lecture was delivered exactly 100 years ago today, namely February 15th, 1854.

The name of the first lecturer in Civil Engineering should be recorded and for that purpose this somewhat quaint press item of the day is quoted:--

“Mr. Cregan, who was engaged some time since to give a series of lectures on Civil Engineering in King’s College delivered the introductory one on Wednesday last. Of this lecture we have heard a most favourable report from those who were present at its delivery, who represent it as displaying a large amount of talent and practical information, skilfully conceived and well communicated.”

The record is not clear as to how many achieved graduation from this course in the years 1854 to 1862 but in the latter year the first certificate of graduation, of which there is record, is that given to Henry George Clopper Ketchum.

Thus briefly—and far too briefly—were the beginnings of Engineering at the University of New Brunswick.

In 1853 Sir Edmund Head was for a short time in England. Upon his return to British North America he landed at Halifax in company with an old friend, Sir Charles Lyell, a distinguished Geologist, who introduced him to the Superintendent of Education in Nova Scotia, a man by the name of William Dawson. Sir Edmund, who by this time was thoroughly indoctrinated by the views of William Brydone-Jack, was deeply impressed by Dr. Dawson’s views on educational reform and as a result appointed him in the following year, 1854, to the commission formed to report on the re-organization of the University of New Brunswick—or King’s College, which was described by the late Dr. Cyrus MacMillan+++ “then in a precarious state”.

That same year the Governors of McGill University, Montreal, on the advice of Sir Edmund Head, who was about to become Governor General of Canada, offered the Principalship of McGill to William Dawson. He accepted the post and began his duties in the Autumn of 1855.

“When I accepted the Principalship of McGill” said Dr. Dawson, “I had not been in Montreal and I knew the College and the men connected with it only by reputation—I saw it first in October, 1955”. On November 5th, 1855 he was inaugurated Principal. A few days later he established the first real link between University and the citizens on the purely instructional side by the commencement of a course of 30 popular lectures in Zoology, Natural Philosophy, Civil Engineering, Palaeography and Chemistry. The fee for the course was [pound sign]1:0:0. The course in Engineering was the origin of the Department of Applied Science, which later expanded into a faculty.

In an inaugural address delivered in 1855, Dr. William Dawson pointed out the importance to the University of a department of practical science.

In the following year T. C. Keefer, C.E., was appointed Professor of Hydraulic Engineering but was called away from Montreal without having entered upon the duties of his office. At the same time Robert Crawford, B.A., was made Professor of Road and Railway Engineering, which position he held until the year 1857, when he was succeeded by Mark J. Hamilton, C.E., who held the post until the year 1865. the first graduate was Oliver Gooding, who, in 1858, received the diploma of civil Engineering and the total number of graduates up to 1865, when the Department lapsed, was fifteen.

In 1871 the Department was re-established in connection with the Faculty of Arts, the special course of study required extending over three years and leading to the degree of Bachelor of Applied Science.

I am indebted to Dean R. E. Jamieson of the Faculty of Engineering at McGill for the following:--

"The McGill University calendar for 1861-62 refers to that session as the tenth session of the University. Apparently formal instruction started in 1851-52, and as the first graduate in engineering received his diploma in 1858, and as his course was of two years minimum, formal instruction in Civil Engineering must have begun not later than the Fall of 1856.

Initially, instruction in engineering was given in the Faculty of Arts. The first graduate in engineering, a Mr. Oliver Gooding, received the diploma in Civil Engineering in 1858. From inauguration of the diploma until the session of 1871-72 this was the diploma awarded, two years being required for the course, but there were no graduates from 1865 through 1871. In the session of 1872-73 the diploma was changed to the degree of bachelor of Applied Science, the length of the course being three years. A note in the calendar of that year states that "Graduates in Civil Engineering may obtain this (B.A. Sc.) degree and diploma in exchange for that which they now hold . . . . . on application". The instructional staff was grouped as the "Department of Practical and Applied Science" but remained in the Faculty of Arts. On Monday, 19th February, 1872, the inaugural lecture of this department was delivered in the William Molson Hall of the university by Professor of Civil Engineering and Applied Mechanics. In the foreword the author remarks that "the School of Practical Science which this lecture inaugurates, is the first attempt which has been made in British North America to establish the systematic teaching of Applied Science."

On the evidence available exception must be taken to this last statement attributed to Professor Armstrong. I would not suggest that the did not believe that the instruction at the University of New Brunswick rated the description of a course in Applied Science; I prefer to believe that his information on the subject was incomplete. It must be conceded, however, that despite the fact that instruction in engineering or Applied Science was first started in the University of New Brunswick, the first certificate for completion of the course must be credited to Mr. Gooding of McGill in 1858 as compared to that of Mr. Ketchum at the University of New Brunswick in 1862.

Some time has been devoted to the early history of the McGill University Engineering Faculty, but it seemed fitting on this occasion to restate what does not appear to be generally known concerning the commencement of engineering instruction in British North America and, moreover, it must be highly interesting to this audience to recall that two of New Brunswick's sons by adoption, Sir Edmund head and William Brydone-Jack, had a very marked influence on the institution of Engineering in Lower Canada at McGill University.

We leave it to the University of New Brunswick to maintain the high distinction of being the first university in British North America to inaugurate engineering instruction and to others we leave the task of challenging this statement in support of the claim of Professor Armstrong. It appears appropriate here to record the growth of engineering instruction in the days since the University of New Brunswick and McGill pioneered this movement a century ago.

In Montreal the L'Ecole Polytechnique was founded in 1873; its record in an enviable one, it has always had a thoroughly competent faculty and good buildings and equipment and its record of 634 students registered in December 1953 indicates the place it occupies in the national scene in engineering education.

Fourth in order of establishment comes the faculty of Applied Science and Engineering at the University of Toronto, founded in 1878. For many years it has had the largest body of Engineering students in Canada, its graduates in 1949 and 1950 numbering 1107 and 1099 respectively.

Next, and fifth in chronological order of establishment, comes Queen's University whose Engineering Instruction dates from 1893.

then follow in order: University of Manitoba in 1907, Nova Scotia Technical College in 1908, University of Alberta in 1909, University of Saskatchewan in 1912, University of British Columbia in 1915 and eleventh and latest to be added is Laval University in 1937.

For what has been done in the past century we have no responsibility but can only applaud or condemn. As for the present and future the responsibility is ours--as is the privilege of comment. Let us take a brief look at the present scene in Engineering Education and into the next year or two ahead.

In our eleven degree granting universities we have 9047 student as of December 1953. This included students in some 6 or 7 institutions which offer two or three year courses, such as Dalhousie, St. Francis Xavier, St. Mary's, Royal Military College and others leading to 2nd or 3rd year work in the engineering colleges--students numbering 377. At the risk of boring you, it may be said that the number of students in each of the degree granting universities in order of size are today:--

1. University of Toronto . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1638
2. McGill University . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1263
3. Queen's University . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 817
4. University of British Columbia . . . . . . . 739
5. L'Ecole Ploytechnique . . . . . . . . . . . . . 634
6. University of Alberta . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 620
7. University of Saskatchewan . . . . . . . . . 589
8. University of Manitoba. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 551
9. Laval University . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 386
10. University of New Brunswick . . . . . . . . 319
11. Nova Scotia Technical College. . . . . . . 192

It is to be noted that in the case of the Nova Scotia Technical College students are taking the two final years only.

This engineering student enrolment picture for the Fall of 1953 is encouraging. After successive yearly declines from a high point of 14,149 in 1947 (and practically the same figure in 1946) to a low of 7509, a drop of 50% in 1951, the registration has taken a decided upward turn to 9047 in 1953, a gain of 21%.

And it is very significant to note that while the total undergraduate enrolment in all faculties of all Canadian universities dropped from 69,011 in 1950 to 59,849 in 1952, a drop of 13%, there was an increase in the engineerng student enrolment from 8329 in 1950 to 9047 in 1953, an increase of 8.5%.

In 1953 the freshmen class of all engineering schools, numbering 3100, was the third largest ever to enter, being exceeded only in 1946 and 1947 due to the veteran enrolments. It is interesting too that for the first time on record, ranking after the 566 freshmen of the University of Toronto, the freshmen in Western Canada, in the Universities of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Queens, rank almost equal with McGill in numbers of between 250 and 300 each.

It would appear that the widely publicized shortage of engineering and scientific personnel is resulting in larger freshmen classes and there is not doubt that the relatively high salaries today, to not only recent graduates but to engineering students in vacation periods, is also a factor.

Obviously the large increase int he number of freshmen engineering students enrolled last Fall will have a marked effect on the trend in the number of graduates, assuming normal progression, namely, that of recent years when an average of 64% of freshmen ultimately graduate. Last year's entering class should yield about 2000 graduates in 1957 against the 1356 who graduated last Spring. In the meantime we may expect a low for the present cycle of about 1150 for this coming Spring unless the examining boards across our country's universities suddenly become lenient, which I am sure no student of the University of New Brunswick would hope for or expect.

Thus, the situation concerning our future supply of engineers, while not bright, is improving. But, lest we tend to become complacent, let us ever bear in mind that in the United states, where the educational pattern is comparable to Canada, 30.13% of all Americans between the ages of 18 and 21 were attending universities in 1950, a figure that contrasts dramatically with the Canadian 6%.

There are some indications that this situation may not endure for long. Population groups of high school and university entering age have an important bearing on the numbers entering our universiti8es. Because of the lower birth rate during the 30's there are today fewer youths between the ages of 15 and 19 than there were 14 years ago. For this reason any substantial increase in enrolment will have to come through an increase in the numbers of young people going to University. That is exactly what has been happening in the last 3 decades. Said the Quarterly Bulletin of the Economic and Research Branch, Department of Labour, Ottawa:--

"Since 1921 the 13 to 17 age group has increased by only 29% but the high school attendance has risen by 150%. The story is the same in college attendance of 45% rise in the 18 to 22 age group as contrasted with an increase of 175% in university enrolment."

Thus, if engineering secures its current share of students from the total enrolled in the immediate future, there is ample justification for the present problem worrying the boards of our Canadian Universities, as expressed recently by Dr. Sidney Smith++++ concerning the capacity of our universities to take care of the anticipated influx of students.

So much has been written and said in recent years concerning the opportunities for engineers in Canada, that it is unnecessary to do more here than make simple reference to it. Looking to our newly discovered source of minerals in this province, and having in mind the recent results in research on gas turbines, which is bound to have a far reaching effect on areas fortunate enough to possess coal resources as this Province does, and bearing in mind that great chemical industries of the future may well be based on coal, one is made conscious of the continuous challenge that faces the engineering faculty of a University. It is a pleasant and alluring prospect, one of which the engineering faculty in this university is not unaware; and yet, we in 1954 know full well that it can be realized only in proportion as the ingenuity and energy of our generation and the next, and the next, are exerted to that end. If the spirit of 1854, as exemplified in one William Brydone-Jack, still moves in these halls Engineering in the University of New Brunswick will meet the challenge of the next century in the same way that it so successfully met the challenge of the century we are tonight leaving behind us.

+S.P.E.E. Now American Society for Engineering Education. Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill. Organized in 1893 as the Society for the Promotion of Engineering Education; merged with the Engineering College Research Association in June 1946 to form the present society.

++Dr. A. Foster Baird, Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering, University of New Brunswick.

+++Dr. Cyrus MacMillan, Dean, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, McGill University—retired, 1948.

++++President, University of Toronto.