Celebrating 100 years of UR chemical engineering: Beginnings

January 2, 2015

(Watch throughout 2015 for these monthly snapshots of important events and individuals that help tell the story of Chemical Engineering at the University of Rochester during the last 100 years. They draw upon John Friedly's informative 75 Years of Chemical Engineering: 1915-1990, material from Rare Books and Special Collections at Rush Rhees Library made available with the help of University Archivist Melissa Mead, and  the department's own files.)

chemlab(UR's first chemical engineering students studied in the Reynolds Chemistry Lab on the Prince Street campus.) 

When the University of Rochester launched its chemical engineering program in 1915, tuition was $90 a year, and the curriculum looked nothing like it does today.

Freshmen took rhetoric, German or French (used by the most prestigious scientific journals at that time), math, chemistry, drawing, woodshop, foundry, forge and physical training during an academic year that was split into three terms.

 trio The first class of 10 students was taught by two faculty members, Millard C. Ernsberger, a mechanical engineer and head of applied science, and Victor Chambers, chair of chemistry.

President Rush Rhees articulated the goals of the University’s fledgling engineering program as follows:  “Graduates from this group would thus be prepared to enter on commercial careers with all the advantage offered for such careers by technical training, coupled with the distinct advantage arising from a more general liberal culture.”

ChemE’s first graduate was Otto Wiele Cook, who received his bachelor’s degree in 1920 and later managed cine processing at Eastman Kodak Co. By 1921-22 enrollment had increased to 21 students, and by 1930-31 to 37.

Next: the move to River Campus