ASME-Landmark:George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering


Between its opening in 1888 and the mid-1920s, Georgia Tech took a leading role in transforming mechanical engineering education from a shop-based, vocational program to a professional one built on rigorous academic and analytical methods.

Led by John Saylor Coon (1854-1938), a founding member of ASME, this curriculum merged theoretical understanding with practical experience. During the years after the U.S. Civil War (1860-64), industrialists recognized that recovery and expansion would depend heavily on professional engineers, with a rational education in mathematics and science, rather than machinists. Georgia Tech was founded in 1885 to address the training of engineers, particularly important during the reconstruction of the devastated region.

The original format of the school resembled the shop model then used at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Mass.), producing furniture and metal goods for commercial sale. This system appealed to an agrarian economy that considered engineers as millwrights, with the foundry, wood working, machine shop, and blacksmith shop as a focus. Dr. Coon phased out this "contract" system by 1896, although the shop continued to supply campus offices and dormitories. He revised course study that emphasized design and testing, mathematics, problem solving, and ethics. In 1912, the Cooperative Education Program was begun to provide practical experience. (This program survives today as the largest U.S. optional cooperative program.)

Georgia Tech's School of Mechanical Engineering was named for alumnus and benefactor George W. Woodruff (class of 1917) in 1985. See ASME website for more information