Iowa State's College of Engineering is one of the largest and most prestigious programs in the nation, offering 13 undergraduate and nine graduate majors to more than 4,200 students. Currently, the College is the nation’s 12th largest in undergraduate enrollment. It ranks fifth in size of engineering schools at land-grant universities.

This unique stature is based on a rich heritage of excellence. Here’s a brief look at the history of our development as an international leader in engineering education.

On July 2, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed into law a measure to establish one college in each state on federal land. Two months later, Iowa became the first state to accept the terms of the new law called the Morrill Land Grant College Act.

Iowa Agricultural College - later renamed Iowa State College - opened less than five years later, offering degrees in agriculture and "mechanics." From the mechanics course, the school began almost immediately to develop programs in several branches of engineering. The 26 members of Iowa State's first graduating class included four civil and two mechanical engineers.

Through 1891, more than 100 students received engineering degrees from Iowa State. From 1892 to 1903, another 250 engineering students graduated from Iowa State. Today, there are almost 35,000 living alumni from the college.

In 1904, with the appointment of Anson Marston as dean, engineering became a division of Iowa State College and its curricula began expanding. By 1914, Iowa State had organized departments of agricultural, ceramic, chemical, and architectural engineering. The agricultural engineering program was the first in the nation.

With Iowa State's elevation to university status in 1959, the Division of Engineering became the College of Engineering.

Key Events in the History of the College of Engineering

1862 - President Lincoln signs Morrill Land Grant College Act. Iowa becomes first state to accept its terms.

1869 - First students arrive at Iowa Agricultural College to study agriculture and mechanics.

1871 - The Course in Mechanics is separated into civil and mechanical engineering programs.

1879 - Iowa State grants the nation's first master's degree in engineering.

1891 - Work initiated by the Physics Department leads to the establishment of an electrical engineering program.

1898 - Name changes to Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts

1904 - Anson Marston becomes first dean. Iowa Engineering Experiment Station is established as the nation's first research agency organized in an engineering school.

1908 - First four-year professional agricultural engineering program in the nation is established.

1913 - Engineering Extension Service established.

1926 - Iowa State confers its first doctorate degree in engineering.

1939 - World's first electronic digital computer is built by Iowa State physics professor John Atanasoff and electrical engineering graduate student Clifford Berry.

1947 - Ames Laboratory of the Department of Energy is established.

1959 - Name changes to Iowa State University of Science and Technology. The Division of Engineering becomes the College of Engineering. Department of Nuclear Engineering puts Iowa's first nuclear reactor into operation.

1963 - Center for Industrial Research and Service is established to provide support for Iowa businesses.

1971 - David Nicholas, electrical engineering graduate student, invents an encoding process that helps make FAX machines a staple in office equipment.

1997 - College of Engineering breaks ground on $61 million Engineering Teaching and Research Complex, the largest capital construction project in Iowa State's history.

1999 - Howe Hall, Phase 1 of the Engineering Teaching and Research Complex, is completed.


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