History of the College of Engineering

Blarney Stone being carried

The Blarney Stone is carted in by engineering students in appropriate attire as part of 1908's ceremonies. Photo from the University Archives, C:0/47/3, Box 1, FF4.

The University of Missouri established engineering’s first foothold west of the Mississippi River when it taught a civil engineering course in 1849.

Engineering education advanced sporadically during the next two decades, gaining ground with the Board of Curators’ creation of a School of Civil Engineering in 1859 only to lose it again in a university reorganization the following year. Engineering instruction remained meager throughout the Civil War.

Still, the college’s foundation had been laid. When Congress passed the Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1862, which provided land for colleges specializing in engineering and agriculture, Missouri’s General Assembly accepted it.

By 1868, the university boasted civil and military engineering departments. Along with their core subjects, engineering students learned about building roads, railroads and bridges and improving rivers and harbors.

Thomas Edison helped generate interest in electrical engineering when he presented an electric dynamo and some incandescent lamps to the university in 1882. Shortly afterward, engineering Professor Benjamin E. Thomas and some of his students wired the old Academic Building for electricity, and the university established a department of electrical engineering in 1885.

While the College of Engineering gradually flourished, engineering tradition took root as well.

In March 1903, Mizzou students dubbed St. Patrick the patron saint of engineers and celebrated his namesake day. Today, the campus celebration in honor of St. Patrick’s Day extends a full week and continues to grow.

Mizzou engineering sustains a variety of research centers, programs, groups and facilities along with other departmental groups that are designated as areas of exemplary expertise and success. The college contributes significantly to MU’s overall annual research and development spending.

Today, Mizzou engineering excellence includes nine disciplines, 113 faculty members, 2,900 of the brightest undergraduates on campus and over 500 exceptional graduate students.