Thurston, Robert Henry

Thurston, Robert Henry

(1839–1903) mechanical engineer, educator; born in Providence, R.I. He was a pioneer and innovator in technical education. In 1871 he was asked to organize the department of mechanical engineering at the newly-formed Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, N.J. He drew up a four-year course of instruction that included training students on actual research. To this end, he solicited research commissions from industrial firms and used the resultant income to purchase further equipment for the school lab. When he was appointed secretary of the U.S. Board to Test Iron, Steel, and Other Metals in 1875, the students at Stevens did much of the lab work as part of their studies. In 1885 he was hired by Cornell University to reorganize Sibley College and make it a first-rate college of mechanical engineering. He remained there until his death. His own research was primarily on the reciprocating steam engine.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.