History

Explore 150 years of Thayer School history.

1867

Brig. Gen. Sylvanus Thayer, Dartmouth class of 1807, initiates the establishment of an engineering school at his alma mater. He draws on his Dartmouth education, his experience developing an engineering curriculum as superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point (1817–1833) and subsequent career in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to create a civil engineering curriculum for students with a firm grounding in the liberal arts. He provides gifts totaling $70,000 and donates a library of books, manuscripts, and plates about engineering in Europe and the United States.

1870

1871

Thayer School opens with three students and five small rooms in Wentworth, Reed, and Thornton Halls. Dean Fletcher, the only full-time faculty member, teaches 14 engineering courses during the first academic year and 36 the following year.

1872

1873

1879

Dean Fletcher introduces a curriculum that forms the mainstay through 1918. The 12 courses: Surveying Mechanics, Resistance of Materials, Properties of Construction Materials, Materials and Structural Elements, Bridges and Roofs, Hydraulic Works, Heat and Heat-Engines, Sanitary Engineering, Rivers and Harbors, Rockwork, Tunneling, and Mining, and Masonry and Foundations.

1891

Thayer School’s first capital campaign seeks $50,000 for the endowment to cover the cost of books and instruments, visiting lecturers, class tours, and a salary increase for the school’s second professor, Hiram Hitchcock.

1892

1893

1896

1902

1912

1918

1922

1925

Professor Raymond Marsden, class of 1909, becomes dean. He modifies the academic calendar and rearranges first-year courses to strengthen the school’s relationship with Dartmouth.

1933

1936

1939

Cummings Memorial Hall opens. Named in memory of Horace Cummings, Dartmouth class of 1862, husband of donor Jeannette Cummings, it is the first facility built specifically for Thayer School.

1940

1941

Thayer professors teach surveying, engineering drawing, and mathematics to regional government and defense industry workers at Hanover and Lebanon high schools. 

1942

1943

Operating the Navy’s largest V-12 College Training Program, Thayer School shifts to year-round operation and accelerated engineering degrees. With reveille at 6 a.m. and taps at 10 p.m., Thayer School operates like a naval base for the rest of the war.

1945

Dean Garran dies. The Thayer School Register praises him for reshaping the school “for the greatest service to the Country, the Profession and the College.”

1947

1955

1957

1958

ES 21: Introduction to Engineering debuts to give students a theoretical foundation at the beginning of their engineering studies.

1960

1961

Dean Tribus, Professor Russell Stearns, and Professor Robert Dean (pictured) revamp ES 21: Introduction to Engineering into a hands-on project-based experience. The first challenge for students: develop a bicycle that stores energy on the downhill for use going uphill

1962

Chris Miller '66 Th'67 '68 and Dean Spatz '66 Th'67 '68 (pictured left to right) are among the ES 21: Introduction to Engineering students who solve the challenge of making brackish water potable. The experience leads each to found reverse-osmosis companies.

1964

1965

1966

1970

1971

1972

Carl Long becomes dean. He strengthens ties with industry, expands research collaborations with Dartmouth Medical School and the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, and launches the Dual-Degree Program by bringing in female undergraduates from other colleges.

Charles Nearburg graduates as an engineering major who combined his studies with studio art, creating a model for modified majors in engineering.

1973

1975

The Robert Fletcher Award is established to honor graduates or friends of Thayer School for distinguished service.

Visiting Assistant Professor Nancy U. Crocker becomes the first woman on the Thayer School faculty.

1976

The Board of Overseers creates the Dean’s Fund, later renamed the Thayer School Annual Fund, to provide financial support for the school. 

1978

1979

1981

1982

Professor Horst Richter establishes a foreign study program with Germany’s University of Aachen. From 1982 to the program’s end in 2005, some 70 students from Aachen complete the BE program.

Professor John Collier ’72 Th’77 and Michael Mayor, M.D. found the Dartmouth Biomedical Engineering Center to collect, analyze, and improve artificial knees, hips, and other orthopedic devices.

1984

1987

Thayer’s first product design course, taught by Professors John Collier ’72 Th’77 and Peter Robbie ’69, attracts studio-art majors and engineers.

1988

1989

1990

1991

Thayer Associate Dean Carol Muller ’77 cofounds Dartmouth’s Women in Science Project (WISP) to encourage female students to pursue science, math, and engineering. The project includes placing first-year students into research internships.

1995

1997

1998

2001

2003

2004

The Corporate Collaboration Council is founded to mentor MEM students and advise MEM faculty.

Thayer students found a Dartmouth chapter of Engineers Without Borders, which later becomes Humanitarian Engineering Leadership Projects (HELP), which in turn becomes Dartmouth Humanitarian Engineering in 2010. Students work on clean-water, pico-hydropower, sanitation, and cook-stove projects in Africa.

2005

2006

MacLean Engineering Sciences Center opens, doubling the size of Thayer School’s facilities and featuring a suite of student project labs. The building is named for lead donors Barry ’60 Th’61and Mary Ann MacLean.

The GryroBike, a stabilizing bike for beginners, wins a Breakthrough Award from Popular Mechanics. Hannah Murnen ’06 Th’07, Augusta Niles ’07, Nathan Sigworth ’07, and Deborah Sperling ’06 Th’07 invented it as their ENGS 21 project.

2007

2008

2009

Lindsay Holiday '07 Th'09, Dana Leland '09, and Philip Wagner '09 (pictured left to right) invent an arsenic removal system for use in rural Nepal, where naturally occurring arsenic is a major groundwater contaminant. The project, created for Thayer School's capstone design sequence, wins the National Inventors Hall of Fame's Collegiate Inventors Competition.

2011

2012

2013

Professor Tillman Gerngross becomes associate provost for Dartmouth’s newly reconfigured Office of Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer. He uses his experience as a serial biotech entrepreneur to smooth the way for others.

2014

The National Academy of Engineering awards its Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education to Professors John Collier ’72 Th’77, Robert Graves, Joseph Helble, and Charles Hutchinson ’68A for integrating entrepreneurship into all levels of Thayer’s curriculum to prepare students for technology leadership.

The Center for Surgical Innovation opens at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center under the direction of imaging expert Professor Keith Paulsen Th'84 '86. It is the nation’s first such facility wholly dedicated to research.

2015

Professor Robert Dean, founder of 11 companies, is named a National Academy of Inventors Fellow. He joins Professors Eric Fossum, Tillman Gerngross, Elsa Garmire, and Axel Scherer as NAI fellows, scholars who have demonstrated a prolific spirit in creating or facilitating inventions to improve quality of life.

The Mobile Virtual Player (MVP), a remote-controlled robotic tackling dummy takes the football world by storm. Invented by Elliot Kastner ’13 Th’14 ’15, and Quinn Connell ’13 Th’14, Noah Glennon Th’14 ’15, Andrew Smist ’13 as their ENGS 89/90 project, the MVP reduces the risk of concussions by cutting contact between players during practice. With their advisor, John Currier ’79 Th’81, and sponsor, football coach Buddy Teevens ’79, team members cofound the Mobile Virtual Player company to produce the dummy for NFL and other teams.

2016

Overseer Barry MacLean ’60 Th’61 donates $25 million to Thayer School, the largest gift in the school’s history, to help fund an additional building and endow professorships.

The Center for Imaging Medicine opens at the Williamson Translational Research Building at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. Thayer School researchers work with clinicians to put new medical imaging techniques into practice.

2017

Professor Eric Fossum, head of Thayer School’s PhD Innovation Program, takes over from Professor Tillman Gerngross as Dartmouth’s associate provost for the Office of Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer.