Case School: The Evolving History

Academics, 1886-1900


In 1886, there were fifty-one students enrolled. By 1890, there were 100 students, and by 1894, the number of students had doubled. 

Then, as now, there was a common first year emphasizing mathematics, science, communications and drawing, and many of those courses will sound familiar to current first year students.

Students, working with their advisers, declared their planned course of study at the end of their first year. These course of study included mathematics, science, and language fundamentals during the first two years and continued with discipline specific courses in the third and fourth years.  All students did a senior thesis (independent work or original research) which roughly corresponds to the modern senior capstone project.

By the beginning of the 1900s, besides the initial Chemistry, Civil Engineering,Mathematics and Astronomy, and Physics tracks, the School added three more specialties in Mechanical (1886), Mining (1887), and Electrical (1892) engineering.


Departments, 1886-1900


Department of Chemistry

In 1885, Charles F. Mabery became the Head of the department. His research specialty was petroleum research and he remained active in research until 1927.

After the fire, a separate wooden building was opened in 1887 for the Chemistry lab. The building was replaced by a new brick building in 1892.

In 1891, Albert W. Smith joined CSAS as Professor of Metallurgy and Analytical Chemistry. He served as the Head of the Metallurgical Engineering department from 1907 until 1911, when he became the Head of the Chemistry Department.

In 1900, the department had three graduate students, seven seniors, seven juniors, and nine sophomore chemistry majors.



Department of Physics

Physics instruction was started in the sophomore year and continued for three years. All majors in Physics had to write a senior thesis. 

In 1889, Professor Michelson resigned and was succeeded by Harry F. Reid as Head of the Physics Department. In 1893, Reid resigned. Dayton C. Miller became the department head in 1895, the same year he took the first full-length x-ray photographs of the human body.

At that time, the Physics department occupied five large rooms on the first floor of the Main Building and nine rooms in the basement. Technology in the physics laboratory that year consisted of: comparator, balance, hectogram balance, reversible pendulum, chronometer and chronograph, cathetometers, dividing engines, level trier, harmonograph, tuning forks and organ pipes, standard thermometers, spectrometers, concave grating spectroscope, chemical spectroscopes, diffraction and inference apparatus, chemical apparatus... (continued pg. 5 in the history).

In 1900, Harry W. Springsteen was awarded the first M.S. in Physics.


Department of Mathematics and Astronomy

John Stockwell was the first professor of Mathematics and Astronomy.  He was known for his work on lunar motion and the prediction of eclipses. In 1886 he became the first Kerr Professor of Mathematics. The Kerr Professorship in Mathematics was established in 1885 by Laura Kerr Axtell to honor her brother Levi Kerr, one of the first five members of the Board of Trustees. He resigned in 1887.

After Stockwell left, Harry F. Reid became the second Kerr Professor of Mathematics, holding this position through 1889. In 1889 Charles S. Howe joined the staff and became the third Kerr Professor from 1890-1908 and the first official head of the Mathematics Department. In 1908, Theodore M. Focke became the fourth Kerr Professor, honor he held until his retirement in 1944.

During that period, Civil engineers students were required to take a course in astronomy which included descriptive astronomy, study of the constellations, telescopic observations, method of least squares and its application to geodetic work.

In 1897, an Observatory was erected between the Chemical Laboratory Building and the Mechanical Laboratory, through the efforts of Howe working with Ambrose Swasey and Worcester R. Warner. They were founders of the Warner & Swasey Company, manufacturer of machine tools and instruments, and builders of telescopes. This campus Observatory was a two-story cylinder dome called "The Star Theatre" by the students. The dome hosted the 3-inch astronomical transit and zenith telescope made by the Warner and Swasey Company of Cleveland.

The Observatory also hosted a chronograph made by the same firm, an astronomical clock by Riefler, a 2-inch altazimuth with 8-inch circles read by micrometer microscopes, a sextant, and a solar transit. The Observatory on campus was used for instruction in astronomy and geodesy until the Warner and Swasey Observatory was built in 1920.



Department of Civil Engineering 

In 1884, Prof. John Eisenmann became the Head of the department until 1886. He was replaced by Cady Staley in 1887. In 1887, Frank Neff was appointed Instructor in Mathematics and Civil Engineering.  After Staley's resignation in 1902, Frank Neff became head of the department and served until 1931.

In 1887, a new course in sanitary engineering was added to the curriculum. In 1888, the civil engineering department added Student Inspection Trips as part of the practical instruction. These trips took students to "the various engineering works, quarries and industrial manufacturers of practical interest to the engineer."

Beginning in 1890, more emphasis was given to road and bridge engineering.

In 1894, Charles Trumbull joined the department.

Charles Gaffing, class of 1888, received the first Civil Engineering degree (a professional degree) in 1897 with a thesis entitled, “The Extension of the Cleveland Water Supply."



Department of Mechanical Engineering 

The first instructor in Mechanical Engineering was George Armington, who taught the fundamentals of mechanical engineering from 1887 to 1889. The Mechanical Engineering Department was located in the south end of the basement of Case Main. The total equipment in 1889 consisted of three lathes, a band saw, and one set of small tools in the pattern shop and two lathes, a shaper, an upright drill and an emery grinder in the machine shop. In 1889, there were four students enrolled in Mechanical Engineering and the number continued to increase to twelve in 1892, and sixty in 1900. 

In 1889, Staley hired Charles Benjamin as head of mechanical engineering. As head of the new department, Benjamin created the curriculum, supervised building plans for the new mechanical engineering laboratory, and acquired the necessary laboratory equipment.

The Mechanical Engineering Laboratory design effort started as the “Senior Thesis” of Comfort Adams, class of 1890. The new building was opened in 1892. Most of the space in the Mechanical Engineering Laboratory was dedicated to teaching mechanical manufacturing. The building was located at the south end of the campus and included a wing to be used for the Metallurgy Department.

The Mechanical Engineering Laboratory was occupied by at least two drawing rooms, several machine shops, and a metals processing lab (Forming and forging) and included a central heating plant and an attached assaying room. Benjamin constructed a testing lab in the basement. Also included in the building were several machines for determining material properties, testing steam engines and generating electricity.

By 1894 there were three staff members in the department.  The testing laboratory equipment had been considerably increased to include a 50-hp Corliss engine, a 20hp Porter-Allen high-speed engine, a Deana steam pump, a 10-hp Webber transmitting dynamometer, a belt testing machine, a Prony brake, a 60,000-lb testing machine, a 50 hp boiler with mechanical stoker, a surface condenser, and indicators, gauges, barometers, etc.

The Mechanical Laboratory building was shared by the Mechanical Engineering and the Mining Engineering Departments until 1905, when the Rockefeller Mining and Metallurgy building was completed. Mechanical Engineering continued to use the Mechanical Laboratory until the Bingham Building was completed in 1927.

Faculty in the Mechanical Engineering Department wrote and published on the strength of malleable and steel castings, the effect of punching on steel plates, the tensile strength of belting, the transverse strength of different mixtures of cast-iron.



Department of Mining Engineering

The curriculum for the Mining Department was established in 1887 and the first instructor was Albert W. Smith who taught Chemistry and Metallurgy. Frank van Horn joined the department in 1897.
The first degree in Mining is conferred in 1888 to A.M. Campbell. Course catalog states "The course in mining engineering comprises the studies common to all of the engineering courses and, in addition, special instruction in mining, surveying, mining machinery, chemistry, mineralogy, geology, and metallurgy."

In 1893, a new wing was added to the Mechanical Engineering Laboratory building for the Mining Department. In 1897, the department added a graduate program in mining and metals. The first degree in mining engineering was granted to Frank Humel.



Department of Electrical Engineering

Initially, the department was located in the basement of Case Main.

The 1887 catalogue included a four-year curriculum in electrical engineering. For the first three years, students took basic courses in mathematics, chemistry, rhetoric, literature, French and German, history, physics, descriptive geometry, and drawing, mechanics, logic, steam engines and design. The seniors were given courses in thermodynamics, engineering construction, graphical statistics, details of practice and design, electrotechnics, physical laboratory (electrical testing), advanced course in electrical engineering construction; specifications and contracts, and thesis work.

In 1891, Prof. John Langley was hired as the Head of the Electrical Engineering department, a position he occupied until 1905.

In 1896, a new building was opened for the department. The first (basement) floor of the building housed the motors and dynamos laboratory surrounded by several small labs and a shop. There was an extensive collection of generators and dynamos. A shaft in a tunnel connected a 50HP Corliss engine in the Mechanical Building to a 500 light AC dynamo capable of powering the lighting in the building. The second floor contained a large lab area, offices, and a drafting room area. This lab area was initially used for the junior-senior labs involving precise measurements of voltage, current and power. The building contained a calibration laboratory with standard resistances, two Lord Kelvin's Ampere Balances, an Aytoun and Perry Sechometer and a number of precision Ammeters and Voltmeters for student use. The third floor contained a large lecture hall which seated 500 people, and several smaller recitation rooms. The lecture hall, or Electricity Hall as it was called, was used for early commencements beginning with the 12th commencement held on June 4, 1896. The fourth floor contained several additional recitation rooms and a large drawing room for all first year students. It also contained a small area dedicated to lighting measurements.

In 1899, the first professional degree in electrical engineering was granted to Irvin H. Sherwood. Class of 1894 shows four men as Electrical Engineering majors plus four graduate students.



Department of Applied Mechanics

under construction

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