Our History: Roots of Greatness

NYU Tandon's long history of world-changing engineering

The NYU Tandon School of Engineering, which traces its origins back to 1854, is the product of a union between two strong traditions. We are the result of merging a world-class research university in and of the city with an engineering school dedicated to the premise that you can be born anywhere but made right here in Brooklyn.

At NYU Tandon students of every stripe can set forth on their journeys to gratifying careers, entrepreneurial success, and technological innovation — and, just as important, to self-discovery. Our alumni have gone on to found companies, traveled beyond Earth’s limits, attained boardroom success, and reached the pinnacle of their academic fields.

They share our core belief as an institution: that harnessing the power of science and technology will lead to a more equitable society and a greener, safer, better-connected world.

Watch the Story of our History:



The 19th Century


The Brooklyn Collegiate and Polytechnic Institute is founded, as well as the NYU School of Civil Engineering and Architecture.


Robert G. Brown (1868) revolutionized communication by combining the receiver and mouthpiece of the phone.

Robert Brown


James J. Wood (1879) was responsible for the machinery that produced the distinctive cables of the Brooklyn Bridge. Arthur V. Abbott (1875) invented the coupling system for the bridge’s cables and a testing machine for the materials used in the construction.

Brooklyn Bridge


Renamed the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn.

Polytechnic Brooklyn 1889


The U.S. Navy began using searchlights developed by Edward R. Knowles (1870).

The 20th Century


The first woman, Anna Erdmann, received a Bachelor's degree from Polytechnic.

Charles Ranlett Flint


Charles R. Flint (1868) formed the Computing-Tabulating- Recording Company, which was later renamed IBM.

Locks at Panama Canal


Henry C. Goldmark (1874) coengineered the Panama Canal locks. He was later awarded a medal of honor by President Howard Taft for his crucial contribution to the project.


Herman F. Mark, generally known as the Father of Polymer Science, joined the faculty and established the Polymer Research Institute.

black and white photo of Herman Mark sitting at his desk


Pfizer began using a process developed by Jasper H. Kane (’28) that allowed for the mass production of penicillin.


Professor and President Ernst Weber (‘58-’69) founded the Microwave Research Institute which developed electromagnetic and microwave defense and communication systems.


William B. Kouwenhoven (’06, ’07) developed the first closed-chest cardiac defibrillator. He is also credited with discovering the efficacy of cardiac massage, the technique that would become a key to CPR.


Eugene Kleiner (’48) helped found Fairchild Semiconductor, a pioneer in transistor and integrated-circuit manufacturing. Kleiner later co-founded a venture capital firm that provided funding for such now-iconic companies as Amazon, Google and AOL.

group of men in white shirts and ties sitting by woman at computer terminal


The school officially becomes coed (although many women had attended and graduated during World War II).

Apollo Mission


Thomas Joseph Kelly (’58) led the team that designed and tested NASA’s first Lunar Module used for the Apollo 11 mission.


Francis Crick (Postdoctoral fellow with the Protein Structure Project during the ’53-’54 academic year) won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his co-discovery of DNA structure.


Joseph L. Owades (’44, ’50) hit upon the formula for making the world’s first light beer.

Joseph Owades


After Apollo 11 carried Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, to the Moon, Jay Greene (‘64) manned the Flight Dynamics Console during the descent phase.

Jay Greene


Handheld laser barcode scanner invented by Jerome Swartz ‘63, ‘68 and Shelley Harrison ‘66, ‘71.


Renamed Polytechnic Institute of New York after encompassing the faculty, programs, and students of New York University College of Engineering.

Intel chip


Intel’s 8086 chip was introduced; its chief architect was Stephen Morse (’63).


Eleanor Baum (’64) became the first female dean of an engineering school in the United States, at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and 1995 first woman president for  American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE).

Eleanor Baum


Renamed Polytechnic University

wunsch builiding with polythinking banner


Former professor Rudolph Marcus won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his contributions to the theory of electron transfer reactions in chemical systems.


Martin L. Perl (’48) won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his pioneering experimental contributions to lepton physics.

Charles Camarda


Charles Camarda (‘74) was chosen as an astronaut candidate by NASA and ultimately logged over 333 hours in space.

The 21st Century


The American Chemical Society designated the Polymer Research Institute as a National Historic Chemical Landmark

historical landmark plaque


Professor David Goodman is elected to the National Academy of Engineering for his contributions to wireless communications and digital signal processing.


Paolo Angelo Nespoli (’88, ‘89) traveled aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery as a mission specialist.

Paolo Angelo Nespoli


An affiliation is forged between Polytechnic and New York University, creating the Polytechnic Institute of NYU and paving the way for an official merger. 


Ursula Burns (’80) was appointed CEO of Xerox, becoming the first African-American woman ever to head a Fortune 500 company.

Ursula Burns


Judea Pearl ('65) garnered the A. M. Turing Award from the Association for Computing Machinery for his fundamental contributions to artificial intelligence.

Judea Pearl


Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Ted Rappaport publishes his seminal paper “Millimeter Wave Mobile Communications for 5G Cellular: It Will Work,” paving the way for next-generation mobile communication.

Ted Rappaport


Noted physicist Katepalli Sreenivasan becomes the dean of the school.


Merger with New York University becomes official — name changes to the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering.

Chandrika and Ranjan Tandon


Chandrika and Ranjan Tandon generously donate $100 million and the school is renamed NYU Tandon School of Engineering in recognition of the Tandons’ generosity and their belief in the school’s mission and promise.

NYU Tandon campus aerial view


CSAW, the world’s biggest student-run cybersecurity event, becomes international with competitions in India, the Middle East and North Africa.

CSAW participants at laptops


NYU Tandon's Future Labs (a network of startup business hubs) reports an estimated economic impact on New York City’s economy of $4.06 billion since launching in 2009.


Jelena Kovačević became the Dean of the NYU Tandon School of Engineering. She is the first woman to head the school since its founding.

Dean Jelena Kovačević


Professor Thomas Marzetta is elected to the National Academy of Engineering for his contributions to multiple antenna arrays in wireless communications.


Professor Ted Rappaport, wireless telecommunications pioneer and founder of NYU WIRELESS, is elected to the National Academy of Engineering.


Professor Zhong-Ping Jiang is elected as a foreign member of Academia Europaea's Section on Electrical and Computer Engineering.


NYU Tandon rose to #33 in U.S. News & World Report rankings of best U.S. engineering schools, representing a 49-position leap from 2006, when it was ranked at 82.

Senior University and School leadership, elected officials, and friends of Tandon with sign saying "NYU invests $1B in engineering"


NYU invests $1 billion in Tandon, including the purchase of 3 MetroTech Center.


Professor Shivendra Panwar named a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors.

Dibner Building facing the MetroTech commons


Professor Elisa Riedo is elected as a foreign member of Academia Europaea's Section on Physics and Engineering Sciences.