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.

From our historic place at the forefront of polymer science to our newest bench-to-bedside biomedical innovations, from our pioneering work on microwaves to our global leadership in the field of wireless communications, we’re making an impact. We’re a school that fosters possibilities at the nexus of fields like Data Science/AI/Robotics, Emerging Media, Cybersecurity, Communications/IT, Health, Sustainability, and all things Urban, and our research is helping forge a future that is bright with opportunities for everyone.

It was our alum James Truslow Adams who originally coined the term “the American Dream,” and we’ll always be dedicated to making that dream come true for new generations of engineers and technologists.

 

 
Book Cover for Polytechnic University Changing the World

Read:
Polytechnic University
Changing the World: The First 150 Years

by Jeffery L. Rodengen

The 19th Century

1854

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

1879

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

Robert Brown

1883

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

1889

Renamed the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn.

Polytechnic Brooklyn 1889

1890's

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

The 20th Century

1907

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

Charles Ranlett Flint

1911

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

Locks at Panama Canal

1914

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.

1942

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

Herman Mark in his lab

1943

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

1945

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

President Ernst Weber

1950

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.

1957

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.

Eugene Kleiner

1958

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

Apollo Mission

1961

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

1962

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.

DNA

1967

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

Joseph Owades
Jay Greene

1969

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

1970

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

1973

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

Intel chip

1978

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

1984

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

1985

Renamed Polytechnic University

1992

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

1995

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

Charles Camarda

1996

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

The 21st Century

2003

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

2007

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

Paolo Angelo Nespoli

2008

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

2009

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

Ursula Burns

2011

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

Judea Pearl

2013

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
Katepalli Sreenivasan

2013

Noted physicist Katepalli Sreenivasan becomes the dean of the school.

2014

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

Chandrika and Ranjan Tandon

2015

Chandrika and Ranjan Tandon generously donate $100 million and the school is renamed NYU Tandon School of Engineering.

NYU Tandon campus aerial view

2016

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

2018

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.
 

2018

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