- 1873 – It Started with Civil Engineering
- 1873 – First Professor of Engineering
- 1881 – Let There Be (Electric) Light
- 1882 – First Home, Science Hall
- 1882 – Pioneering Aeronautics
- 1886 – Mechanical Engineering
- 1886 – An Electric Halo for Mary
- 1888 – Man-Carrying Gliders
- 1889 – Working on the Railroad
- 1891 – Electrical Engineering
- 1899 – First Wireless Transmission
- 1905 – John Cushing
- 1908 – Chemical Engineering
- 1921 – Becoming ND Engineering
- 1931 – Cushing Hall of Engineering
- 1933 – Aero Engineering
- 1935 – Atom Smashers
- 1937 – Smoke Tunnel
- 1941 – Teleprompter
- 1942 – Sister of Flight
- 1945 – A Force in Water
- 1948 – Black Domers
- 1958 – Engineering Ph.D. Talent
- 1959 – Curveballs Explained
- 1964 – Spinning Basket Reactor
- 1967 – Parafoil innovation
- 1972 – First Undergraduate Woman
- 1974 – National GEM
- 1974 – First ND Astronaut
- 1977 – Sintering Innovation
- 1979 – Fitzpatrick Hall of Engineering
- 1990 – Computer Science and Engineering
- 1991 – Hessert Laboratory for Aerospace Research
- 2002 – Women in Engineering
- 2005 – New Class of Compounds
- 2006 – Bioengineering
- 2010 – Wireless Innovation
- 2010 – Stinson-Remick Hall of Engineering
- 2014 – Magnetic Logic
- 2014 – McCourtney Hall of Science and Engineering
- 2018 – Hypersonic Quiet Wind Tunnel
- 2018 – Center for Civic Innovation
- 2020 – Materials Science and Engineering
- 2021 – Engineering Innovation Hub
- 2022 – Science/Engineering Research Expansion
- 2023 – ND Engineering Today
- Selected Bibliography
1873 – It Started with Civil Engineering
In 1873, Notre Dame (founded in 1842) announced a program in civil engineering.
The curriculum reflected the University’s desire to keep pace with the technological needs of American society, especially the ever-growing need for surveyors and designers of railroads, roads, and bridges.
With the addition of civil engineering to the curriculum, Notre Dame became the first Catholic university in the U.S. to establish a formal course of study in engineering.
1873 – First Professor of Engineering
Arthur J. Stace, who graduated from Notre Dame in 1864, served as professor of mathematics and surveying before becoming the first professor of civil engineering. Stace directed an engineering corps in the Northwest, was a U.S. Commissioner to the 1881 Paris Exposition, and was a St. Joseph County surveyor.
Notre Dame Scholastic described Stace — who was born in England and immigrated to Canada with his family before coming to Notre Dame — as a “poet and litterateur . . . philosopher, scientist and linguist . . . with a lively sense of humor . . . a friend and devoted teacher.”
Stace gave his lively lectures in old Science Hall or Phelan Hall, two structures (now demolished) that had been part of the old church connected to the Main Building.
1881 – Let There Be (Electric) Light
Notre Dame became the first campus in the country to have electric lighting when it installed arc lights outdoors.
Most of the buildings (previously illuminated with gas) received incandescent lighting, which had just been developed by the Edison Company.
Commencement Day 1882 “was the first time Washington Hall sparkled with Edison’s incandescent bulbs.” Lights were installed in the corridors and study halls of the Main Building in September 1885.
1882 – First Home, Science Hall
Rev. John Zahm, C.S.C., science enthusiast and explorer, graduated from Notre Dame in 1871, was ordained in 1876, and was hired by the University to teach science. He was a strong and influential early advocate for science and engineering at Notre Dame.
In 1882, at Father Zahm’s urging, the University built Science Hall (later expanded and turned into LaFortune Student Center). Willoughby J. Edbrooke, the architect for the Main Building, was retained to design the new structure. Father Zahm saw to it that laboratories were provided for physics, chemistry, botany, physiology, zoology, geology, mineralogy, mechanical engineering, and photography. Engineering was taught in the basement.
1882 – Pioneering Aeronautics
An inventive second-year student, Albert Francis Zahm (younger brother of Rev. John Zahm, C.S.C.) began experiments in aerodynamics on campus.
He built model airplanes and full-size aircraft. In 1882, he tethered one of his aircraft to the ceiling of Science Hall (now LaFortune Student Center) with a 50-foot rope. This aircraft was powered by a bicycle pedal mechanism that rotated a tractor propeller.
Zahm also built a rudimentary wind tunnel so that he could study the lift and drag of various wing shapes. Zahm was among the first to conclude that slender, concave surfaces shaped like a bird’s wing would make the best wings and propellers.
1886 – Mechanical Engineering
The Mechanical Engineering program was formally established “to teach design and functions of steam engines, boilers, and condensers.”
In 1890, the Institute of Technology (now Crowley Hall) was built to house the expanding mechanical engineering department as well as civil and electrical engineering. Just two years later, having outgrown the space, the engineers moved to the newly built Engineering Hall, which stood approximately on the site of the present-day Dillon and Alumni Halls.
1886 – An Electric Halo for Mary
Twelve electric lights were placed around the head of the statue of Mary, forming a halo, and another twenty-seven lights as a crescent under the statue at the top of the Notre Dame administration building’s golden dome (187 ft. high). All of these lights were powered by a 13 horsepower steam engine. A narrow metal ladder was installed on the back of the dome and statue, and “periodically one of the brothers would climb up and replace any burned-out bulbs.”
1888 – Man-Carrying Gliders
Albert Zahm, now a young professor at Notre Dame, launched man-carrying gliders off the roof of Science Hall. His experiments were always carried out at night to avoid publicity. (Zahm hoped to launch a glider from a hot-air balloon, but the University administration would not allow it.)
1889 – Working on the Railroad
The engineering program was lengthened to four years, and classes such as Profiles of Railroad Lines, Principles of Railroad Location, and Railroad Curves were added to the curriculum. The overriding goal of the curriculum was to train men who could work for the railroads, “the biggest business of a big era.”
While in 1865 the country possessed 35,000 miles of steam railroad, by 1900 it had five times that number.
1891 – Electrical Engineering
Practical and experimental Electrical Engineering courses were added to the curriculum in 1891.
The students worked with such equipment as direct and alternating dynamo and arc and incandescent lighting apparatuses.
Beginning in 1897, the annual catalogues began to refer to the several engineering programs as the “School of Engineering.”
1899 – First Wireless Transmission
One of the first successful long-distance radio transmissions in the U.S. occurred at Notre Dame in 1899.
A 30-year-old professor, Jerome Green, who taught courses in both physics and electrical engineering, hung a large antenna from the top of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart and transmitted it to the Saint Mary’s College campus (one and a half miles away) with self-built equipment.
Green later successfully relayed telegraphic signals (in Morse code) from the Tribune Building in downtown Chicago to his receiving instrument on the eighth floor of the Marquette Building, two blocks away.
1905 – John Cushing
John Cushing, the son of a blacksmith, arrived at Notre Dame in his junior year after working his way through two years of studies at the University of Nebraska.
At the close of the school year, Cushing told University President Rev. Andrew Morrissey, C.S.C., that, due to lack of funds, it would be impossible for him to return to Notre Dame. Father Morrissey told John not to worry about the money, that he was to come back and finish his studies. Father Morrissey said he felt sure he would repay the University in his own good time.
Twenty-five years later, Cushing — now president of the Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company in Chicago — donated $300,000 for the construction of a Hall of Engineering at Notre Dame.
1908 – Chemical Engineering
The American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) was founded by chemists and engineers during a period of industrial renaissance in the United States. That same year, a program of Chemical Engineering was established at Notre Dame.
1921 – Becoming ND Engineering
The College of Engineering had a student body of 322 (out of Notre Dame’s total enrollment of approximately 1,200), with 10 faculty teaching engineering and architecture classes.
1931 – Cushing Hall of Engineering
Construction began on Cushing Hall of Engineering. John Cushing’s training at Notre Dame had made him a success, and he was eager to see high standards maintained in the engineering professions. He believed that technological progress was the key to improving the lives of all people.
The building was designed by Francis Kervick, then head of the architecture department (which was part of engineering at the time). Gothic style decoration adorned the exterior.
Builders installed a niche in the east bay for a statue of St. Thomas the Apostle, the patron saint of builders. The spandrels between the first and second floors had carved borders which alternated with the names of Catholic scientists and engineers — da Vinci for mechanics, Marconi for radio, Sanmichlege for fortifications, Agricola for mining engineering, Volta, Ohm, and Galvani for electricity, and some 15 other figures. Stone carvings representing various trades and professions related to engineering decorate other parts of the building.
1933 – Aero Engineering
The Aeronautical Engineering program was established at Notre Dame. It was reframed as Aerospace Engineering in 1965 as the field had evolved to consider the Earth’s atmosphere and the space above it as a single realm for development of flight vehicles.
1935 – Atom Smashers
Notre Dame professors built their own particle accelerator in Cushing Hall of Engineering.
Electrical engineering professor José Caparo, along with physics professors George Collins and Edward Coomes, had first tried to acquire a Van de Graaff particle accelerator, but with limited funding and the lack of commercially available equipment to complete these new experiments, they determined to design and build their own. While other similar labs were accelerating protons, the Notre Dame lab focused on electrons. In 1939, Notre Dame scientists became the first to show electron bombardment could disintegrate an atom.
A second accelerator was built in Science Hall (now LaFortune Hall) in 1941. After World War II, Notre Dame changed the focus to study nuclear reactions for peaceful ventures, from energy sources to cures for cancer.
1937 – Smoke Tunnel
Notre Dame aeronautical engineers pioneered flow visualization through the invention of a smoke tunnel.
They were the first to visualize Tollmien-Schlichting waves—an instability that arises in air flows around surfaces, such as an aircraft wing or a building. In 1940, a three-dimensional smoke tunnel at Notre Dame was powered by a one-horsepower motor that produced winds up to 28 miles an hour.
The unique feature of this tunnel was that the smoke was introduced into it via a “rake” (four tubes) positioned upstream from a screen, which eliminated turbulence. In the 1950s, another aeronautics professor built the world’s first supersonic smoke tunnel.
1941 – Teleprompter
Hubert Joseph Schlafly Jr. earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Notre Dame. That same year, he joined the General Electric Company, where he worked on projects such as anti-aircraft searchlights.
Schlafly went on to co-invent the teleprompter and helped to spearhead the movement towards satellite television. He was involved with the first domestically transmitted national cable television.
An award currently on display in Stinson-Remick Hall of Engineering reads:
The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences
For the Development of Lens-Line Promoting System
Outstanding Achievement in Engineering Awards 1998-1999
1942 – Sister of Flight
Mary Aquinas Kinskey, a Franciscan sister, earned a Master of Science in physics cum laude from Notre Dame.
She learned to fly in 1943 and went on to serve as adviser to the Civil Aeronautics Authority. In 1957, the Air Force Association recognized her for “outstanding contributions to the nation’s security and world peace.” As part of the honor, Sister Mary Aquinas had the opportunity to fly in a T-33 jet trainer and take the control for much of the flight, making her the first nun to fly a jet.
1945 – A Force in Water
Karl E. Schoenherr, dean of the College of Engineering, devised a new formula for computing the force necessary to propel a ship through water. The “Schoenherr Mean Line” was adopted by the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers.
1948 – Black Domers
Alton Augustus Adams Jr., a civil engineering major from St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, arrived at Notre Dame. In February 1950, he and the other first Black students at Notre Dame were featured in a cover story in Ebony magazine.
Adams graduated in 1952, served as a U.S. Air Force pilot, and founded and operated his own engineering firm.
Many years later, Adams was one of several engineers who told his story in Black Domers: African American Students at Notre Dame in Their Own Words, edited by Don Wycliffe and David Krashna. Other Notre Dame engineers in the volume include: Benjamin F. Finley ’60 (EE), who chaired the campus civil rights committee and was one of the founders of Black Alumni of Notre Dame; Hosea Alexander ’62 (AE); Bill Hurd ’69 (EE); Byron Spruell ’87 (ME); and Jamie L. Austin ’04(CE).
1958 – Engineering Ph.D. Talent
Percy A. Pierre enrolled at Notre Dame, earning bachelor’s (1961) and master’s (1963) degrees in electrical engineering. In 1967, graduating with a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University, he become the first African-American to earn a doctorate in electrical engineering.
Pierre held positions as a White House fellow; university professor, dean, and president; and engineering consultant. He served as Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Army for Research and Development and Acting Secretary of the Army.
In 1973, he co-chaired the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Symposium, which officially launched the national minority engineering effort. He was instrumental in establishing numerous organizations to increase support and mentoring for minority engineering students, including NACME; GEM; MESA; and SECME.
1959 – Curveballs Explained
Baseball fans got the answer as to why curveballs curve in a definitive Popular Mechanics article on “The Physics of Baseball: Fast Curve in a Wind Tunnel” by physicist Lyman J. Briggs. The cover photo, showing airflow past a spinning curveball in a windtunnel, was shot by Notre Dame Professor of Aeronautics F.N.M. Brown.
According to a caption, “The wind is coming from the right at the speed of 60 feet per second. The spin is 1,000 revolutions per minute counterclockwise at right angles to the wind.” The Atlantic later said Brown’s photos were “gorgeous wind-tunnel images of smoke streamlines showing the way a ball with backspin deflected its wake.”
1964 – Spinning Basket Reactor
James John Carberry ND ’50 and ’51, professor of chemical engineering at Notre Dame for 40 years, invented the spinning basket reactor. The so-called “Carberry reactor,” or (as he preferred) the “Notre Dame Spinning Basket Reactor” advanced experimental work in catalytic reaction engineering.
1967 – Parafoil innovation
With support from NASA, Notre Dame faculty in aerospace engineering carried out some of the first wind tunnel and flight tests on the parafoil, a wing-shaped, aerial device used as a steerable parachute or to deliver payloads. Notre Dame’s parafoil, based on a recently patented design, could carry a 500-pound weight and fly at about 100 miles an hour.
1972 – First Undergraduate Woman
Mary Ann Proctor, a transfer student from Saint Mary’s College, enrolled at Notre Dame among the first group of female undergraduates. Proctor received her bachelor of science degree in engineering architecture in 1973, becoming the first woman undergraduate to graduate with a degree in engineering.
By 1974, there were 26 women enrolled in the College of Engineering, and 35 freshmen women indicated they intended to study engineering.
1974 – National GEM
Notre Dame played a leading role in the creation of the National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering (GEM), which enhances the value of the nation’s human capital by increasing participation of underrepresented groups at the master’s and doctoral levels in engineering and science.
In 1974, Ted Habarth ND ’63, who worked at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, developed a draft document advocating for the need to fill the graduate education gap of the minority engineering pipeline. He pitched his idea to Joseph C. Hogan, dean of engineering at Notre Dame, and they tested it with several other colleges of engineering and employers looking to hire advanced degree engineering graduates.
In 1975, 40 representatives from research centers, universities and advocacy organizations met at Notre Dame to complete the plan for GEM, submitting it with a cover letter from Rev. Ted Hesburgh, C.S.C. In 1976, GEM was formally launched.
GEM had its headquarters at Notre Dame, in Cushing Hall of Engineering, until it moved to Washington, D.C., in 2007.
Howard G. Adams served as GEM’s Executive Director. He will receive an honorary degree at the University’s 178th Commencement on May 21, 2023.
1974 – First ND Astronaut
James Wetherbee graduated in aerospace engineering. He began his career as a naval aviator. In 1984, he was selected to join NASA in its tenth group of astronauts. He achieved fame in 2002 by commanding the space shuttle Endeavor on an eleven-day mission to the international space station in orbit 240 miles above the Earth.
1977 – Sintering Innovation
George C. Kuczynski, professor of metallurgical engineering at Notre Dame, was one of the first scientists in the world to set forth the basic theory of sintering, the bonding together of fine metal particles at a temperature below their melting point. Sintering happens as part of a manufacturing process used with metals, ceramics, plastics, and other materials.
Kuczynski joined the Notre Dame faculty in 1951 and was professor and professor emeritus for nearly 40 years. According to Sintering Science: An Historical Perspective, “No scientific library anywhere in the world is without his name in the catalogue.”
1979 – Fitzpatrick Hall of Engineering
The Edward B. Fitzpatrick Hall of Engineering was dedicated. Fitzpatrick Hall was named for its primary donor, the Edward B. Fitzpatrick, Jr. family. Edward Fitzpatrick, a New York construction executive, was a Notre Dame civil engineering graduate in 1954. The five-level, 155,000 square-foot facility for the first time accommodated five of the College’s departments under one roof.
1990 – Computer Science and Engineering
The Department of Computer Science and Engineering was established, offering graduate and undergraduate degrees in computer science and computer engineering.
1991 – Hessert Laboratory for Aerospace Research
Hessert Laboratory for Aerospace Research, named for its benefactors Thomas J. and Marilyn Hennebry Hessert, opened to advance Notre Dame’s long history of innovation in aerospace research. The state-of-the-art facility also is home to the Center for Flow Physics and Control (FlowPac), created to develop techniques for modifying fluid flows.
In 2008, Hessert expanded to include the White Field Research Laboratory, housing the Mach 0.6 wind tunnel, a transonic compressor facility and a transonic turbine facility. The facility enables researchers to run experiments at high speeds, much closer to real flight conditions.
2002 – Women in Engineering
Notre Dame Women in Engineering was established to enhance opportunities for and engagement among women students, faculty, alumni and professional engineers. The Notre Dame chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (undergraduate and graduate students) is one of the largest student-led organizations on campus.
2005 – New Class of Compounds
Researchers at Notre Dame and Argonne National Laboratory discover a new class of actinyl peroxide compounds, materials that provide insights into radioactivity in the environment and have new properties that are important to the emerging world of nanotechnology.
2006 – Bioengineering
The College of Engineering establishes the Bioengineering program, including a doctoral program and a minor for undergraduates. Many bioengineering faculty and graduate students pursue their work in the newly built Multidisciplinary Research Building. The program provides a laboratory environment for advanced studies related to biomedical problems ranging from device design to cell mechanics and tissue engineering.
2010 – Wireless Innovation
The Wireless Institute is established to tackle interdisciplinary problems involving both radio technologies and spectrum policy. The Institute engages faculty from electrical engineering, computer science and engineering, sociology, law, and finance.
In 2021, Notre Dame received $25 million in funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to lead SpectrumX, which brings together experts from 29 organizations to transform the landscape of wireless spectrum research, education, collaboration and management.
2010 – Stinson-Remick Hall of Engineering
Notre Dame dedicates a new engineering facility for research and student learning.
Stinson-Remick Hall of Engineering, named in honor of principal benefactors Kenneth ’64 and Ann Stinson and Jack ’59 and Mary Ann Remick, houses a nanotechnology research center, a state-of-the-art semiconductor processing and device fabrication Clean Room, and an undergraduate learning center that puts students in close proximity to research advances in health, energy, and nano science. The McCourtney Learning Center was named in honor of major benefactors Ted ’60 and Tracy McCourtney.
2014 – Magnetic Logic
Researchers at Notre Dame and the Technical University of Munich in Germany devise alternative ways to build circuits using nano-sized magnets. Their 3D magnetic logic gate consists of three input magnets that influence the magnetic state of one output magnet, thereby improving the density of circuits on a chip.
2014 – McCourtney Hall of Science and Engineering
Ground is broken for McCourtney Hall of Molecular Science and Engineering, underwritten by a gift from Ted ’60 and Tracy McCourtney.
McCourtney Hall is the first dedicated research building to be constructed in a planned East Campus Research Complex, designed to support highly collaborative research that crosses the College of Science and the College of Engineering.
2018 – Hypersonic Quiet Wind Tunnel
Notre Dame unveiled the nation’s largest quiet Mach 6 hypersonic wind tunnel. The AFOSR-Notre Dame Large Mach 6 Quiet Tunnel has a nozzle diameter 2.5 times larger than (at the time) current quiet hypersonic wind tunnels in the U.S.
Notre Dame is currently partnered with Purdue University to develop a Mach 8 quiet wind tunnel (at Purdue) and a quiet Mach 10 tunnel (at Notre Dame).
2018 – Center for Civic Innovation
The Center for Civic Innovation is established to immerse Notre Dame engineering students in hands-on community-engaged work with community partners across the South Bend-Elkhart region. With support from the College of Engineering and other partners, the Center works with research centers and individuals across Notre Dame to identify unique opportunities for collaboration to address pressing issues primarily in the South Bend/Elkhart region.
2020 – Materials Science and Engineering
The doctoral program in Materials Science and Engineering was established. The program’s roots date back to a doctoral program first offered by the Department of Metallurgy in 1933.
2021 – Engineering Innovation Hub
The Engineering Innovation Hub (EIH) opened its doors to students and industry partners on the first floor of Cushing-Fitzpatrick Halls of Engineering. The 10,000-square-foot facility offers a state-of-the-art experiential learning and advanced manufacturing environment with first-rate resources for collaboration, fabrication, automation, robotics and modeling space.
2022 – Science/Engineering Research Expansion
Notre Dame announced the expansion of the science and engineering research complex on the east side of campus. The second building will connect to the original three-story McCourtney Hall and facilitate the growth of interdisciplinary research, with a core focus of the future of health at the crossroads of science and engineering.
2023 – ND Engineering Today
Notre Dame Engineering is thriving, with 200 faculty researchers, teachers and practitioners plus 100 staff; 500 freshmen students taking introductory engineering classes; 1,430 undergraduates; 650 graduate students plus postdoctoral scholars; five departments; 9+ undergraduate programs/majors; more than a dozen graduate programs and high-impact research in three major areas — Human Health and Wellbeing; Sustainability and Resilience of our Built and Natural Environment (Our Common Home); and Fair and Equitable Systems and Technologies.
Led by Dean Patricia J. Culligan, the College has embarked on A Better World for All, a strategic plan with four primary goals — 1) provide unsurpassed undergraduate engineering education; 2) enable graduate students to excel; 3) advance our research; and 4) attract and support a diverse, equitable and inclusive engineering community.
Sustainability and Resilience of our Built and Natural Environment (Care for our Common Home)
Equitable Systems and Technologies.
- Blantz, Thomas E. C.S.C. (2021). The University of Notre Dame: A History. Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame Press.
- “Experiments in Wireless Telegraphy at Notre Dame.” (1899, April 23). Chicago Times-Herald. Jerome J. Green Clippings (CZDD) and Notre Dame Printed Materials Collection (PNDP), 01-Gr-3. Archives of the University of Notre Dame (UNDA).
- Hicks, C.B. (1959, June). “The Strange Forces of the Air.” Popular Mechanics. pp. 124-127.
- Hope, Arthur J., C.S.C. (1978). Notre Dame: 100 Years. South Bend, IN: Icarus Press.
- Klimek, Anne (1993). The Zahms’ Legacies: A History of Engineering at Notre Dame, 1873-1993. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame College of Engineering.
- O’Connell, Marvin R. (2001). Edward Sorin. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.
- Schlereth, Thomas J. (1976). The University of Notre Dame: A Portrait of its History and Campus. Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame Press.
- Schubmehl, Raymond J. and Conklin, Richard W. (1974). “A Century of Engineering at Notre Dame.” PNDP, 120-Eng. UNDA.
- Shaffern, Robert (1991). “A Study in American Technical Education: The History of Civil Engineering at the University of Notre Dame.” Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame College of Engineering. Department of Civil Engineering.
- Tupper, Eric C. (2013). Introduction to Naval Architecture (5th Edition). ScienceDirect. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/schoenherr
- Words Fly Through Air. (1899, April 18). The Chicago Tribune. Jerome J. Green Clippings (CZDD) and PNDP, 01-Gr-3. UNDA.
- Wycliff, Don and Davie Krasna (Eds.) (2017). Black Domers: African-American Students at Notre Dame in Their Own Words. Notre Dame, IN.: University of Notre Dame Press.
Special thanks to Notre Dame Archives for support in identifying engineering content for the timeline.