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Legacy of Distiction Legacy of Distiction Legacy of Distiction
Ebenezer Emmons William Pitt Mason John A.L. Waddell
Ebenezer Emmons William Pitt Mason John A.L. Waddell
A graduate of Rensselaer’s first class, Ebenezer Emmons became one of the founders of American geology. His influential work led to the modern understanding of the geology of upstate New York, and served as a model and a standard for the geologic-stratigraphic surveys for the rest of the United States. As state geologist for the northern New York State Geological District, Emmons was responsible for naming the Adirondacks and the Taconic Mountains. His discovery that the rocks that formed the Taconic sequence were much older than those to their west, though controversial at the time, was of such significance that the frontal fault, which runs through the Rensselaer campus, is known as “Emmons’ Line.” Emmons wrote classic texts on geology and other aspects of natural history. Active in the scientific community, he hosted the first meeting of the American Association of Geologists in his Albany home in 1838. The organization later became the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
A pioneer in sanitation chemistry, William Pitt Mason was an unusual combination of chemist, engineer, and medical expert. He spent his entire career at Rensselaer, as teacher, scholar, and practicing scientist. In addition to his undergraduate degree in civil engineering, he earned a medical degree from Albany Medical College and studied bacteriology at the Pasteur Institute. Through his studies of water analysis and water supply, Mason became a major contributor to the world’s knowledge and understanding of the need for pure municipal water supplies. His publications extending over a period of 40 years moved U.S. cities toward pure water and better public health. At Rensselaer, Mason became the founder and first head of the modern departments of chemistry and chemical engineering. A popular and admired member of the faculty, Mason offered special opportunities for the training of chemists in water analysis and sanitation chemistry. Among his career contributions, he served as president of the American Water Works Association.
John A.L. Waddell built a reputation as one of the 20th century’s best known and highly respected bridge builders. Prior to founding his own engineering and design firm, he taught engineering in Japan, where his influence on infrastructure construction was significant. Waddell was a prolific bridge designer, with more than a thousand structures to his credit in the U.S. and Canada, as well as Mexico, Russia, China, Japan, and New Zealand. His bridges spanned the Colorado, Missouri, Niagara, and Mississippi rivers. Waddell’s work set standards for elevated railroad systems and helped develop materials suitable for large-span bridges. His most important contribution was the development of the modern vertical-lift bridge. His patented design was first used in 1893 for Chicago’s South Halsted Street Bridge over the Chicago River; he went on to design more than 100 other movable bridges. Waddell was a widely published and respected writer on bridge design, and an advocate of quality training of engineers and engineers’ professional status.
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Rensselaer (ISSN 0898-1442) is published in Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter by the Office of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180-3590. Opinions expressed in these pages do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or the policies of the Institute. ©2007 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.