Summer Surveys: Scholastic Amusements in Civil Engineering

Sixty Years of the Summer Course

Amos Eaton designed a curriculum that included physical exercise in the form of "afternoon" or "scholastic amusements". In an early publication of the Rensselaer School, Eaton described this characteristic of the curriculum.
Corporal exercise is not only necessary for the health of students, but for qualifying them for the business of life. When such exercises are chosen by students they are not always judiciously selected. Such exercises as running, jumping, climbing, scuffing, and the like are calculated to detract from that dignity of deportment which becomes a man of science. Therefore a system of exercises is adopted at this school which, while it improves the health, also improves the mind and excludes those vulgarisms which are too often rendered habitual among students. Such exercises as land surveying [and] general engineering... are made the duties of students for a stated number of hours on each day.

In 1856, a one year certificate course in Land Surveying was introduced. This program was phased out in 1860 when the civil engineering degree program was extended to four years. The modified program included theory and practice in various types of surveys. By the 1870s, the last nine weeks of the spring semester were devoted to practice in hydrographical and topographical surveying for juniors and line surveying for seniors.

"In 1894 and thereafter there will be given to some of the students in the course in civil engineering for six days each week between June 1st and July 1st field work in surveying and railroad engineering." [1893 Bulletin]

Beginning in 1897, the summer survey was required for all third year civil engineering students. Three weeks following commencement were spent on a topographical survey and three weeks in late August were spent on a railroad survey, both in nearby villages. In 1908, the summer survey requirement was divided into two summers. A three week topographical survey was completed after the second year of study and a three week railroad survey was completed in August after the third year of study. A one week hydrographical survey in the Hudson River was added to the three week topographical term in 1920. The hydrographical survey requirement was dropped during the 1930s. The topographical and railroad surveys continued until 1957, except for the interruption of World War II.

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