When Trinity became Duke University in 1924, engineering underwent vigorous development. In 1927, engineering was organized into separate departments of civil and electrical engineering. The Department of Mechanical Engineering started in 1931.
Growth in engineering at Duke in the 1930s closely paralleled the larger departments in arts and sciences. In 1930, there were four faculty members; and in 1938, there were nine. By 1930, 101 students were studying engineering. When Duke established the Division of Engineering in 1937, there were 167 students.
A College is Born
With engineering alumni active and organized from 1937 onward and with a student body that had grown to 201 in 1939, the college was on its way. Students in each department competed to show off the latest technological marvels, such as the electrical engineers' display of a new fangled telephone-television booth.
By 1937, engineering at Duke had 30,000 square feet of space on East campus, six times what it had a decade earlier. Engineers were the only men living on East Campus until they moved westward after World War II to join the students of Trinity College of Arts and Sciences.
The Post War Years
In 1951, the university created the Research and Development Program for Engineering, which eventually led to a graduate program and was the foundation for what would become a major national engineering research effort. The R&D program was led by Walter J. Seeley, who came to Duke in 1925 to teach electrical engineering. He was dean in 1953.
The Changing '60s
James L. Meriam, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, was appointed dean in 1963. The college was named the School of Engineering in 1966 and the school's first black students graduated two years later.
The Division of Biomedical Engineering was established in 1967 and in 1971 it became the first biomedical engineering department at a U.S. university.
George Pearsall was named dean in 1969 and three years later the Engineering Annex building opened. In 1974, Aleksander S. Vesic, who joined Duke as a professor of civil engineering 10 years earlier, was appointed dean. After Vesic died in 1982, Pearsall stepped in as interim dean until Earl H. Dowell moved to Duke from Princeton to become dean in 1983.
A 21st Century Foundation
Kristina M. Johnson joined Duke as engineering dean in 1999, and later that year the school was named for 1947 electrical engineering graduate Edmund T. Pratt Jr. The Fitzpatrick Center for Photonics and Communications Systems was established in 2000. Teaching and research space doubled with the 2004 opening of the 322,000-square-foot Fitzpatrick Center for Interdisciplinary Engineering, Medicine and Applied Sciences (FCIEMAS).
In 2005, Pratt established the Duke Immersive Virtual Environment (DiVE) is a six-sided, full immersion virtual reality theater. DiVE is the only such facility in the Southeast, and one of seven in the world.
Tom Katsouleas joined Duke as dean in 2008. Under his leadership, Duke co-hosted the Summit on the National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges event in March of 2009.