Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

From Academic Kids

Template:Infobox University2 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, or RPI, is a large university in Troy, New York, near Albany, founded in 1824 by Stephen Van Rensselaer. It is the oldest technological university in the English-speaking world.

Rensselaer ranks among the top 50 national universities in the United States by US News & World Report. For 2005, the School of Engineering for undergraduates is ranked 16th in the nation. In 2004, the School of Engineering for graduate students was ranked 33rd in the nation. In 2003, the Lally School of Management & Technology undergraduate program was ranked 22nd. Its Entrepreneurship program was ranked 13th in 2002. The Multimedia/Visual Communications graduate program has been ranked 8th in 2003 and 2004. The Applied Mathematics graduate program has been 21st in the nation in 2003 and 2004.

Rensselaer has five schools: Architecture, Engineering, Humanities & Social Sciences, Management, and Science. RPI is a technology-oriented university; all of the residence hall rooms have hard-wired high speed internet access, and all incoming freshman have been required to purchase a laptop computer since 1999. In 2004, The Princeton Review ranked RPI #1 for having the "most connected campus."

The current President of RPI is Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson. Dr. Jackson’s career prior to becoming Rensselaer’s president has encompassed senior positions in government, as Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission; in industry and research, as a theoretical physicist at the former AT&T Bell Laboratories; and in academe, as a professor of theoretical physics at Rutgers University.

RPI is home to the United States' first on-campus high-tech business incubator. Bruce Watson and Pulickel Ajayan, are among the highly regarded researchers at RPI. RPI is also the professional home of David Musser, one of the primary inventors of the C++ Standard Template Library[1] ( One of the largest companies to have originated in the incubator is MapInfo, a major publisher of mapping and geographic information systems software which is still headquartered in Troy, NY.

In the 20042005 academic year, RPI's enrollment includes 4,888 undergraduate and 1,291 graduate students. Base tuition for a year of undergraduate attendance is $28,950 (not including room, board, or other expenses).

The school features a competitive Division I ice hockey team, the Engineers, who won NCAA national titles in 1954 and 1985. The team plays a significant role in the campus' culture, drawing thousands of fans each week to the Houston Field House during the season. The team's popularity even sparked the tradition of the "hockey line", where students line up for season tickets months in advance of the on-sale date. The official nickname of some of the school's other Division III teams was changed in 1995 from the Engineers to the Red Hawks. (In addition to hockey, the football, cross-country, tennis, and track and field teams all chose to retain the Engineers name.) RPI's unofficial mascot is the albino squirrel (


History of the Institute

Stephen Van Rensselaer established the Rensselaer School November 5, 1824 with a letter to Rev. Dr. Samuel Blatchford, in which he asks him to serve as the first president. Within the letter he set down several orders of business. He appointed Amos Eaton as the school's first senior professor. He also appoints the first board of trustees. On December 29th of that year, the president and the board met and established the methods of instruction, which were rather different from methods employed at other colleges at the time. Students performed experiments and explained their rationale and gave their own lectures rather than listening to lectures and watching demonstrations. The school opened on Monday, January 3, 1825 at the Old Bank Place, a building at the north end of Troy. The opening was announced by a notice, signed by the president, printed in the Troy Sentinel of December 28. The school attracted students from the State of New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The fact that the school attracted students from afar is a tribute to the reputation of Eaton. Fourteen months of successful trial led to the incorporation of the school on March 21, 1826 by the State of New York.

Notable alumni

  • Myles N. Brand (1964), served as chair of philosophy at the University of Illinois-Chicago, elevating the department’s rank to among the top 10 in the nation. He then served as dean of arts and sciences at the University of Arizona, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Ohio State University, and president of the University of Oregon before gaining national recognition as president of Indiana University, 1994 to 2002. In 2003, Brand was named president of the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association).
  • Edwin Bryant Crocker (1833), was a western railroad pioneer. A lawyer who relocated to Sacramento from the Midwest and named associate justice of the California State Supreme Court in 1863, Crocker became the legal counsel for the Central Pacific Railroad Co. Responsibility for the railroad called upon his engineering education, legal experience, political connections, and charming diplomacy. When his brother, Charles—one of the "Big Four" who built the western portion of the transcontinental railroad—resigned, Crocker became a director, and by the 1870s was one of the railroad's largest investors. Earlier in his career, Crocker had been an anti-slavery advocate; later in life he built an art collection that became Sacramento's Crocker Art Museum.
  • Dr. Allen B. Dumont (1924), perfected the cathode ray tube and is considered the "father of modern TV"
  • Bobby Farrelly, famous director, writer and producer of such films as "Shallow Hal" and "There's Something About Mary"
  • George W. G. Ferris (1881), inventor of the Ferris Wheel
  • Lois Graham (1946), one of the first two women to earn a degree at Rensselaer and did so in an accelerated schedule brought on by World War II. She continued her studies at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), where she embarked on a lifetime of contributions to engineering education. Her career at IIT was one of establishing “firsts” for women and breaking down barriers for women in the engineering profession. She was the first woman at IIT to earn advanced degrees in mechanical engineering, the first woman in the U.S. to earn a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, and the first woman to receive a fellow award from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, honoring her for contributions as an educator in thermodynamics and cryogenics.
  • Ivar Giaever (1964), shared the Nobel Prize in 1973 for experimental discoveries regarding tunneling phenomena in semiconductors and superconductors, respectively. Currently, Institute Professor of Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
  • Frederick Grinnell (1855), was a pioneer in fire safety. Inventor, engineer, and industrialist, Frederick Grinnell was the creator of the first practical automatic fire sprinkler, which has made an enormous contribution to fire safety. Earlier in his career, he was draftsman, construction engineer, and manager for various railroad manufacturers. He designed and built more than 100 locomotives. In 1869 he purchased a controlling interest in a company that manufactured fire-extinguishing apparatus. Grinnell licensed a sprinkler device patented by Henry S. Parmelee, then worked to improve the invention, and in 1881 patented the automatic sprinkler that bears his name. He continued to improve the device and in 1890 invented the glass disc sprinkler, essentially the same as that in use today. He secured some 40 distinct patents for improvements on his sprinklers and invented a dry pipe valve and automatic fire-alarm system as well. In 1892, Grinnell organized the General Fire Extinguisher Co., an amalgamation of several smaller companies, which became the foremost organization in its field of manufacture. Today the Grinnell Fire Protection Co. is a part of Tyco International Ltd.
  • Marcian Hoff (1958), the "father of the microprocessor"
  • Eben N. Horsford (1838), has been called "the father of American food technology." Horsford was appointed Rumford Professor and Lecturer on the Application of Science to the Useful Arts at Harvard in 1847. He taught chemistry and conducted research at the Lawrence Scientific School at Harvard for 16 years, and published articles in major scientific publications on such topics as phosphates, condensed milk, fermentation, and emergency rations. A generous supporter of higher education for women, Horsford became president of the board of visitors of Wellesley College, and donated money for books, scientific apparatus, and a pension fund to the college. He enjoyed remarkable success through his development of processes for manufacturing baking powder and condensed milk. He is perhaps most remembered for discovering Baking Powder.
  • Douglass Houghton (1829), appointed Michigan’s first state geologist at age 28. His efforts led to the discovery of deposits of salt, copper, and iron in the state, with enormous impact on the state’s young economy. A city, a county, and a lake honor his name in Michigan.
  • Walter E. Irving (1896), founded in 1902 what was to become the Irving Subway Grating Co., which perfected open steel grating, first used for subway ventilating chambers. his open steel flooring has been used on bridge decks, catwalks, loading platforms, railroad cars, and in thousands of other industrial applications. Each has dramatically improved safety. He was honored by the armed forces during World War II for his creation of airfield mats, known as “magic carpets,” which provided emergency landing fields quickly and could be easily camouflaged. He introduced the “Streamline Splice,” which enabled open steel flooring to be laid in one piece no matter how large the area.
  • Howard P. Isermann (1942), developed the ultraviolet absorber that became the most effective and leading sunscreen in the world.
  • J. Christopher Jaffe (1949), recognized internationally for his innovation and leadership in architectural acoustic design. He has taught acoustics at the Juilliard School and City University of New York, as well as at Rensselaer, where he is founder of the master’s program in architectural acoustics and over the last four decades he has consulted on more than 250 performance halls.
  • Erik Jonsson (1922), former president of Texas Instruments Incorporated. The Jonsson Engineering Center on campus is named after him.
  • Theodore Dehone Judah (1837) was also known as "Crazy Judah" because of his single-minded passion for driving a railroad through the Sierra Nevada mountains. His advocacy and enthusiasm for the project in California and in Washington, D.C., made possible America's first transcontinental route. Judah, the transcontinental railroad visionary, constructed the first railroad in California, helped organize the Central Pacific Railroad Co., surveyed routes across the Sierra Nevada, and served as the railroad's agent in Washington, D.C.
  • George Low, manager at National Aeronautics and Space Administration for the Apollo 11 project that put the first person on the moon. The Low Center for Industrial Innovation on campus is named after him.
  • Adam Oates, NHL star from 1985 to 2004, 6th on the NHL's all-time assists list.
  • Curtis Priem, (1982) Nvidia co-founder and chief technical officer from 1993 to 2003. He had been the architect for the first graphics processor for the PC, the IBM Professional Graphics Adapter, and from 1986 to 1993 was senior staff engineer at Sun Microsystems where he developed the GX graphics chips at Sun Microsystems. He is also currently (2005) a trustee of Renssleaer Polytechnic Institute.
  • Robert Resnick (1992), together with co-author David Halliday, revolutionized physics education with their now famous textbook on general physics, still one of the most highly regarded texts in the field today. He is author or co-author of seven physics textbooks, which appear in 15 editions and more than 47 languages. He was awarded the American Association of Physics Teachers’ highest honor, the Oersted Medal, in 1975, and served as its president, 1986-90. A Distinguished Service Citation issued in 1967 by the association said, "Few physicists have had greater or more direct influence on undergraduate physics students than has Robert Resnick."
  • Sheldon Roberts, member of the Traitorous Eight that created Silicon Valley; co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor and Amelco (now Teledyne).
  • Washington Roebling (1857), the chief engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge
  • Paul Severino, founder of Wellfleet Communications, which merged with SynOptics Communications to become Bay Networks, now owned by Nortel
  • John L. Swigert Jr. (1965), an Air Force fighter pilot and engineering test pilot, earned a master’s degree in aerospace science from Rensselaer’s Hartford campus in 1965 and in 1966 was selected by NASA in its fifth astronaut class. Member of Apollo 13 along with Jim Lovell, and Fred Haise. "Jack" was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1970. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Colorado in November 1982. The state of Colorado placed a statue of Swigert in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol in 1997.
  • Raymond Tomlinson (1963), invented network electronic mail and put the @ sign in e-mail. In 1971 he was an engineer for Bolt Beranek and Newman, which had won the contract to create ARPANET, a communication network that would allow scientists and researchers to share each other's computer facilities. While investigating ways to use the network, he hit on the idea to merge an intra-machine message program with another program developed for transferring files among the far-flung ARPANET computers. What he did next secured his place in communications history: He chose the @ sign to connect the user name with the destination address. Unforeseen at the beginning of ARPANET, Tomlinson's creation of e-mail became the future Internet's most popular application. Ray Tomlinson received the George R. Stibitz Computer Pioneer Award from the American Computer Museum in April 2000, almost 30 years after he wrote what has been called the "killer application" of the Internet.
  • Alan M. Voorhees (1947), began his career as a planning engineer for Colorado Springs and became one of the world's leading city planners and traffic forecasters. For the city of Baltimore, he undertook the first application of mathematical models for forecasting traffic and published a landmark paper that has become the foundation for most traffic forecasting techniques in use today. In 1961 he established his own consulting firm, which set up transportation and planning studies for major cities in the United States, Canada, and England. He was the planner of most of the metro systems built in the free world in the 1960s and 1970s, and creator of master plans for major cities and new communities around the world. Voorhees received the first Harland Bartholomew Award of the American Society of Civil Engineers as the engineer who has contributed most to urban planning, and was honored with the establishment of the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University. He is a former Rensselaer trustee and principal supporter for Rensselaer's Voorhees Computing Center.
  • Sheldon Weinbaum, noted Biomedical Engineer, Elected to Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Engineering, and National Academy of Sciences.
  • William H. Wiley (1866), commanded two companies of artillery and was retired as brevet major "for gallant and meritorious services" when his education was interrupted by the Civil War. After earning his civil engineering degree at Rensselaer, he practiced engineering in the East and Midwest for nine years. In 1876 he entered the publishing business with his father and brother, under the firm name of John Wiley & Sons. The family company had published works by Cooper, Emerson, Melville, and Poe. Once in charge, Wiley phased out all publishing programs not concerned with science and technology, and established the firm as America's premier publisher of scientific and technical books. By 1895 the company became a worldwide organization, distributing American scientific knowledge around the globe, including the work of Rensselaer faculty. Wiley served three terms in the U.S. Congress as a representative from New Jersey and was a national leader of Theta Xi for 60 years, having been a founding member of the fraternity's alpha chapter at Rensselaer.

RPI songs

There are a number of songs commonly played and sung at various RPI events. Notable among them are:

  • The Alma Mater (Here's to Old RPI) - sung at formal events such as commencement and convocation, also played by the Pep Band at Hockey games.
  • Hail, Dear Old Rensselaer - the RPI fight song, played by the Pep Band during Hockey and Football games, especially when the teams score. (Most RPI students don't actually know the lyrics to this song).
  • All We've Learned at Rensselaer - sung at the RPI commencement ceremonies by the Rensselyrics.

Clubs and Organizations

The students of RPI have created and participate in many student run clubs and organizations funded by the Student Union:

See the official listing of clubs and organizations ( for a full list.

Notable Firsts

External links


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