Spring 1998

People of the Century

The engineer who ran the Trans-Siberian Railway. The man who built one of the world's first automobiles. The nation's first traffic engineer. The inventor of one of the first practical time clocks. The supervisor of one of the greatest water supply projects of all time. A cartoonist for Harper's and the New York Herald. The inventor of rock wool. The founder of Alden, Pa. A developer of sulpha drugs. The designer of the first airplane to cross the Atlantic Ocean. The classifier of more than 1,000 new species of plants and animals. The founder of one of the earliest and most successful study-at-home programs. The attorney who defended Sacco and Vanzetti. A governor of Connecticut. The general who was President Truman's eyes and ears in Korea. The father of commercial radio broadcasting. Winners of the Academy Award and the Emmy.

What do these individuals have in common? For one, they all studied at WPI. For another, their stories were told in the pages of the WPI Journal during its first 100 years.

When it debuted in November 1897, the Journal was one of the nation's earliest college alumni magazines. It was the brainchild of a group of adventurous WPI students and faculty who believed that there was a need for a regular publication to highlight the accomplishments and personal milestones of WPI's graduates, and to keep those men (there were no women graduates until 1972) informed about their ever changing alma mater. The fact that the magazine lives on, a century after that first issue, is a testament to their foresight.

Over the years, the Journal has changed dramatically. Originally a technical journal filled with long-winded dissertations on engineering milestones and practices, it slowly evolved into the more traditional university magazine you see before you. It has undergone numerous transformations in size, typography, illustration, layout and frequency. It has survived near financial ruin and the occasional scrutiny of budget cutters. Its history includes a brief marriage with several other alumni magazines that formed a publishing consortium, the birth of an offspring (the newsy WPI Wire), and the creation of an electronic clone on the World Wide Web (www.wpi.edu/News/Journal).


But one thing has not changed about the WPI Journal. From that first issue right up to the edition you hold in your hands, the magazine has always been a showcase for individuals who have taken their WPI degrees out into the world and done remarkable things. And, throughout those event-filled 100 years, there has never been a shortage of interesting people to write about.

When the editors began work on Vol. 1, No. 1, they looked out at the world of the late 19th century and saw how technology was transforming it in every way imaginable. They also saw how WPI alumni were shaping that technology and leaving a remarkable imprint on history. Through the years, graduates of the University have invented, designed and manufactured technologies that changed our lives. They have founded and run companies too numerous to mention, designed and erected buildings, dams, and bridges, and fashioned great networks of railroads, highways, waterways and power lines. They have made scientific discoveries and explored uncharted territory - both physical and metaphorical. They have held nearly every job and pursued nearly every occupation one could envision, and they have excelled at most of them. With their ideas, their imagination, their knowledge, their creativity, their indomitable spirit, and their sweat and tears, they built the world of the 20th century and left behind a legacy that will long endure.

To celebrate the Journal's first century of publication, its editors have combed through every issue of the magazine looking for 100 of those stories to tell again. We have uncovered some familiar tales, and some lesser-known gems. Taken together, they tell the story, not only of an educational institution and its remarkable products, but of the evolution of the technological world we inhabit.

Building the Iron Rails For early graduates, the burgeoning railroad industry must have been a powerful lure. For those with a willingness to set out for America's frontier, the possibilities were endless.
The State of the Arts WPI alumni have achieved success - and occasional fame - in a number of creative endeavors.
From the Ground Up Important buildings and other major edifices around the world bear the imprint of WPI graduates.
A New Generation of Mariners The railroads were not the only means of transportation to have benefited from the creativity and talents of WPI alumni. A number of graduates helped shape the modern era of shipbuilding.
Putting America Behind the Wheel As the heyday of the great railroads was waning, the age of the automobile was beginning. Several WPI alumni played pivotal roles in the development and success of the early automotive industry.
Enlightening New Generations High school teacher, college professor, university dean - WPI graduates have held these and many other positions in the field of education. They have also been associated with important developments in educational techniques and technology.
The Sky was No Limit Most WPI graduates know that Robert H. Goddard '08 was the father of space flight. But the history of aviation is also replete with the accomplishments of the University's alumni.
Powering the Nation The University has produced many graduates who, through their inventions and insights, have helped shape the electric power industry.
Where the Rubber Meets the Road As more and more Americans purchased automobiles, the need arose for a network of roads for them to travel on. The construction of roads and highways was just one facet of an era of public works that followed WPI's founding
Blazing New Trails WPI graduates played pivotal roles in the great age of exploration and scientific discovery during the 19th and 20th centuries.
In Service to Their Country WPI alumni have served in virtually every branch and division of the military and have fought in every war since WPI opened its doors. Several graduates have gone on to earn high distinction in uniform.
Making Things Grow Many WPI graduates have devoted their life's work to agriculture.
The Law of the Land For a number of WPI students, a preparation in science or engineering became the foundation for a career in law.
Entertaining the Masses The technical and entrepreneurial skills of WPI graduates played seminal roles in the development of the radio, television and film industries in the United States.
Dawn of the Information Age Numerous contributions to the fields of electronics, communications and computer technology, all attributed to alumni of WPI, have helped bring about the Information Age.

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