Our History

In 1979, WPI established the first graduate degree program in fire protection engineering building on our early contributions to the fire protection engineering movement starting in the 19th century.

One of the first references to fire protection engineering as a discipline appeared in the WPI Journal in 1898. Henry Lucian Phillips, WPI class of 1893, wrote: “It’s safe to prophesy that not many years will lapse before scientific colleges will seriously consider this subject [fire protection engineering] and include regular lectures or courses upon it in their curriculum [sic].”

Little did Phillips know that 81 years later his alma mater would establish the first U.S. graduate degree program in fire protection engineering.

Today, the Fire Protection Engineering Department is a thriving, internationally vibrant melting pot of academic disciplines. WPI’s Fire Protection Engineering program, teachers, and graduates with dynamic engineering backgrounds from more than 40 countries continually make their mark upon fire protection engineering progress worldwide.

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  • Lucht image

    Emeritus Profile

    Name: David A. Lucht
    Title: P.E., FSFPE

    Founder of WPI’s graduate degree program in FPE, he initiated the internship program and distance learning courses, both essential to the continued successful studies of many FPE students.

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  • Robert W. Fitzgerald

    Emeritus Profile

    Name: Robert W. Fitzgerald
    Title: Ph.D

    Bob Fitzgerald’s pioneering efforts in developing a rational, systemic approach toward analyzing building fire safety culminated in the publishing Building Fire Performance Analysis.

  • Howard W. Freeman

    Emeritus Profile

    Name: Howard W. Freeman
    Title: WPI Class of 1940

    Howard Freeman earned over 20 patents for fire protection devices, including what became the U.S. Navy water fog nozzle, an item used to save thousands during World War II.

  • George I. Rockwood

    Emeritus Profile

    Name: George I. Rockwood
    Title: WPI Class of 1888

    In 1903 George Rockwood founded Rockwood Sprinkler Company in Worcester, Mass.

  • Edward B. Watkins

    Emeritus Profile

    Name: Edward B. Watkins
    Title: WPI Class of 1886

    In 1892 Edward B. Watkins founded Simplex Time Recorder Company. Simplex would later become a world leader in fire detection and alarm systems.

  • Robert Zalosh

    Emeritus Profile

    Name: Robert Zalosh

    Robert Zalosh wrote the explosion protection chapter in the SFPE Handbook and helped develop the graduate program in FPE at WPI, the first in the United States.