100 years ago: The education of the mining engineer

New York section of M. and M. Society discusses problems of educators.

The following article ran in the Nov. 19, 1921 issue of the M.C.M. Lode.


An enthusiastic meeting of the New York section of the Mining and Metallurgical Society of America was held Friday evening, Oct. 28, at the Harvard Club, following the regular section dinner. In the absence of C. M. Weld, chairman, Sydney H. Ball, vice-chairman, presided and announced that the discussion would cover the report made by the Committee on Technical Education.

Dr. F. W. McNair, president of the Michigan College of Mines, said that he wished to correct the impression that seemed to be made by the report that the course at Houghton is shorter than the four-year courses at other institutions. He stated that the Michigan College of Mines has an all-year session on the four term plan, and that time equivalent to that given at other colleges in four years is by this means put with the limits of three calendar years.

He emphasized the point that “reaching” the student is more important than the content of the course, and pointed out that specialization in professional life is determined chiefly by the opportunities which come to the graduate, and that in the great majority of cases neither the college student nor his teachers can correctly predict what opportunities he is afterward to meet.

Lectures, he said, are justified in three cases — for the announcement of new developments, for purposes of demonstration, and when the lecturer has the power to arouse in his listeners an interest in and enthusiasm for the subject which can not be expected to come from reading cold print.

His ideal institution, he said, would be one bounteously endowed, independent of political conditions, in which it would be possible to make a careful study of each student, and a classification of students based on the results of such study. 

Furthermore, since the engineer’s life is mainly spent in solving problems, students of this institution would find their chief business as students to consist of solving problems of various kinds under all sorts of conditions. He emphasized that among the problems the student would meet at different stages of his program a number involving human relations.

Many other prominent educators of mining engineers voiced their opinion and gave lectures on the various ways of educating a mining engineer.