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American Engineering Education In International Perspective: Alois Riedler And The Reform Of German Engineering, 1893 1914

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Global Engineering in an Interconnected World

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Page Count


Page Numbers

11.169.1 - 11.169.10



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Paper Authors

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gregory zieren Austin Peay State University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

American Engineering Education In International Context: Alois Riedler and the Reform of German Engineering, 1893-1914


In 1893 Prof. Alois Riedler of the Royal Technical University of Berlin was commissioned by the Prussian Ministry of Education and Culture to investigate American engineering education. At the same time he also served as a technical correspondent for the Association of German Engineers and wrote extensively on American technology on display at the World’s Columbian Exposition for the Association’s journal. Riedler’s interest in American engineering education had its origins in his role as a jury member at the Philadelphia Centennial in 1876 and his admiration for the accomplishments of American civil and mechanical engineers, whom he considered to be among the world’s best. He was also the leading German proponent of reform of engineering education away from overly abstract and theoretical instruction, equal standing for newer technical universities with traditional institutions of higher learning, and improvement in the professional and social standing of the engineer in German society.

Riedler’s report singled out programs at Cornell University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stevens Institute of Technology as engineering curricula worth emulating by German technical universities. He believed that the hours spent in practical laboratories, as the best American programs required, offered hands-on and practical experience for engineers in training. Materials testing facilities offered both faculty and students the opportunity to perform real research of value to the engineering profession and society at large.

Riedler’s conclusions won quick approval in professional engineering circles in Germany. The Association of German Engineers took up his recommendations and incorporated them into a series of resolutions to be forwarded to state governments to increase the funding for technical universities, to change the curriculum promoting laboratory practice and create practical testing facilities. The reforms, inspired by American engineering school education, profoundly changed the nature of German engineering in the 20th century.


Prof. Alois Riedler of Berlin’s Royal Technical University spent most of the year 1893 in the U.S., reporting on the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago for the journal of the Association of German Engineers and gathering material for a study of American engineering education commissioned by the Prussian Ministry of Education. After returning from a grand tour of the American West, he exclaimed, “America owes its greatness, achieved in such an unparalleled short time span, to the civilizing influence of the engineer. The engineer is not only the pioneer of civilization in the wilderness… but nowhere else in the world is the work of the engineer of greater importance.”1 So powerful was the force of rapid American development in the world that Germany had no

zieren, G. (2006, June), American Engineering Education In International Perspective: Alois Riedler And The Reform Of German Engineering, 1893 1914 Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--1263

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