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The Evolution Of Professional Associations, Engineering Education And Information Literacy

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

A Century of Development, Promotion, and Reform: ASEE and Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Liberal Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1226.1 - 13.1226.10



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Paper Authors


Carol Johnson New Jersey Institute of Technology

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Carol Siri Johnson is an Assistant Professor of Humanities at New Jersey Institute of Technology. Her undergraduate degree is from Mount Holyoke College and her Ph.D. is from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Her research areas include technical communication in the American iron and steel industry and educational assessment.

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The Evolution of the Professional Associations, Engineering Education and Information Literacy Abstract

Change has become a constant in our society, especially in methods of creating and transferring knowledge. In the 19th century, the professional associations pioneered rapid knowledge acquisition and transfer as groups formed, met, and shared ideas that led to more ideas. Associations such as the ASCE, AIME and ASME were the original knowledge owners and brokers, building libraries, publishing transactions and instituting professional requirements that entitled the bearer to such designations as M. E. and C. E. College education began in America in the 19th century as well, but it was not until after the Morrill Land Act and the colleges’ gradual growth that they had to power to become the primary disseminators of knowledge. After the colleges were firmly established, they took over the credentialing of engineers including the granting of degree titles. At this point, the associations began to withdraw from the business of education and knowledge management. They combined their libraries and offices in single location: the Engineering Societies Library in New York City. As technology became more complex, the associations splintered into smaller groups, weakening the original structures. By the late 20th century, the Engineering Societies Library was disbanded as well. In the 21st century, the transmission of knowledge has moved beyond both the associations and the universities to a wide array of resources that require information literacy to penetrate.

The Evolution of the Professional Associations in the 19th Century The American Society of Civil Engineers and Architects was established in 1853 but was not active until 1868, when they changed their name to The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).1 They began to publish their Transactions in 1868 and their Proceedings in 1873. The American Institute of Mining Engineers (AIME) was founded in 1871 and grew rapidly. It regularly published the Transactions of the American Institute of Mining Engineers as well as using a weekly, the Engineering and Mining Journal as its official “organ”.2 The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) was founded in 1880, grew rapidly and also immediately began publishing Transactions. The American Institute of Electrical Engineers (later the IEEE) was founded in 1884. The purpose of these associations, based on the scientific societies in Europe, were “to promote the Arts and Sciences connected with the [industry] . . . by means of meetings for social intercourse, and the reading and discussion of professional papers, and to circulate, by means of publications among its members and associates, the information thus obtained.”3 These societies were able to emerge at this time because railroads connected distant cities and allowed relatively rapid travel to meeting locations. Both regional and national meetings were held in a variety of locations throughout each year. The center of industry, however, was the northeast United States. Later, these founder organizations consolidated their libraries and offices in a single building in New York City.

All of these organizations were structured like the scientific and technological associations in Europe. They were “complex systems of knowledge and the associated means of diffusing and advancing those systems . . . that closely paralleled the knowledge systems and professional institutions of the sciences” in Europe.5 They traded knowledge via personal

Johnson, C. (2008, June), The Evolution Of Professional Associations, Engineering Education And Information Literacy Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3099

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