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Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Worcester Polytechnic Institute is a private research university located in Worcester, Massachusetts, United States.



100 Institute Rd
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Application Deadline
January, 1
Gompei The Goat
Grey Cardinal Crimson

College History


Worcester Polytechnic Institute was the synthesis of the idealism of a self-made tinware manufacturer, John Boynton, and the highly specific ideas of Ichabod Washburn, owner of the world�s largest wire mill. Boynton envisioned science schooling that would elevate the social position of the mechanic and manufacturer, but not necessarily teach the skills needed to become either. Washburn, on the other hand, wanted to teach technical skills through a sophisticated apprenticeship approach. When Boynton was finally ready to act, he consulted Seth Sweetser, a pastor, for ways and means of giving his dream effect. By chance it happened that Ichabod Washburn had previously consulted Sweetser about the proper way to actualize a vision of his own, one similar enough to John Boynton�s dream. John Boynton (left) and Ichabod Washburn (right). Washburn was shocked and unhappy when he heard about Boynton�s offer to create a college, for he had wanted to start a technical school of his own. Although Washburn claimed, "I prefer to be imposed upon by others rather than by myself in withholding where I ought to give," with the help of Sweetser's diplomacy and wisdom, he agreed to build, furnish, and endow a "Department of Practical Mechanics" at Boynton�s school. He specified, however, that every student should blend theory learned in the classroom with practice in the shops. Sweetser then drafted a letter expressing Boynton�s and Washburn's wish to other significant men within Worcester County. The document was sent to 30 Worcester businessmen. It told of a "liberal proposal to found a Free School for Industrial Science" in Worcester and called for a meeting later in the month. After that meeting the following notice appeared in the Worcester Palladium: "A Gentleman, who for the present withholds his name from the public, offers a fund of $100,000 for the establishment of a scientific school in Worcester, upon the condition that our citizens shall furnish the necessary land and buildings." Further funding and land grants for the university were given by Stephen Salisbury II, who was an influential merchant and later served as the first president of the Institute's board of directors. In response to this anonymous request, more than 225 Worcester citizens and the workers at 20 of the city�s factories and machine shops contributed to the construction of the original building. On May 10, 1865, after House and Senate approval, the secretary of the commonwealth recorded the Institute as a legal corporation, and it came into formal existence. Both Boynton and Washburn passed away before the opening of the college on November 11, 1868. On that day, Charles O. Thompson, the first president of the Institute stood before WPI�s first two buildings named Boynton Hall and Washburn Shops in honor of their respective donors, with their distinctive towers that even then symbolized the institution�s two educational objectives of theory and practice, and inaugurated the Worcester County Free Institute of Industrial Science. Boynton Hall, WPI's main administrative building. Washburn Shops, where WPI's first hands-on classrooms and laboratories were built in the 19th century. WPI was led in its early years by president and professor of chemistry Charles O. Thompson. Early graduates of WPI went on to become mechanical and civil engineers, as well as artisans, bankers, and enter other prominent occupations. WPI continuously expanded its campus and programs throughout the early twentieth century, eventually including graduate studies and a program in electrical engineering. During World War II, WPI offered defense engineering courses and was selected as one of the colleges to direct the V-12 Navy College Training Program. During this time, WPI suffered from the lack of a unified library system, well-maintained buildings, and national recognition. This changed under the leadership of president Harry P. Storke from 1962 to 1969. Storke brought significant change to the school in what would be known as the WPI Plan. The Plan called for the creation of three projects and drastically redesigned the curriculum to address how a student learns. The Storke administration also launched a capital campaign that resulted in the creation of the George C. Gordon Library, added residence halls, an auditorium, and a modern chemistry building. Furthermore, women were first allowed to enter WPI in February 1968. The WPI Plan is the guiding principle behind undergraduate education at the Institute today, and is arguably the most notable contribution WPI has made towards science and engineering education. Today, WPI is primarily an undergraduate focused institution, though expansion of graduate and research programs is a long-term goal. The WPI Bioengineering Institute is a significant contributor to Worcester's growing biotechnology industry. Significant research in other fields such as metallurgy, untethered health care, fuel cells, the learning sciences, applied mathematics and fire protection currently help establish WPI as an important, specialized research university.

College Specialty


WPI educates talented men and women in engineering, science, management, and humanities in preparation for careers of professional practice, civic contribution, and leadership, facilitated by active lifelong learning. This educational process is true to the founders' directive to create, to discover, and to convey knowledge at the frontiers of academic inquiry for the betterment of society. Knowledge is created and discovered in the scholarly activities of faculty and students ranging across educational methodology, professional practice, and basic research. Knowledge is conveyed through scholarly publication and instruction.



Elwood Haynes (Class of 1881) was an early alumnus, prominent chemist and inventor and credited for aiding in the development of the automobile and the creation of stainless steel. William Hobbs (Class of 1883) was a noted 19th-century geologist Kotaro Shimomura (Class of 1888) was a chemical engineer. After graduating, he became president of Doshisha University and Osaka Gas Co., Ltd in Japan. Atwater Kent (dropped out in 1895 and 1896) went on to found the Atwater Kent Manufacturing Company which was the world's leading producer of radios in the late 1920s (there is now a building on campus called the Atwater Kent Laboratories). John Woodman Higgins (Class of 1896) was the founder of Worcester Pressed Steel Company and of the Higgins Armory Museum Robert H. Goddard (Class of 1908) is WPI's best-known alumnus, and is widely regarded as the Father of Modern Rocketry. Gilbert Vernam (Class of 1914) is credited with the dawn of modern cryptography William Stevens Lawton (transferred out in 1918) was a United States Army Lieutenant General, who attended from 1917 to 1918 and then transferred to the United States Military Academy. Lawton served in World War II and the Korean War and was the Army's Comptroller Burton Marsh, (Class of 1920) is credited with being America's first traffic engineer. The Institute of Transportation Engineers highest award is the Burton W. Marsh Award. Harold Stephen Black (Class of 1921) revolutionized electronics by inventing the negative feedback amplifier in 1927. Richard T. Whitcomb (Class of 1943) was aeronautical engineer responsible for the "area rule" of high-speed aircraft design, the supercritical airfoil, and winglets David L. Nickerson (Class of 1954) founded Concrete Block Insulating Systems/Korfil in 1971, and now acts as its current CEO. The company provides insulation inserts for concrete blocks and operates out of Massachusetts, Ohio, and Utah. Robert Stempel (Class of 1955) was the inventor of the catalytic converter and former Chairman and CEO of General Motors Paul Allaire (Class of 1960) was the previous CEO of Xerox. Curtis Carlson (Class of 1967) is a famous researcher into imaging systems and current president and CEO of SRI International. Daniel Robbins (dropped out) is the founder and former chief architect of the Gentoo Linux project. Todd Akin (Class of 1970) Former member U.S. House of Representatives representing Missouri's 2nd District. Michael J. Dolan (Class of 1975) is the current vice president of ExxonMobil Corporation and president of the ExxonMobil Chemical Company. Dean Kamen (dropped out in 1976) invented the first portable insulin pump and started the company that invented the Segway Human Transporter Dan Itse (Class of 1980, 1986) engineer, inventor, member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives David Gewirtz (Class of 1982) is a CNN columnist, cyberterrorism advisor, and leading presidential scholar. He was also a candidate for the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in Letters. Nancy Pimental (Class of 1987) earned a Chemical Engineering degree, is one of the writers of South Park and the movie The Sweetest Thing. She also replaced Jimmy Kimmel as co-host of Win Ben Stein's Money. She is an alumna of Phi Sigma Sigma. Dr. Anup K. Ghosh (Class of 1991) is an electrical engineer and computer scientist who was awarded the National Security Agency's Frank Byron Rowlett Award in 2005. Andy Ross (Mass Academy Class of 1997) guitarist, keyboardist and vocalist for the rock band OK Go since 2005 spent a year at WPI as part of the Mass Academy program. Naveen Selvadurai (Class of 2002) is the co-founder of Foursquare John W. Geils Jr. (dropped out in 1967) founded The J. Geils Band and played lead guitar. Bandmates Danny Klein and Richard "Magic Dick" Salwitz also left WPI. Mike Abramson (Class of 2005) is the founder of the Drinksavvy, which is a start-up company selling anti date-rape straws and cups, and is the brother of Edward Austrian.



80 acres / 32 ha