Worcester Polytechnic Institute is a private research university in Worcester, Massachusetts, focusing on the instruction and research of technical arts and applied sciences. WPIs faculty works with students in a number of areas, including biotechnology, fuel cells, information security, surface metrology, materials processing. Worcester Polytechnic Institute was founded by self-made tinware manufacturer, John Boynton, 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 hand, wanted to teach technical skills through a sophisticated apprenticeship approach. Boynton consulted Seth Sweetser, a pastor, for ways to realize his vision, by chance it happened that Ichabod Washburn had previously consulted Sweetser about the proper way to actualize his own vision. He specified, however, that student should blend theory learned in the classroom with practice in the shops. Sweetser drafted a letter expressing Boynton’s and Washburns wish to other significant men within Worcester County, the document was sent to 30 Worcester businessmen. It told of a proposal to found a Free School for Industrial Science in Worcester. Further funding and land grants for the university were given by Stephen Salisbury II, 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, both Boynton and Washburn died before the opening of the college on November 11,1868. On that day, Charles O. WPI was led in its early years by president, 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 twentieth century, eventually including graduate studies. 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 campaign that resulted in the creation of the George C. Gordon Library, added residence halls, an auditorium. 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, the WPI Bioengineering Institute is a significant contributor to Worcesters growing biotechnology industry
John Boynton (left) and Ichabod Washburn (right).
Boynton Hall, WPI's main administrative building.
Washburn Shops, where WPI's first hands-on classrooms and laboratories were built in the 19th century.