RPI:  Cultivating the Science of Iron Mining

The Rensselaer School was established in 1824 by Stephen Van Rensselaer “for the purpose of instructing persons … in the application of science to the common purposes of life.” In 1833 the school became the Rensselaer Institute, and in the 1850s its purpose was broadened to become a polytechnic institution. The name was changed to the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1861.

Throughout the 1800s it became an important incubator of students who would go on to be leaders in the fields of iron mining, steel development, and other technologies related to iron and steel.  Its distinguished alumni include John Winslow, who persuaded Congress to build the ironclad ship Monitor during the Civil War; Alexander Holley, who is considered the father of the modern American steel industry because he brought the Bessemer steel method to Troy and other places in the US, and John Griswold. Its alumni also include Thomas Witherbee and Thomas Hammond. Professor Henry Nason, an RPI professor of metallurgy/chemistry, led numerous school field trips to the mining areas of Port Henry and Moriah.


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