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Electrical and Computer Engineering Department


History of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering


The first organization of the Naval Academy in 1845 provided for six professorships, one of them Natural Philosophy, held by Professor Henry H. Lockwood, and another that of Chemistry, held by Surgeon John A. Lockwood. The course of instruction of Natural Philosophy included the various branches of physics, including magnetism and electricity. In 1850, a reorganization of courses resulted in chemistry being included with instruction in mechanics, steam and marine engineering, heat, electricity, light, mineralogy, and geology in the Department of Natural and Experimental Philosophy. In 1865 steam instruction was segregated into the Department of Steam Engineering. In 1871 the Department of Natural and Experimental Philosophy was retitled the Department of Physics and Chemistry.

Toward the end of the nineteenth century, the U.S. Navy began installing electrical devices in ships. As a result, it became evident that instruction at the Naval Academy should include increasing emphasis on both the theory of electricity and magnetism and hands-on experience with shipborne devices. Instruction in what is now called Electrical Engineering was introduced as courses in the Physics Department into the Naval Academy curriculum in the early 1900s. During the 1907-1908 academic year the Department of Electrical Engineering was established. During the 1912-1913 academic year it was retitled the Department of Electrical Engineering and Physics. During the 1933-1934 academic year Physics was removed from the departmental title. Subjects in the early curriculum included: operation of the ship's telephone system, use of a Direct Current (DC) Ward-Leonard system for training gun turrets, and schemes for firing guns individually or in salvos. Beginning in 1923 and continuing until 1961, all midshipmen took a four-semester Electrical Engineering course in the second class and first class years. In addition to courses in chemistry and physics, the Department of Electrical Engineering instructed midshipmen in DC and Alternating Current (AC) circuits, rotating machinery, communications and electronics. These courses met for three hours of class and two hours in the laboratory each week.

During the 1959-1960 academic year the academic organization went through a major revision. The Division of Engineering and Science, and thereunder the Departments of Engineering, Mathematics, and Science were established. Instruction in electrical engineering was split between the Department of Engineering, and the Department of Science. The Department of Engineering encompassed practical instruction in electrical, mechanical, marine, and aeronautical engineering, while the Department of Science taught courses in "electrical science" to the first and second classes. From 1959 to 1968 the Electrical Engineering classrooms, offices, and laboratories were scattered among three buildings: Sampson Hall, Mahan Hall, and Griffin Hall. In 1968, construction on a new science studies building was completed and in 1969 dedicated as Michelson Hall, in commemoration of Naval Academy alumnus, Nobel-prize winner, and renowned physicist Albert A. Michelson. The Science Department and all Electrical Engineering activities were housed in Michelson Hall.

During the 1970-1971 academic year the academic organization underwent yet another major reorganization. Electrical Engineering became one of five departments in the new Division of Engineering and Weapons. In August 1970, the Engineers Council for Professional Development (ECPD), now known as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), evaluated the Naval Academy's engineering curricula, facilities, and faculty and accredited the Electrical Engineering major. During the 1970s Electrical Engineering offices were moved to a refurbished Maury Hall, with laboratories and classrooms remaining in Michelson Hall. The first 35 midshipmen with Electrical Engineering majors graduated in 1975. 

During the 2008-2009 academic year, the Department was retitled the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. The department offices and majority of labs moved to Hopper Hall in the summer of 2020, with some classrooms and laboratories still located in the basement of Rickover.


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