An American Legacy: Stevens Heritage of Invention, Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Stevens Family History: An American Legacy

Stevens is named for a distinguished family who perpetuated a tradition in American engineering, dating back to the early days of the Industrial Revolution.

John Stevens, a colonel in the Revolutionary War, purchased from the State of New Jersey in 1784 the land included in the present-day 55-acre campus of the college and the surrounding city of Hoboken.The Stevens family were pioneer engineers, inventors and entrepreneurs whose achievements molded American society and mechanical engineering. Before 1800, Colonel John Stevens was a pioneer in the development of the steamboat, and by 1825 he had designed the first American-built steam locomotive. The Colonel had a passion for innovation and lobbied Congress to protect his inventions. In 1791 with the advent of the first US patent laws, he obtained patents for his steamboat propulsion ideas. Robert Stevens, one of Colonel John Stevens' sons, invented the modern T-rail, the form of railroad track in use today - throughout the world. With his brother, Edwin, Robert built and operated profitably the first commercial railroad in the United States. Edwin, on his own, was active in the design and construction of ironclad vessels for the U.S. Navy. With another brother, John Cox Stevens, who was the first commodore of the New York Yacht Club, Edwin joined in the syndicate that built and raced the yacht America. In 1851, that vessel defeated all the English contenders to become the first winner of the famed trophy now known as the America's Cup.  The colonel's grandson Edwin Jr., designed the Bergen a double-ended reversible propeller-driven ferryboat.

When Edwin Stevens died in 1868, his will provided for the establishment of the college which bears his family name, through a generous contribution of land and funds for building and endowment, Stevens Institute of Technology opened its doors in 1870. The original trustees determined that Stevens should have a single, rigorous broad-based engineering curriculum leading to a baccalaureate degree they designated "Mechanical Engineer" thus dedicating the institute to educating mechanical engineers - the first institution of its kind in the United States. The undergraduate program encompassed most of the then existing and emerging engineering disciplines and was firmly grounded in scientific principles.

 Today, the Undergraduate Engineering Curriculum at Stevens has evolved from that of "Mechanical Engineer" to embrace concentrations in a number of engineering disciplines while maintaining the tradition of an extensive core, including strong liberal arts and management components. The environment of entrepreneurship that Stevens fosters reflects the tradition of Stevens and its founders, who embraced both invention and entrepreneurship - a tradition that is continuously ratified by the success of Stevens alumni.

The Stevens family legacy as marine and railroad entrepreneurs and engineers with a spirit of citizenship and industry continues to guide the Institute in developing graduates as leaders who possess the skills and insight needed to renew American innovation, competitive spirit, and entrepreneurship.

Image Above: Stevens Family Home and Conservatory in the 1930s at Castle Point Terrace

Stevens History of Invention
View a timeline of inventiveness at Stevens, from its founding in 1870 by the Stevens family of engineers, inventors, and entrepreneurs, to homegrown companies and leading-edge research.

Image Above: John Stevens, Edwin A. Stevens Jr., Col.Edwin A. Stevens, W. Lewis Stevens and Bayard Stevens, Emily, Mrs. Stevens, Lawrence L. and Basil M.

Research Magazine
Read how Stevens is innovating, today: