Department of Mechanical Engineering

Development of the doctoral degree in technology in the early 20th century


In 1899, German colleges were granted university status and the title of Diplom-Ingenieur (Dipl.-Ing.) was adopted into use. Simultaneously, select technical colleges in German-speaking Europe were given the right to grant the academic title of Doktor-Ingenieur (Dr.-Ing.). After 1901, the majority of Germany and Austria-Hungary adopted the title Doktorat der technischen Wisshenschaften(Doctorate in the Technical Sciences) as the highest academic title in the field of technology. This title was also adopted by the Federal Polytechnic School in Zürich (renamed the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology or ETH Zürich in 1911).

Universities opposed allowing technical colleges to grant academic doctoral titles, and the significance and use of the title became long-standing points of contention.

The doctorate in technology became available in the Technical University of Finland following the 1908 rules reform. In Finland, the academic conflict over the role of science in technology and the university's status was evident mostly in the higher study requirements applied for doctoral candidates. The requirements were strenuous and closely monitored, which greatly reduced the number of doctoral students at the technical university.

Until the degree reform of 1933, those who completed a doctorate were given a special 'doctoral diploma', similar in appearance to the certificate that would later be conferred at a doctoral degree ceremony or when granting the title of doctor. The doctoral diploma stated that the person had completed the degree when the doctoral title was granted.

Thus, the degree had no name of its own. In official contexts, the first doctors of technology were marked as 'doctor from the Technical University of Finland'. The name tekniikan tohtori (Finnish for doctor of technology and the name currently used for a Doctor of Science in Technology degree) was adopted among professional associations in the 1920s. 

In the early phases of doctoral education, there was no intention to hold a special degree ceremony for doctoral graduates in the field of technology. This began to change when the Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan (KTH, the Royal Institute of Technology) in Stockholm was given the right to grant doctoral degrees in 1927, as no-one disputed the high academic rank of a Swedish doctoral degree. The first doctoral promotion was held in Uppsala, Sweden, on 25 May 1929 with grand academic ceremonies. In Finland, decisions were quickly made to elevate the status of the degree. According to a statute given in 1933, the official name of the degree was changed to teknologian tohtori, following the Swedish model. The statute also prescribed the insignia associated with the degree.

The formal rules for the degree were unclear from the beginning, owing to academic disputes. The university would grant a certificate to mark the completion of the degree, after which graduates could use the teknologian tohtori title. In the promotion ceremony, the doctoral graduates received the rank of doctor in the manner prescribed by the teachers' collegium and a separate diploma bearing the seal of the university.

The confusion surrounding the issue was evident in the first ceremonial promotion, held in 1934. In the ceremony, the diploma proving the title of teknologian tohtori was granted to ten people who already held the previous doctoral diploma and the title of doctor, even though these all referred to the same degree.

The title associated with the degree was changed in 1941 to its current form: tekniikan tohtori.


Suomen teknillisen korkeakoulun ja Teknillisen korkeakoulun vuosikertomukset 1908–1959.

Teknillisen korkeakoulun väitöskirjat 1911–1997 – terpeenikemiasta nanoteknologiaan. Teknillisen korkeakoulun kirjasto 1988.

Robert Fox & Anna Guagnini. Laboratories, workshops and sites. Concepts and practises of research in industrial Europe, 1800–1914. UCLA, Berkeley 1999.

History of mechanical engineering in Finland

Department of Mechanical Engineering
Department of Mechanical Engineering
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