Department of Mechanical Engineering

Finnish mechanical engineers tour the world

By the latter half of the 19th century, Finland was closely connected with the scientific community of Europe. Engineers and scientists made regular trips from Finland to major European hubs to make connections and to study the state-of-the-art.

Restrictions on foreign travel from Finland had been lifted after Alexander II ascended the imperial throne of Russia in 1855. Technology researchers' study trips became a regular habit as a means of finding the latest on new scientific methods. This development was aided by rapid improvements to European transit infrastructure as railway connections expanded to a network that connected major cities.

Before the 1850s, the Senate had made funds available from the Manufactory Board to send the apprentices of artesans abroad, mainly to northern Germany, to study new methods of industrial production.

Scientists travelled to study as well. When new statutes were being planned for the university in Helsinki in 1828, a grant was created for young scientists in particular. The terms of the two-year stipend stipulated that the second year was to be spent abroad. The Alexander Stipend was inaugurated in 1842, originally intended for studies and research work in Russia. This condition was later dropped when the travel restrictions were lifted. The university also hosted several smaller funds that granted travel stipends and doled out travel grants from the chancellor's available funds.

Engineers abroad

The Helsinki Technical School's 1858 rules reform included the creation of a Senate-operated travel grant system for technology research.

The first grant recipients in engineering were the school's director and physics teacher Karl Leonard Lindeberg and mathematics instructor Henrik Pantsar. The Manufactory Board sought to send teachers abroad evenly for further studies. The travel grant system was reformed in January 1865, making it possible to apply for funds for studying in foreign higher education institutions.

The Great Exhibition of 1851 in London's Crystal Palace marked a turning point. Afterwards, Finnish technicians and engineers would visit almost every European capital to participate in competing world's fairs and industrial exhibitions. K. L. Lindeberg would be joined by a young Rudolf Kolster on visits to industrial exhibitions in Stockholm (1866) and Paris (1867).

Diplomi Pariisin maailmannäyttelystä vuodelta 1900.
Diploma presented to the Polytechnic Institute at the 1900 Paris Exposition.

World on display

Paris hosted major world's fairs in 1878 and 1900. The Polytechnic Institute made a special effort toward the Paris Exposition of 1900, sending numerous teachers to attend and participating in the international competition. The effort paid off, as the institute won the gold medal for the best school of technology and economics in the world.

Nine teachers from the Polytechnic Institute travelled to the 1900 Paris event – roughly half of the entire faculty. Architect Usko Nyström travelled on a travel grant from Ateneum.

Exhibitions in the field of hygiene were also important to Finnish engineering. The 1883 hygiene exhibition in Berlin was attended by mechanical engineering teacher Rudolf Kolster as well as two architects, F. A. Sjöström and a student of his, Karl Gustaf Nyström. Nyström would also attend a hygiene exhibition in London the following year as well as the 1903 hygiene congress in Copenhagen. The reason for Kolster's attendance was that heating, ventilation, hydraulics and occupational health and safety were considered matters of hygiene in the end of the 19th century. Hygiene and occupational health and safety entered the architecture and mechanical engineering curricula of the Polytechnic Institute during the 1880s.

History of mechanical engineering in Finland

Engineer training diverges from crafts education

Part 1.5. Teaching of crafts and technology diverged in the beginning of the 1870s. Two types of educational institution were born: one for arts and crafts, another for engineering.

Department of Mechanical Engineering
Maalaus Polyteknillisen opiston uudesta päärakennuksesta vuonna 1877.

Facilities for technology education

Part 1.7. The first home for technology education in Helsinki was located in the centre of the city in Domus Litonii. The building remains today in near-original condition at Aleksanterinkatu 50, next to the Stockmann department store. In 1877, the school moved to Hietalahti.

Department of Mechanical Engineering
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