History of the Department

The University of Sheffield developed out of three nineteenth century educational foundations. The first of these, the Medical School, was opened in 1828 by a group of local doctors. The second institution, Firth College, was established in 1879 to give instruction in Arts and Science, with a view to becoming a University College. The third foundation, the Technical School, began as a department of Firth College, but once installed in 1884 in new buildings at St George's Square, it quickly achieved full independence.

The three institutions were united in 1897, when a Royal Charter was granted to University College, Sheffield. This was followed by a Charter conferring full University status on 31 May 1905.

In the new University, St George's became the Applied Science campus. The original Technical School buildings were greatly extended over the years, to house the various engineering departments, together with the Departments of Metallurgy, Refractories and Geology.

The first teacher of civil engineering, appointed to the old Technical School in 1892, was Joseph Husband. He was the first Head of Department when Civil Engineering became an independent department in 1917, and retired in 1936 after forty four years of service, the last sixteen of these as Professor. During this time he was active in professional as well as academic circles. On retirement from the University he founded the consulting practice of Husband and Partners, and served as President of the Institution of Structural Engineers.

His successor, NS Boulton, controlled the Department from 1936 to 1964. During this period, new buildings along Broad Lane were planned and completed to permit a large expansion in student numbers. At the same time, the equipment and facilities necessary for growth in the research and development fields were acquired.

After Professor Boulton's retirement, W Eastwood, who like Professor Husband became President of the Institution of Structural Engineers, served seven years as Head of Department before leaving to take up a partnership in the practice founded by Professor Husband, before setting up the consultancy of Eastwood and Partners.

During the 1950s, 60s and early 70s both student and staff numbers increased markedly. In 1954, when the first stage of the new buildings was ready for occupation, there were 40 undergraduates and 3 postgraduate students. Ten years later, when the final stage was completed, there were 137 undergraduates and 12 postgraduates. By 1971, when Professor B Rawlings succeeded Professor Eastwood as Head of Department, there were 249 undergraduate students and postgraduate numbers had risen to 35.

Professor Rawlings returned to Australia in 1975 and Professor TH Hanna became Head of Department. Growth continued, particularly in postgraduate numbers, peaking in 1977 when there were 276 undergraduates and 62 postgraduates. Professor Hanna served as Head of Department, with a break from 1978 until 1981 when Professor D Bond was Head, until 1991.

Professor Peter Waldron was appointed in 1992 to lead the Department, and on his promotion to Pro-Vice-Chancellor in 1996 was succeeded by Professor WF (Bill) Anderson who oversaw the move to a mainly MEng intake of undergraduates. Professor David Lerner became Head in 2001, when the student population was 216 undergraduates, 57 MSc students, 43 postgraduate research students and 24 academic staff. Over the next four years an additional 8 academic staff were appointed and when Professor Ian Burgess became Head of Department in 2005 the Department had grown to 272 undergraduates, 139 MSc students, 55 postgraduate research students and 32 academic staff.

The next 4 years saw a rapid increase in undergraduate numbers to 408, a modest increase in MSc numbers to 156 and academic staff numbers rise to 33. Following the appointment of Professor Harm Askes in 2009 to Head of Department a major staff recruitment initiative was undertaken and by May 2012 there were 38 academic staff, six student support staff, 513 undergraduate students, 171 MSc students and 58 postgraduate research students. This makes us one of the biggest civil engineering departments in the country.