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Matthias, F. T. (ed.) / The Wisconsin engineer
Volume 33, Number VI (March 1929)

Ward, Gerald C.
George Washington--the engineer,   pp. 203-204

Page 203

George Washington The Engineer
               A Paper Delivered before the Annual Meeting of the
               Engineering Society of Wisconsin, February 22, 1929
                                  By GERALD C. WARD, c'29
SINCE the recent presidential election, the profession
of engineering has taken on new dignity in the eyes
of the public. While it has never been an obscure profes-
sion, at the same time it remained for Mr. Hoover to
popularize it and focus upon it the spotlight of publicity.
Mr. Hoover has often since been compared, by preachers,
labor agitators, and woman's club speakers, to what they
eeso sheets of paper and kept in a bundle, quite contrary
to the best teachings of the University of Wisconsin De-
partment of Topographic Engineering, with the result that
many of them have become lost.
  But Washington's various journals are the most interest-
ing portion of his engineering records, and include not only
the actual field notes of surveys, but also a diary or running
account of the things that occurred to him while working
in the field. They even include the few bursts of poetic
sentiment which came to the father of his country when he
was alone in the woods and got to thinking of some of the
Virginia belles back home. As a poet, Washington was an
excellent surveyor!
  It was the custom, at that time, for young men who
desired to go into the learned professions either to go to
England for their education, or to take lessons from a
tutor. Washington chose the
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       FIG. 1: Map of Washington's property along
                  Little Hunting Creek.
term "the two other great engineer presidents, Washington
and Lincoln".
  Now, it is very true that Washington was an excellent
engineer, and it is recorded that Lincoln did some land
surveying - men of the prairies did lots of things in those
days. Probably if Lowden had become president, it would
have been recalled that Washington was a farmer; if
General Dawes had gained the office, out attention would
have been called to Washington's temporary employment
as a general.
  Of all Washington's activities, however, those of an
engineering nature are most uniformly outstanding through-
out his entire career, and of all his engineering activities,
his surveying is perhaps the best preserved for present-day
study. We have his original field notes, in a number of
small vellum-bound books, closely written on both sides
of the sheet with unusual neatness and in uniformly
beautiful handwriting.
  Many of his land surveys, however, were recorded on
tutorial scheme, and at the
age of 13 had mastered the
difficult parts of Arithmetic
and Geometry, as well as the
commercial forms of the day.
  In the autumn preceding
his sixteenth birthday, it was
deemed that his formal edu-
cation was complete. The last
two years had been spent in
studying Geometry, Trigo-
nometry, and Surveying, for
which he had professed a lik-
ing. During the last summer
of his schooling he busied
himself surveying the grounds
-v1-1  _1 h i,-   -Im   -f-4-tein
dluullu libllllt411 10b1i
their boundaries, angles, and FIG. 2: Washington's Compass
                                now in National Museum.
measurements in his note-
books. The methods which he used in his surveying and
computations are essentially the same as those in use today.
We have surveys where he located islands and houses by
double intersection, divided plots of land into equal portions,
and computed areas by means of latitudes and departures.
All of these methods are being taught in the College of
Engineering, and this boy of sixteen had not only mastered
them but had put them into actual practice in the field.
  The illustration in Fig. 2 is one of Washington's
compass, now in the National Museum at Washington.
It is the same type as the instruments issued to our Fresh'
MARCH, 1929

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