The Curt Brown Chronicles: A Lasting Legacy

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Curtis Brown served as the elected president of ACSM in 1965 and 1966. He also served as ACSM’s Chairman of the Task Committee on Education. All the while, he continued lecturing extensively across the country. Amongst his many endeavors, he returned to Purdue University where he taught an adult extension course entitled "Locating and Describing Real Property." The classes were held on Thursday evenings over a six-week period at a cost of $15.00.

When Curt accepted the position of President, he graciously acknowledged the importance of the prestigious post. What I find interesting is Curt’s prescient concerns with the concept of geodesy. If he had written this a few years later, he would have undoubtedly included GIS.—Michael Pallamary, PS

It is with great pleasure and humbleness that I accept the responsibilities of the office of President of the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping, and I want to thank those who voted for me.

Surveyors and cartographers have had a colorful past. History books point with pride to the fact that our early notables were surveyors. Recently I had the opportunity to examine the map used at the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and to compare it with present day knowledge of western land forms. Within the last 140 years the accumulation of survey information startles the imagination. Surveyors have indeed had a colorful past.

However, we should not be concerned with how great we have been, but we should be concerned with what we can be. Those who sit back and rest on their laurels soon have no laurels to rest on. This is a changing world. A moment of reflection will tell us that the old village blacksmith is gone; the captains of the sailing vessels are gone; the topographer is being replaced by the camera; and the chainmen are losing ground to the electronic measuring devices.

Within the last 30 years we have seen the transit and tape decrease in importance as the camera, Electrotape, and Geodimeter have developed. It is probably true that the transit and tape surveys will not be completely eliminated, just as it is true that the horses were not completely eliminated by the automobile. The private property surveyor in the United States depends heavily upon the transit and tape to determine property lines. Even in this area, it is my expectation that in the not too distant future photogrammetric methods will be used extensively. Many of the old ways of the surveyor are gone; many more will soon be supplanted by advancing technology. If the surveyor fails to advance with the advancing technology, he will be like the village blacksmith with no place in modern society.

The man who tries to do today’s job with yesterday’s tools will be out of work tomorrow.

With these thoughts in mind, what is the greatest need of those who will follow the profession of surveying? The only logical answer is a better education and continuing education to meet the changing needs of the world.

We, as surveyors, must face up to the fact that surveyor education within the United States is woefully inadequate. Historically, surveyor-engineer education has been a part of civil engineering. Quoting from Professor McNair’s paper, "in 1937 the average number of required semester hours of surveying courses in civil engineering curricula was 14.3. By 1948 required surveying courses averaged 11.3 semester hours. In 1958 the average was down to 7.7 semester hours. In 1964 the average amount of surveying required in the civil engineering curriculum is estimated to be approximately 5 semester hours."

We should not quarrel with the civil engineer’s prerogative to decide for himself as to what he thinks is proper training for graduates. However, the fact remains that the deletion of surveying courses has created a void in the surveyorengineer education within the United States. Surveyors should not bemoan the loss of standing within the civil engineering department; they should apply every effort to solve the question, "Where should surveying education be housed within the colleges of the United States?"

One of the surveyor’s areas of educational neglect has been geodesy. The recent accent on space travel created a need for superior students. At Ohio State University, geodesy was given a home in the geography department; today a separate department has established itself as the outstanding geodesy school within the United States.

Should the surveyors of the United States profit by this example and try to establish a separate surveying school? According to European thinking, this thought must have much merit; practically all major European universities do have separate surveyor colleges. Canada has two such curricula in universities. Could it be that the United States is out of step and the remainder of the world is correct?

Many explanations are presented for this deplorable situation. The time for offering excuses and explanations has expired; today we are interested in what can be done to correct an unacceptable situation. Our concern should be action, not further discussion. It is obvious that the education of the surveyor is deteriorating while the need is increasing. If the civil engineering department cannot adequately educate the surveyor, is it not logical to try to have a separate surveyor college established? Such a college should include geodesy, cartography, photogrammetry, and land surveying.

In some areas of surveying the fault of educational deficiencies must rest squarely upon the surveyors themselves; this is particularly true with respect to licensed surveyors. Within the United States there are only four States that have registration requirements equivalent to a college education. Most States require a high school diploma plus the passing of a written examination. After reading many licensed surveyor examinations, it can only be concluded from their simplicity that the majority of land surveyors do not need a college education to become qualified. Why should the colleges offer training where the practicing surveyors are willing to accept substandard education?

Most State laws should be changed to upgrade the educational requirements; recently this was done in both Indiana and New York. As a direct result of the Indiana law requiring the land surveyor to have the equivalent education of that obtained by a four-year curriculum in civil engineering with a major in land surveying, Purdue University added a masters program in land surveying.

In attempting to change a State law to upgrade the educational requirements of the surveyor, a technical difficulty exists; the registration law cannot say that the education shall be the equivalent of a four year curriculum in land surveying because no such curriculum exists. This is like the old argument as to which should be first, the hen or the egg. If the law is changed, colleges will meet the demand.

In some States the solution to date has been to increase the difficulty of the examination to that which could be expected of a college graduate in surveying. This procedure is available to many boards of registration under existing State laws, and it is hoped that the right will be exercised.

Where a school of surveying is housed is immaterial; the establishment of such a school is imperative. The civil engineering departments, by their past performance, have decreased surveying education to a negligible point; it is not expected that the trend will be reversed. If it is necessary to have a surveying school created to educate surveyors adequately, let us do so.

surveyors proclaim themselves as being professional people. One of the essential parts of the definition of a profession is "superior education in a field of knowledge." Without a college to house the knowledge of the surveyor and without a college offering a degree in surveying, the claim of professional status appears to be reduced to mere self proclamation.

My recommendations are as follows:
1. That the ACSM make every effort to encourage the establishment of at least one school of surveying in some university.
2. Every State land surveyor organization actively and vigorously attempt to change the legal requirements for surveyor education to "the equivalent education that can be obtained by graduating from a four year college surveying course."

Author Michael Pallamary has compiled the writings and lectures of the late Curtis M. Brown. These works are published in The Curt Brown Chronicles.

A 72Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE