The Curt Brown Chronicles: What Should be the Education for Land Surveying?

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Curt Brown spent considerable time contemplating the education of land surveying and the relationship with civil engineers. His observations, nearly sixty years ago, regarding "a new era in land measurement" remain topical and merit contemporaneous consideration. And too, the same problems remain with surveyor education. Why is it that nothing has changed over the last 58 years, and where are we headed? To quote Winston Churchill, "Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

Paper delivered at the Fourth National Surveying Teachers Conference
August 1957

The West is experiencing a development unparalleled at any time in the history of our country. The mass migration of people, among other things, has caused our population to bulge. With expanding population comes land development problems. New roads, new subdivisions, land planning, earthwork, and land measurements are demanding trained men. The new Federal highway program is accelerating the need. The military always wants men in the field of and measurements.

A new era in land measurements is evolving. Aerial photography is eliminating many of the old ground surveying methods. Electronic distance-measuring devices are achieving results unthought-of of a few years ago. Machines are supplanting many of the slower calculating methods and are making possible improved field methods. New reproduction and mapping methods are evolving. The need for men in the fields of land measurements and mapping is apparent. What are the colleges doing about it?

One solution, as practiced by some of the colleges, is to offer a latitude of choice for the civil engineering student in his junior and senior year. A student might take a predominance of courses in structural, sanitary or hydraulic engineering. To this list would be added an option in land measurement engineering. Such an option would include all of the phases of land development such as:
• Property line surveying and law
• Highway development
• Route surveying
• Earthwork and soil testing
• Subdivision development
• Geodetic surveying
• Hydrographic surveying
• Mapping and photogrammetry
• Land planning and use

The thinking of the average civil engineering student is that he will design building, bridges, darns and large engineering projects. Land measurement and land surveying is often a minor part of his thinking. What we need are men who are specifically trained in the field of land measurements and are trained in how measurements are used. Probably a third of the registered engineers in California make or use land measurements of some type. There is a place in college for the professional surveyor, and it is up to us to find that place.

Only two logical solutions exist. The Colleges should either offer a degree in property surveying or they should offer a degree in civil engineering with an option in land measurement. Present civil engineering courses often include almost all of the training necessary for land surveyors. By merely adding courses in property line law, land use planning, an adequate land surveyor’s course can be a part of most engineering colleges.

My conclusion is that property surveying is so closely related to civil engineering that it should not be rejected as a part of engineering. The colleges should take a positive approach to the subject of property surveying and determine how it should fit in; not how it should be de-emphasized. I feel that civil engineering has become so complex that the better solution is to offer options in different fields of engineering and that property line surveying should fit into one of those fields; namely, land measurement engineering.

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 65Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE