The Curt Brown Chronicles: The Feasibility of a Technology Program in Surveying and Mapping

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December 1965
The papers presented at the ACSM annual meetings have adequately proven the need for surveyor engineer graduates and have dramatically called attention to the deficiencies in surveyor engineer education in the United States. Professor Curtis in a recent paper, The Case of the Missing Curriculum, has rather completely discussed the lack of a suitable four-year curriculum in surveying and mapping (geometronics). Professor Arthur J. McNair, who recently made a study of the education of surveyor engineers in Europe, forcefully pointed out the disparity between United States surveyor education and that of Europe.

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 what he thinks is proper training for graduates. However, the fact remains that the deletion of surveying courses has created a void in the surveyor engineer education within the United States. Surveyors should not bemoan the loss of standing within the civil engineering department, rather they should apply every effort to answer 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 geology department; today a separate geodetic science 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 four-year 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?

Within the last few years, the surveyor has been the subject of a controversy; does he or does he not belong as a part of civil engineering? Even though the civil engineering final viewpoint was that surveying is a part of civil engineering, the offerings of surveying education within civil engineering has and is constantly being decreased. Further, the ECPD accreditation procedures for United States colleges has almost precluded the possibility of an acceptable four-year surveying curriculum being established within the sphere of civil engineering.

Surveying is more of a science than a design problem. In the determination of a position on the face of the earth or in space, the surveyor uses laws of science and measuring devices to record things as they are; he does not design the position. In preparing maps the cartographer reproduces to a miniature scale the surface of the earth as it exists; he does not design the earth. To be sure, there is some design in surveying and mapping but not nearly to the extent found in designing structures. In general, surveying and mapping has been and probably will be treated as a supporting engineering science that an engineer must acquire to accomplish other more important design ends. From the viewpoint of the civil engineer, this is probably correct; from the viewpoint of the surveyor, it is unacceptable. The modest surveying science education offered does not fill the surveyor’s needs. The two-year technical institutes cannot possibly train and educate for professional surveying and mapping either.

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 69Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE