Robert Kennedy Duncan

RK Duncan

"Everywhere throughout America, wherever this is the smoke of a factory chimney, there are unsolved, exasperating, vitally important problems…. It seems clear that these problems can best be answered by combining the practical knowledge and the large facilities of the factory with the new and special knowledge of the universities" - Robert Kennedy Duncan (1907)

The history of the Department of Industrial Engineering is long and rich, tracing its roots to Robert Kennedy Duncan, the founding director of the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research. With the establishment of the Mellon Institute, Duncan helped to bring the analytical powers of scientific investigation to understand and improve upon industrial processes,and at the request of Chancellor Samuel Black McCormick, Duncan started a similar program at the University of Pittsburgh and was named Dean of the Department of Industrial Research, a precursor to the Department of Industrial Engineering. Duncan's initiative soon caught the attention of local bankers Andrew W. Mellon, an 1874 graduate of the University, and 1876 graduate Richard B. Mellon. They were intrigued by this new way of supporting both the University and industry, and were willing to use their own money to encourage growth of the concept.

Robert Kennedy Duncan died rather young in 1914, but his vision carried on under his successors. Pitt's Department of Chemical Engineering emerged from Mellon Institute as its own entity in 1919, followed by the Department of Industrial Engineering in 1921.

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Industry Studies Spotlight