Discovery by Design: The Department of Mechanical Engineering of the University of British Columbia, Origins and History, 1907-2001

Discovery by Design

Discovery by Design

The Department of Mechanical Engineering of the University of British Columbia, Origins and History: 1907-2001

by Eric Damer


  • Spring 2002
  • ISBN 978-0-921870-95-1 (0-921870-95-7)
  • 6″ x 9″ Hardcover, 226 pages
  • History, Engineering, Education

Over the past century mechanical engineers have helped to transform British Columbia from a frontier land of manual labour into a modern technological society. Many of those engineers began their careers as students in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of British Columbia.

Discovery by Design, the history of the department by Eric Damer, follows the department from the age of steam power and biplanes to today’s high tech world of spacecraft and robots, discussing many of the department’s most exciting research projects and breakthroughs of the last decade. Discovery by Design also ties the department to British Columbia’s social evolution.

The Department of Mechanical Engineering began as a controversial educational innovation as part of McGill B.C. College and has grown into a respected leader in engineering education and research. Damer notes the influence of world wars, the rise of the engineering profession, local and national politics, economic fluctuations, and social revolutions.

Woven throughout the history are hard-working and high-spirited students, distinguished and energetic faculty members, and powerful university administrators who encouraged or restricted change. Rich in detail, Damer’s history appeals to those interested in the history of engineering education, universities and the research life of Canada. This handsome hardcover volume contains many original photos.

“The life of universities is sometimes perceived to stand apart from the ‘real’ history of British Columbia. Eric Damer persuasively argues for the contribution of the University of British Columbia, and more particularly its longstanding Department of Mechnaival Engineering, to the industrial, educational, and social development of the province.”
— Jean Barman, Historian, author of The West Beyond the West

“For those interested in the history of engineering education in Canada, this book gives an important and very readable overview of Mechanical Engineering at UBC. Engineering was present at UBC from the earliest days, and the department has had a major impact on the development of British Columbia and indeed of Canada, overcoming many obstacles along the way. Discovery by Design captures the essence of the department’s interesting and evolving history.”
— David W. Strangeway, President, Canada Foundation for Innovation, and Past President, The University of British Columbia

“A really commendable work — a readable, factual, and valuable history of one of UBC’s oldest departments.”
— Donald K. Bannerman, Past President, Association of Professional Engineers of British Columbia, and First Director of the B.C. Institute of Technology’s Engineering Division



“Damer’s study explores new terrain, and has thereby established an essential foundation for a better understanding of the development of technical education in British Columbia.”
Scientia canadensis