Department of Crop Sciences University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Agronomy Day 2006

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Agricultural Engineering on the Prairie: Illinois Style

Loren E. Bode Loren E. Bode
Agricultural and
Biological Engineering

Before the University of Illinois opened in March 1868, engineering problems were solved by the efforts of individuals or small groups who had the inventive genius to design and build new machines or structures. Formation of the U of I provided programs to educate students to solve agricultural engineering problems in a systematic manner.

A professor of agricultural engineering, S.W. Shattuck, was appointed in 1870 to teach courses in agricultural and civil engineering. Later the appointment of F.R. Crane, Department of Agronomy, in 1899 gave new emphasis to agricultural engineering in his courses. A building specifically designed for teaching agricultural engineering courses was completed in 1906.

Due to growing demand, a Department of Farm Mechanics was approved in 1921 with the appointment of E.W. Lehmann as its Head. The original hybrid program embodying agriculture and engineering was first called agricultural mechanization and later agricultural engineering. Some additional important timeline dates include:

1932 Department Name and Curriculum Changed to Agricultural Engineering
1948 M.S. Degree in Agricultural Engineering Approved
1956 B.S. Degree in Agricultural Mechanization Awarded
1964 Ph.D. Degree Approved
1983 Agricultural Engineering Sciences Building Completed
1996 Ag Mech Name Changed to Technical Systems Management
2003 Department Name Changed to Agricultural and Biological Engineering

To build on the past successes of Agricultural Engineering and to further enhance the ability of the “agricultural engineering” discipline in its contribution to an evolving system including agriculture, food, environment, and energy, the department made a strategic decision to adopt a more holistic approach as depicted by its new name of“Agricultural and Biological Engineering.”

The new bio-based engineering and technology vision will take the department into an exciting future. The overarching mission of the department is to “integrate life and engineering for enhancement of complex living systems.” These complex systems include humans, plants, animals, and microorganisms within the context of agriculture, food, environment and energy.