Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

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Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
HSEAS Seal New.png
Coat of arms of the School
Former name
Lawrence Scientific School
EndowmentUS$ 990.9 million (2015)[1]
DeanFrancis J. Doyle III
Academic staff
80 full-time
Undergraduates1013 (Fall 2017)[1]
Postgraduates524 (Fall 2017) [1]
Location, ,

The Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) is the engineering school within Harvard University's Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS). It offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering and applied sciences. On July 1, 2015, Francis J. Doyle III assumed the leadership of the School as its dean.[2]

In June 2020, SEAS is expected to expand into the new Science and Engineering Complex in Allston, across,the Charles River from the main campus of Harvard.[3]


Abbott Lawrence
Abbott Lawrence.jpg

The formation of the Lawrence Scientific School at Harvard University in 1847 marked Harvard's first major effort to provide a formal, advanced education in science and engineering.

The school was named for Massachusetts industrialist and entrepreneur Abbott Lawrence, who donated $50,000 (a then-unprecedented sum) to create the institution. While he did not attend Harvard, he had a long personal history with key faculty members such as Louis Agassiz and enjoyed the pursuit of and understood the value in science and engineering. In the letter that accompanied his gift, Lawrence explained his rationale for forming a school:

But where can we send those who intend to devote themselves to the practical applications of science? Our country abounds in men of action. Hard hands are ready to work upon our hard materials; and where shall sagacious heads be taught to direct those hands?

James Emmanuel Jr. was the first dean.

The School hosted astronomers, architects, naturalists, engineers, mathematicians and even philosophers.

The School's initial success did not escape the notice of other institutions, leading William Greenleaf Eliot, president of Eliot Seminary (later renamed Washington University) to declare in 1854:

Harvard University is, at this time, gaining more credit and accomplishing greater good, by the Lawrence Scientific School than by any other agency. We need just such a school, here. Its effect would be to elevate mechanical, agricultural, and mercantile pursuits, into learned professions. It would annihilate that absurd distinction by which three pursuits, of Law, Medicine, and Theology, are called professions, and everything else, labor or trade ...

— William Greenleaf Eliot, president of Eliot Seminary, [5]

While the School initially thrived, by the latter decades of the 19th century the institution faced increasing competition from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT, founded in 1861) and was constrained by the uncertain views about its role and status by the long-serving Harvard President Charles William Eliot. Eliot was involved in at least five unsuccessful attempts to absorb his former employer (MIT) into Harvard.[6] As a result of such uncertainty, the Lawrence Scientific School became less of an independent entity, losing its influence and students to other parts of College and University.

In 1891 industrialist Gordon McKay designated the Lawrence Scientific School his beneficiary. The American inventor, engineer and entrepreneur was best known for machinery that revolutionized shoe manufacturing. In 1906, before the first payment from his bequest, Lawrence's scientific and engineering programs were incorporated into Harvard College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The School ceased to exist as an independent entity. (McKay's gift still supports over 40 endowed professorships).

In 1914, a merger of MIT and Harvard's Applied Science departments was formally announced[7] and was to begin "when the Institute will occupy its splendid new buildings in Cambridge."[8] However, in 1917, the arrangement with MIT was cancelled due to a decision by the State Judicial Court, so Harvard University President Abbott Lawrence Lowell moved to establish the Harvard Engineering School independently instead.[9]

In 1934, the School began offering graduate-level and professional programs in engineering. During World War II, Harvard participated in the V-12 Navy College Training Program to provide training for commissioned officers. In 1942 the undergraduate Department of Engineering Sciences changed to the Department of Engineering Sciences and Applied Physics to reflect an increased emphasis on applied physics. President James Bryant Conant created what was known as "Conant's Arsenal", a research hub for defense-related engineering projects including radar jamming, night vision, aerial photography, sonar, explosives, napalm, and atomic bomb research.[10] One notable project from this era was the Harvard Mark I computer; one of the first programs to run on the Mark I was initiated on 29 March 1944 by John von Neumann, who worked on the Manhattan Project at the time, and needed to determine whether implosion was a viable choice to detonate the atomic bomb that would be used a year later.[11] The Mark I also computed and printed mathematical tables, which had been the initial goal of British inventor Charles Babbage for his "analytical engine".

By 1945, Harvard income from government contracts was $33.5 million, the third highest among U.S. universities.[12] Between 1946 and 1949 the Graduate School of Engineering merged its faculty with the undergraduate program, the Department of Engineering Sciences and Applied Physics, into the Division of Engineering Sciences within the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

In February 2007, the Harvard Corporation and Overseers voted for the Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences to change its name to the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).[13][14] In September 2008, "Engineering a Renaissance"[15] was held to mark the creation of Harvard's first new school in seven decades.

On March 10, 2009, Cherry A. Murray, a former executive at Bell Laboratories and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory,[16] was appointed dean, effective July 1, 2009. She also became the John A. and Elizabeth S. Armstrong Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences.[17] At the end of 2014, she resigned and returned, after a sabbatical, to teaching.[18] She was reappointed as Benjamin Peirce Professor of Technology and Public Policy and Professor of Physics.[19]

On June 3, 2015, the school was renamed the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences following a $400 million gift by Harvard Business School alumnus John A. Paulson.[20][21]

On May 14, 2015, Francis J. Doyle III, a distinguished scholar in chemical engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) and director of the Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies, was appointed Dean, effective August 1, 2015. Doyle succeeded Harry R. Lewis, Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science, who had served as interim dean since the end of 2014.[22]

Academics and research[edit]

Undergraduates can pursue programs in computer science (AB and as a secondary field), engineering sciences (AB and SB, both of which are ABET accredited), and applied mathematics (AB and as a secondary field).

At the graduate level, the division offers SM, ME, and PhD options covering interdisciplinary research areas including applied mathematics, applied physics, bioengineering, chemical engineering, computational science and engineering, computer science, electrical engineering, environmental science and engineering, and mechanical engineering. In addition, graduate students may pursue collaborative options: Engineering and Physical Biology (with the Faculty of Arts and Sciences); Science, Technology and Management (joint with HBS); Medical Engineering and Medical Physics; (Harvard/MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology); and Systems Biology (with Harvard Medical School).

Faculty number approximately eighty[23] (73 FTEs) who account for nearly $40 million in annual research funds (2007/8 figure). The faculty have particularly close ties (including joint appointments) with the departments of Physics, Earth and Planetary Science and Chemistry and Chemical Biology. The facilities provide 400,000 square feet (37,000 m2) of interconnected labs, classrooms, clusters and offices in six buildings.

Areas of particular research focus include Applied Mathematics, Applied Physics, Bioengineering, Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Environmental Sciences and Engineering and Mechanical Engineering.

Research highlights[edit]

20th century[edit]

  • 1919 – George Washington Pierce (PhD, 1900), Rumford Professor of Physics and director of Harvard's Cruft High-Tension Electrical Laboratory invented an oscillator that enabled a given radio station to stay "fixed" at a proper frequency and allowed multiple telephone calls to occur over a single line.
  • 1938 – A cyclotron was constructed at the Graduate School of Engineering's Gordon McKay Engineering Laboratory to support research in biology and medicine as well as physics. It was projected to be the world's largest such facility. In 1942, it was sent to Los Alamos for work on the Manhattan Project to develop an atomic bomb.
  • 1944 – Howard Aiken '37 (PhD) developed the Mark I series of computers, the first large-scale automatic digital computer in the US. Around the same time, a new generation of technically trained students began to share their knowledge well beyond Harvard's campus. Alumnus and donor Allen E. Puckett SB '39, SM '41 created an endowed professorship at SEAS), went on to define modern aerodynamics, served as CEO of Hughes Aircraft and won the National Medal of Honor in Technology.
  • 1952 – Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), the scientific foundation for MRI (used in modern medical imaging systems), was pioneered by Nicolaas Bloembergen, Edward Purcell and Robert Pound. Purcell won the 1952 Nobel Prize in Physics for this discovery and the 2003 Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to Paul C. Lauterbur (University of Illinois, Urbana) and Peter Mansfield (University of Nottingham, School of Physics and Astronomy Nottingham, United Kingdom) for work leading to MRI imaging.

1995 to 2006[edit]

  • Stopping light – Lene Hau and her colleagues created a new form of matter, a Bose-Einstein Condensate, to slow light to 17 miles an hour and later to bring a light beam to a complete stop, then restart it again.
  • Unbreakable hyper-encryption – Michael O. Rabin embedded messages in rapidly moving streams of random digital bits in ways that cannot be decoded, even with unlimited computing power.
  • Black silicon – Eric Mazur's group created a new material that efficiently traps light and has potential use in solar cells, global warming sensors and ultra-thin television screens.
  • The mathematics of nature – L. Mahadevan and colleagues discovered how the Venus flytrap snaps up its prey in a mere tenth of a second by actively shifting the curved shape of its mouth-like leaves.
  • Atmospheric modeling – Loretta J. Mickley, Dan Jacob and colleagues found that the frequency of cold fronts bringing cool, clear air out of Canada during the summer months declined by about 20 percent. These cold fronts are responsible for breaking up the hot, stagnant air that builds up regularly in summer, generating high levels of ground level ozone pollution.
  • High speed nanowire circuits – Donhee Ham and Charles Lieber made robust circuits from minuscule nanowires that align themselves on a chip of glass during low-temperature fabrication, creating rudimentary electronic devices that offer performance without high-temperature production or high-priced silicon.
  • Double emulsions – A new microfluidics-based device made by David A. Weitz and colleagues at Harvard University and Unilever makes precisely controlled double emulsions in a single step. Double emulsions—droplets inside droplets—could be useful for encapsulating products such as drugs, cosmetics, or food additives.
  • 1999 – Steven A. Ballmer and Bill Gates financed the construction of the Maxwell Dworkin Laboratory—the building is named after Ballmer's and Gates's mothers.[24]


  • Applied physicist Lene Hau caused a light pulse disappeared from one cold cloud then was retrieved from another cloud nearby. In the process, light was converted into matter then back into light.
  • A research team led by Mike Aziz and Earth and Planetary Sciences' Kurt House invented an engineered weathering process that might mitigate climate change.
  • Bio-Engineers, including David Edwards and public health researchers at the School of Public Health developed a novel spray-drying method for preserving and delivering a tuberculosis vaccine that could help prevent the related spread of HIV/AIDS in the developing world.
  • Working with a team of Dutch researchers and software developers, SEAS computer scientists used a novel peer-to-peer video sharing application to explore a model for e-commerce that uses bandwidth as a global currency.
  • Rob Wood's team launched a robotic fly that could be used in everything from surveillance to chemical sensing.
  • MIT's Technology Review named the creation of light-focusing optical antennas (that could lead to DVDs that hold hundreds of movies) as one of their Top 10 emerging technologies for 2007.
  • Kit Parker's lab found that an elastic film coated with a single layer of cardiac muscle cells can semi-autonomously engage in lifelike gripping, pumping, walking and swimming.
  • Nan Sun and Donhee Ham built what may be the smallest complete nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) system to date in a 0.1-kilogram (0.22 lb) package.[25]
  • Engineers and applied physicists demonstrated the first room-temperature electrically pumped semiconductor laser source of terahertz (THz) radiation, also known as T-rays.
  • A team composed of Harvard students and alumni was among the winners of the World Bank's Lighting Africa 2008 Development Marketplace competition, held in Accra, Ghana. The innovation, microbial fuel cell-based lighting systems suitable for Sub-Saharan Africa, netted the group a $200,000 prize.
  • In collaboration with SiEnergy Systems, materials scientists at SEAS have demonstrated the first macro-scale thin-film solid-oxide fuel cell (SOFC).[26]
  • An interdisciplinary research institution that investigates digitized text corpuses containing about 4% of all books ever printed in English, between 1800 and 2000. It was co-founded and co-directed by Erez Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel, whose prototype was instrumental in creating Google Ngram Viewer.

Notable alumni[edit]

The following alumni received their degrees when the school was department under Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c The Numbers | Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
  2. ^ http://harvardmagazine.com/2015/06/john-paulson-endows-harvard-engineering-400-million
  3. ^ Haili, Ruth A.; Jia, Amy L. (October 22, 2019). "SEAS Students Conflicted About Allston Expansion". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  4. ^ "Abbott Lawrence". John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Harvard. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
  5. ^ "Historical Profiles". John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Harvard. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
  6. ^ Alexander, Philip N. "MIT-Harvard Rivalry Timeline". MIT Music and Theater Arts News. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved 2014-07-07.
  7. ^ "Tech Alumni Holds Reunion. Record attendance, novel features. Cooperative plan with Harvard announced by Pres. Maclaurin. Gov. Walsh Brings Best Wishes of the State". Boston Daily Globe. 1914-01-11. p. 117.
    Maclaurin quoted: "in future Harvard agrees to carry out all its work in engineering and mining in the buildings of Technology under the executive control of the president of Technology, and, what is of the first importance, to commit all instruction and the laying down of all courses to the faculty of Technology, after that faculty has been enlarged and strengthened by the addition to its existing members of men of eminence from Harvard's Graduate School of Applied Science."
  8. ^ "Harvard-Tech Merger. Duplication of Work to be Avoided in Future. Instructors Who Will Hereafter be Members of Both Faculties". Boston Daily Globe. 1914-01-25. p. 47.
  9. ^ President's Reports for 1917-18
  10. ^ Ireland, Corydon (10 November 2011). "Harvard Goes to War". Harvard Gazette. Retrieved 30 March 2017.
  11. ^ Cohen, Bernard (2000). Howard Aiken, Portrait of a computer pioneer. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-2625317-9-5.
  12. ^ Downs, Donald Alexander; Murtazashvili, Ilia (2012). Arms and the University: Military Presence and the Civic Education of Non-Military Students. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521192323.
  13. ^ "Harvard proposes to transform Engineering Division into a school". Harvard Gazette. Archived from the original on May 17, 2008. Retrieved June 24, 2008.
  14. ^ Harvard News Office. "Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences votes to change the name Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences to School of Engineering and Applied Sciences". News.harvard.edu. Retrieved 2012-10-18.
  15. ^ Powell, Alvin. "Harvard christens School of Engineering and Applied Sciences". Harvard Gazette. Harvardscience.harvard.edu. Archived from the original on June 23, 2010. Retrieved 2012-10-18.
  16. ^ Jazkarta (2009-07-01). "Cherry A. Murray — Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences". Seas.harvard.edu. Retrieved 2012-10-18.
  17. ^ Walsh, Colleen (2012-04-05). "Harvard Gazette". News.harvard.edu. Archived from the original on March 23, 2009. Retrieved 2012-10-18.
  18. ^ "Murray To Resign as SEAS Dean at Year's End". Harvard Crimson. October 29, 2014. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
  19. ^ Jazkarta. "Cherry A. Murray — Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences". Seas.harvard.edu. Retrieved 2015-07-17.
  20. ^ "Harvard receives its largest gift".
  21. ^ "John Paulson Gives $400 Million to Harvard for Engineering School". The New York Times. 4 June 2015.
  22. ^ "A new dean for SEAS". Retrieved 2015-07-17.
  23. ^ "Harvard University | Best Engineering School | US News". grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com. Retrieved 2016-10-07.
  24. ^ "Our Campus TEACHING, RESEARCH, AND ADMINISTRATIVE SPACES". Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. President and Fellows of Harvard College. 2014. Retrieved 6 April 2014.
  25. ^ "Palm NMR and 1-chip NMR". IEEE J. Solid-State Circuits. 46 (1): 342–352. Jan 2011. doi:10.1109/JSSC.2010.2074630.
  26. ^ Jazkarta (2011-04-03). "Materials scientists at Harvard demonstrate the first macro-scale thin-film solid-oxide fuel cell — Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences". Seas.harvard.edu. Archived from the original on May 16, 2013. Retrieved 2012-10-18.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°22′21.67″N 71°07′06.73″W / 42.3726861°N 71.1185361°W / 42.3726861; -71.1185361