Professionalized, university-trained engineers were rare before the 1870s, but engineers quickly came to be a critical element in the development of planned organizations and societies in the twentieth century. University-trained engineers worked across the globe for local and multinational firms, for imperial and national governments, and in independent consulting arrangements. Both corporations and state bureaucracies sought new knowledge—and the experts who could apply “useful knowledge”—in order to manage the increasing geographic scale and scope of their ambitions in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The expanding production and global mobility of engineering talent during this period, the roles engineers played within firms and states, and the resulting global networks of knowledge, expertise, and innovation, constituted a new infrastructure on which the strategic planning and governing capacity of both multinational corporations and state bureaucracies were built. These two organizational forms would dominate economic life through the remainder of the twentieth century, they still battle over control of the (now digital) knowledge economy, and we have recently witnessed a reaction against the privileged place of globalized expert knowledge.


A Rapid Expansion

Engineering education expanded rapidly in the United States and Western Europe in the last decades of the nineteenth century. A globalized engineering profession was not, however, simply the result of unidirectional global diffusion, with expertise and knowledge flowing from the West to the rest of the world.  Engineers, in fact, moved back and forth across an increasingly dense network. Engineering educational and training programs were established in India, China, Japan, Latin America, and elsewhere, often with strong nationalistic overtones. And engineers were prolific in sharing technical information and empirical data within professional associations and through the pages of professional journals. These journals received information from around the globe and produced articles, reports, op-eds, notices, and letters that were then shipped and shared to tens of thousands of readers; they provided arterial pathways for a multi-directional exchange of new knowledge within an emerging global network.


This website provides a hub for researchers, teachers, and the general public interested in the global history of engineering.

Project Directors

Photo of IGS

Israel G. Solares

UNAM- El Colegio de México; Adjunct Professor

Born in a working-class neighborhood in Mexico City (Xochimilco), I have always been interested in the connections between economic development, social struggles, and environmental conflicts. I study the hidden relationships between communities transcending the national states.

Ted Beatty

Edward (Ted) Beatty

Associate Dean for Academic Affairs; Professor of History

Ted Beatty is professor of history and associate dean for academic affairs at the Keough School of Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame. He holds a PhD from Stanford University.

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Edward (Ted) Beatty
University of Notre Dame
1010R Jenkins Nanovic Halls
Notre Dame, IN 46556
United States

Israel G. Solares
UNAM-El Colegio de México
Carretera Picacho Ajusco 20 Ampliación
Mexico City, IN 14110
United States