By Gwen Hawkes
To help celebrate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Pratt School of Engineering, the Duke University Libraries recently finished digitizing a classic campus publication: DukEngineer. Since 1940, DukEngineer has been written, edited, and published by a volunteer team of engineering students who chronicled campus developments and recorded their experiences and perspectives. The entire magazine archive is now available online, beginning with the very first issue and running through the most recent editions of 2013.
The magazine provides a fascinating look at the life of Duke engineering students through the decades. Clicking through old copies, it is easy to see how many things have changed—and how some things have remained the same. Many of the articles are academic in nature, recounting the latest developments in technology or sharing the details of students’ work and research. However, there’s plenty of more whimsical fare. An article from the February 1960 issue entitled “Do-It- Yourself Still” chronicles the author’s encounter with an “honest-to-goodness bootlegger” and explains how to make your own hooch at home.
Every academic discipline has its stereotypes, and engineering is no exception. One could be forgiven for skimming the (no doubt fascinating) multi-part series on the history of the slide-rule. Another example is the “Girl of the Month” photo spreads that regularly appeared in the 1960s and 1970s, often featuring attractive coeds from Trinity or the Divinity School. (Today, approximately 30 percent of undergraduates and graduate students at Pratt are women.) Many issues also featured a section of jokes and “Diversions,” including brain-teasers, mind-benders, and a fair share of puns that non-engineers will simply have to trust are funny.
Over the years, DukEngineer has helped to keep the Duke engineering student community connected. The DukEngineer digital collection allows us the opportunity to watch the growth and evolution of this world-class academic community from its earliest days.
Gwen Hawkes (T’16) is an English major and Library Communications Assistant at Duke.