Historical Evolution of Technical Communication


Morrill Acts

1862 - 1877

Passed in 1862 and 1877, these acts made a secondary education accessible for the majority of Americans, not just those attending small religions institutions.

Decline in Humanities Courses

1870 - 1885

Humanities courses greatly diminished from the classes taught at secondary education institutions.

Creation of SPEE


The Society for the Promotion of Engineering Education (SPEE) is founded, advocating for an increase in humanities courses taught to engineers.

Development of English Departments


Many engineering schools began to create their own English departments to address the growing concern that engineers were not adequately literate.

"A Guide to Technical Writing"


"A Guide to Technical Writing" by T.A. Rickards, the first textbook written about technical writing, was published to help engineers specifically.

"The Theory and Practice of Technical Writing"


Samuel Earle's "The Theory and Practice of Technical Writing" was published. Earle was focused on "giving systematic training in technical writing." To him, technical writing was either narrative, descriptive, expository or directive.

Increase in Humanities Courses

1915 - 1930

A period in which demand for humanities courses to be available to students in all faculties in higher education rose, mainly in reaction to the way these courses were deemed unimportant for engineers in the late 1800s.

"English for Engineers"


Sada Harbarger's "English for Engineers" was the first textbook organized by technical forms, a system which is still used today. This event was a critical part in the rise of people who were devoted specifically to technical writing.

Depression Era

1930 - 1935

Despite a SPEE survey conducted in 1930 revealing that most engineers students and teachers approved of the use of English courses within their faculty, there was a degree of discontent in the English faculty. The Great Depression resulted in English teachers being underpaid and interest fell. However, technical writing courses were still popular.

"A Study of Courses in Technical Writing"


Alvin M. Fountain's report found that technical writing courses were thriving across American but that their teachers were still undervalued and that English departments within engineering schools were dying off.

World War II

1940 - 1946

During the war and for a short period afterwards, published documents regarding technical writing are practically non-existent. Technical writing pioneer W.O. Sypherd noted in 1939 the need for a "radical upheaval" in order for technical writing to break new ground, and this break offered the opportunity to create necessary change.

"Hammond Reports"

1940 - 1944

These SPEE-produced reports recommended "the parallel development of the scientific-technological and the humanistic-social seqeunces."

Technical Writing Boom


Technical writing experienced a boom in growth after the war due to an influx of students and a niche for technical writing. Technical writing became a legitimate profession itself at this time.


University of Calgary

Department Expansion

1900 - 1920

Theology, law, and medicine were the primary faculties at the U of C until the early 19th century when more departments were introduced.

Technical Writing and Documentation Course


The U of C begins to offer WRI 215, a course specifically focusing on technical writing.

Technical Writing Certificate


The U of C begins to offer the Professional Writing Certificate specializing in Business and Technical Writing.