John Sayler Coon Photograph (VAM313)

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Biography of John Sayler Coon

John Sayler Coon (1854-1938) was appointed the first Mechanical Engineering and Drawing Professor at the Georgia School of Technology in 1889. The first chair of the Mechanical Engineering department, in 1896 he also assumed the role of superintendent of shops. During his thirty-five year career at Georgia Tech, Coon contributed much to the growth and reputation of the school.

Coon was born on November 22, 1854 in Burdett, New York, to William Clarke and Susan Saylor Coon. He was educated at Cornell University, obtaining a B.S. and an M.S. in mechanical engineering in 1877. After his graduation, he remained at Cornell as an instructor in mechanical engineering for one year. During the years that followed he held positions at E.D. Leavitt in New York, Calumet and Hecla Mining in Boston, and the Anaconda Copper Company in Montana. In 1882 and 1888 he published papers on pumping engines and upright boilers in the ASME Transactions. Coon served as the chair of mechanical engineering at the University of Tennessee beginning in 1888, but less than a year later he accepted the professorship in mechanical engineering and drawing at Georgia Tech.

During his years at Georgia Tech, Coon revised the curriculum, moving the school away from the system of contract work for commercial sales and toward courses of study that emphasized design and testing, mathematics, problem solving, and ethics. A founding member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, he was interested in providing theoretical as well as practical experience. The apprentice system, which was introduced in the fall of 1888 and supported by Coon, allowed young students to get training in advanced mathematics and science and introduced them to unfamiliar machines and tools. Coon also revised course descriptions and introduced a senior thesis, which involved senior students in experimental laboratory projects with design and testing components. In the shops, Coon emphasized the conceptualization of engineering problems in mechanical terms, mechanical drawing, and practical experience. All students were required to take four years of mechanical draw ing. Coon’s emphasis on practical experience developed into the Cooperative Education Program, which was initiated in 1912. Coon also incorporated the teaching of ethical standards into the curriculum. Both cooperative education and the teaching of ethics remain firmly established in the training of engineers at Tech.

Coon retired from Georgia Tech in 1923 and returned to Canandaigua, New York, where he died on May 16, 1938.

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This collection contains a single photograph reprint of John Saylor Coon.

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    John Sayler Coon
    ( 1889) Unknown ; https://finding-aids.library.gatech.edu/agents/people/35 ; https://finding-aids.library.gatech.edu/agents/corporate_entities/229
    John Sayler Coon (1854-1938) was appointed the first Mechanical Engineering and Drawing Professor at the Georgia School of Technology in 1889. The first chair of the Mechanical Engineering department, in 1896 he also assumed the role of superintendent of shops. During his thirty-five year career at Georgia Tech, Coon contributed much to the growth and reputation of the school.
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