Civil, Structural, and Mechanical Engineering Achievement Timeline, 1960-1975


  • Geyers Unit 1 in Sonoma County north of San Francisco becomes the first commercial geothermal electricity generation station in North America; owned by Pacific Gas & Electric.
  • Pegasus 3 Engine BS 916 is built by Rolls Royce for vertical takeoff and landing jets such as the British Harrier.


  • Unimation introduces the world’s first robot at Chicago’s Cow Palace, sells units to General Motors in 1962; makes deal with Kawasaki in 1969.


  • NS Savannah, the first nuclear cargo-passenger ship; yacht-like, it became an ambassador for the Atoms for Peace initiative.
  • Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) founded – the longest accelerator in the world (2 miles); becomes operational in 1966; produces research of three Nobel Prizes; contributes to the fields of atomic and sold-state physics, medicine, biology, chemistry.
  • Big Brutus Mine Shovel, the second largest shovel ever built; assembled and used in West Mineral, KS to mine coal: manufactured by Bucyrus-Erie; 160 ft high, 9,300,000 lbs, caterpillar track propulsion; operational until 1973.
  • Grumman wins the $2-billion government contract for a Lunar Module or LM (“Lem”) for NASA’s moon program. Thomas J. Kelly led a team of 7,000 employees that designed and built 15 machines in total over an eight-year period. Kelly’s group had the idea executed in Apollo moon missions of a two-stage spacecraft with two astronauts dispatched to the moon surface while a third member stayed in orbit.
  • Construction starts on the Blue Mesa Dam on the Gunnison River, one of four dams completed between 1958 and 1966 (Flaming Gorge Dam, Navajo Dam, and Glen Canyon Dam) as part of the Colorado River Storage Project on the 1450-mile Colorado River and its tributaries that effect seven western states.
  • Construction begins of the 5,500-mile, Houston to New York City (Linden, New Jersey), Colonial Pipeline, the largest single, privately-financed construction project in American history; traverses 12 states, with other states such as Tennessee serviced off the mainline; 600,000 tons of steel, 27 mainline pumping stations; by early 1970s had 1.6 million b/d throughput of diesel and gasoline products.


  • Engineers build the Arecibo Observatory near San Juan, Puerto Rico with the largest single aperture telescope ever constructed – a mechanical and electrical marvel.
  • The completion of the Glen Canyon Dam creates Lake Powell on the border of Utah and Arizona.


  • Japan’s “bullet train” (Tokaido Shinkansen) opens for service between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka.
  • Construction begins on the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project approved by President Kennedy two years before; includes Ruidi Dam and its reservoir near Aspen, a major water diversion and storage system to generate hydroelectric power and equalize water resources in Colorado along the Continental Divide.


  • Crawler Transporters at Cape Canaveral (Cape Kennedy) built by Marion Power Shovel Co. and Rockwell International: 131 ft long x 114 ft wide x 20 ft tall, 6 million pounds on eight caterpillar tracks with automatic load-leveling systems.


  • Peter Jost establishes the field of “tribology,” which is the wide-ranging science of interacting surfaces in motion to each other; and involves friction, lubrication, and wear.  Michael Neal published The Tribology Handbook in 1973 with several updates since.
  • The Saturn V Dynamic Test Vehicle built in Huntsville, AL as a prototype for NASA’s Saturn V used for actual launches; included five configurations.


  • Boeing builds factory 30 miles north of Seattle at Everett, Washinton to produce the 747; it has been expanded from its original 43 acres to nearly 100 acres to participate in the production of 767s, 777s and 787s; is the single largest building in the world by square footage today.


  • Ground broken on three nuclear power plants in three states: Calvert Cliffs (Maryland), Three-Mile Island (Pennsylvania), and Diabolo Canyon (California).
  • Pressure suits (Model A7L) for astronauts donned for Apollo 7 mission in October – a masterful combination of design, science, and engineering – which would be space outfitting through the Apollo 14 mission of February 1971, the third moon landing.


  • Alton S. Newell designs the “Newell Shredder,” a machine that efficiently reduced automobile bodies into scrap metal for recycling. A car was fed into the shredder and rotating hammers, driven by a 500-hp motor, shredded it into small pieces that were easily shipped. The process took about 10 minutes a car and used less energy than other shredding and crushing machines.
  • The Historic American Engineering Record program founded by the American Society of Civil Engineers begins surveying original mainlines of American railroads.
  • The “Stanford Arm” was developed at the California university by that name. With six degrees of freedom (DOF), it was a landmark in mechanical systems capable of tasks earlier robots couldn’t perform.


  • The Exeter Hip Stem first implanted at the Princess Elizabeth Orthopedic Hospital in Exeter, England. Developed in 1969 by surgeon Robin Ling and engineer Clive Lee, it is still the gold standard of hip replacement.



  • Engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratories in Pasadena build two of the most intelligent machines for NASA’s exploration of the outer Solar System as first conceived in 1964 when Gary Flandro discovered a rare alignment of planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, and proposes a Grand Planetary Tour shortly thereafter. Seven years after conception, Voyagers 1 and 2 in separate missions explore first Jupiter and Saturn; then Uranus and Neptune between 1979 and 1989.
  • Bay Area Rapid Transit System (BART) opens in San Francisco area, combining elevated rail & subway operations, some beneath water. Designed by Westinghouse Electric Company and built by several companies including the Bechtel Corporation, it was one of the first major rail systems with automated controls.


  • The deep-sea drilling ship Hughes Glomar Explorer enters service; built by the CIA to recover Soviet submarine K-129 which sank in 16,500 ft. of water 1,700 miles NW of Hawaii in March 1968.


  • MIT enhances industrial robotics with development of the “Silver Arm.” With embedded pressure-sensitive sensors and a microprocessor, this new arm achieved unprecedented versatility; opened the way for a robot boom with 30% year-on-year growth.


  • Construction starts March 27 on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline to transport oil and gas discovered at Prudhoe Bay in 1968 southward 800 miles to Valdez; privately funded, 48″ diameter pipe, 12 pump stations, 3 system leak protection systems, traversing three mountain ranges, 30 rivers, almost half of system underground; completed in 1977.

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