1965 – 1974


Computer Self-Test

In May of 1965, Algirdas Avizienis reports to the International Federation for Information Processing Congress his development of a method for programming computers to diagnose themselves for errors. He will initially test this method on a NASA research project in spacecraft guidance. The method could allow replacement of multiple back-up computers now used.

World’s First Reverse Osmosis Plant

In June of 1965, the world’s first reverse osmosis plant begins operation in Coalinga, a farming community near Fresno. The plant, designed and constructed by UCLA engineers, uses the new method of water desalination called reverse osmosis, first demonstrated by UCLA’s Sidney Loeb and Srinivasa Sourarijan in 1959. The plant will turn brackish well water into drinkable water for the community, producing 6,000 gallons of water per day. The reverse osmosis process reduces the water’s salt content from 2,500 parts per million to under 500 parts per million, the recommended standard for drinking water.

Car For Youth Amputee

In June of 1965, UCLA engineers working at the UCLA Child Amputee Project modify an automobile so that an 18-year-old youth, born without arms and only rudimentary legs and feet, can drive. The steering and acceleration are controlled by a U-shaped device attached to the modified accelerator and linked by a power system to the steering wheels. Ignition and transmission are controlled by the right foot also, and braking, and control of light switches, window controls, and windshield wipers are controlled by the left foot. Using this vehicle, the youth is able to successfully pass his road test, and the state issues him a driver’s license.

Underwater Labor

In June of 1965, assistant professor Gershon Weltman and Glen H. Egstrom, director of the UCLA Performance Physiology Laboratory, are investigating some of the basic problems man faces working underwater. As its first project, a research group has developed an underwater restraining device to hold a diver in place while testing his field of vision through different face masks or while measuring the force of his kicking thrust. The group plans to develop instrumentation for freely-moving divers that will measure the human energy required in undersea work, and analyze the changes which occur in the body in deep water.


Gadjah Mada Project Complete

On January 12, 1966, faculty members who participated in the Gadjah Mada University project have a final meeting to wrap up the 10 year effort to establish university training in engineering in Indonesia. More than 100 graduates a year are now turned out at the university and nearly 100 students and faculty members from Gadjah completed coursework and training at UCLA.

Shaker Tests

In April of 1966, R. B. Matthiesen schedules a seismic test of the new Math Sciences Building under construction using a shaker device. The device consists of two counter-rotating buckets, each filled with 700 pounds of lead, which vibrate the structure slightly when the shaker is bolted to the foundation flooring. The “baby earthquake” provides data for engineers to determine the stability of the building.

First Alumnus Of The Year

In June of 1966, the first UCLA College of Engineering Alumnus of the Year award is presented during commencement ceremonies to Raymond M. Hill, newly appointed chief of the Los Angeles City Fire Department. Hill earned his bachelor’s degree in engineering in 1955, specializing in chemical engineering and math.

Starr Named Dean

On Friday, August 26, 1966 it is announced by University President Clark Kerr and Chancellor Franklin D. Murphy that Chauncey Starr is named new Dean of the UCLA College of Engineering. Starr will assume his new duties on January 1, 1967.

High-Speed Atoms And Space Vehicles

In October of 1966, Eldon L. Knuth reports findings on scattering of atoms off of materials that simulate spacecraft during flight. To replicate a spacecraft orbiting Earth at 25,000 miles per hour, Knuth produces a molecular beam with which he blasts particles at a variety of materials. The results will help in the design of spacecraft for high-speed flight as well as for the high heat of reentry.

Lyman Meets Walter Cronkite

In November of 1966, professor John Lyman is interviewed by Walter Cronkite for a CBS-TV documentary series on “The 21st Century.” Lyman foresees many breakthroughs triggered by advances in materials, molecular biology, and integrated circuits, including artificial kidneys and hearts that work better than original organs, and artificial brains, perhaps coupled directly to man’s brain. By the 22nd Century, he says, man will control weather, fully exploit the ocean’s and the earth’s interior, and move even further into space. Humans may even be whisked across vast distances through teleportation, Lyman speculates, in which a person’s entire genetic code would be fed to a computer, and flashed to a receiving computer on the moon or another planet, where it would be instantly reconstructed into the person who stood on earth a few seconds earlier.

Computerized Building Design

In December of 1966, professor Moshe F. Rubinstein publishes a book titled “Matrix Computer Analysis of Structures,” which explains a way to analyze the earthquake-safety of a building on the computer, before a drop of cement is ever poured. By feeding the computer information on the shape of the structure, its separate parts, and types of material, the computer can predict the stresses and strains on the building when subjected to earthquakes, strong winds or other forces of nature, as well as the normal loads of equipment and people, Rubinstein says.


Hybrid Automobile

In April of 1967, George A. Hoffman from the Institute of Transportation and Traffic Engineering suggests a hybrid gas-electric vehicle that would utilize electric motors at each wheel. The vehicle, Hoffman says, would consist of an internal combustion engine of a rating much reduced from the conventional motor that it supplants, and would drive, at its optimal speed, a generator. The generated electric power goes to the traction motors (integral with all the wheels) and to a sizable secondary battery, also connected with the four electric motors. Depending on speed and terrain, computer controls would determine the combinations of engine power and electric power to serve the greatest utility.

Trade Routes

In July of 1967, responding to the explosion of worldwide transportation (from cargo jets to barge-carrying ships and high-speed trains), faculty are creating computer systems to give a helping hand in finding the most efficient and cost-effective route. Using the TRANsportation SIMulator or TRANSIM, thousands of decisions and factors that go into moving commodities from one place to another are run through a computer to come up with an accurate analysis of cost, time, and operational problems for a planned route. The project is under the direction of associate dean Russell R. O’Neill and Alfred M. Feiler.

Dry Lands

In August of 1967, assistant professor John A. Dracup is heading to the arid stretch of Coahuila in north central Mexico as part of a long range project by the University’s Dry-Lands Institute to help solve the basic problems plaguing the world’s water-starved areas. By coordinating damming activities near watersheds and a planting program, Dracup hopes to increase the amount of run-off water available for agriculture use.


Ancient Coins

In May of 1968, George Hoffman uses an electron microscope to probe the makeup of ancient coins and detect forgeries. Using the microscope, an electron beam is focused on a tiny spot of the coin, which reflects the X-rays. After the data is run through a computer, an analysis of the angles and intensities of the X-rays shows the metallic composition of the coin. Because many ancient coins contain faint traces of gold, lead or other metals, depending on when and where they were struck, Hoffman has been able to use these “metallurgical signatures” to detect forgeries.



In February of 1969, a small group of professors from the College of Engineering and the School of Medicine is expanding its specialty of cybernetics through courses and research. The researchers are examining the possibility of connecting a device that detects brain waves and can transmit signals to paralyzed limbs. This by-pass system would, for example, send a “clench fist” signal to the muscle of the paralyzed limb. Engineers accomplishing the research include professors Edwin B. Stear and Jacques Vidal, psychiatrist John Shanley, and engineering student Lloyd Nirenberg.

College Becomes A School

On Feb. 21, 1969, upon recommendation of UC president Charles J. Hitch and UCLA Chancellor Charles E. Young, the Regents approve changing the existing College of Engineering to the School of Engineering and Applied Science, effective fall quarter 1969. The aims and programs of the new School will put into practice the chief recommendations proposed in two studies on engineering education. Both reports call for an upward shift in the educational level of engineers in the face of the accelerating knowledge explosion and the crucial social role of the engineer.

La Jolla Sea Water Plant

In April of 1969, a reverse osmosis plant for purifying sea water into drinking water goes on line in La Jolla. The plant, designed and constructed by UCLA engineers using membranes for reverse osmosis first demonstrated by UCLA in 1959, can purify the sea-water in one pass through the system. Using tubes filled with membrane liners, the salt content of the water is reduced from 35,000 parts per million to a level of 500 ppm required for drinking water. The project team includes professors Joseph McCutchan and Douglas Bennion, research engineer Stephen Johnson and Edward K. Selover.

First On The ‘Net

On July 3, 1969, it is announced that UCLA will become the first station in a nationwide computer network which, for the first time, will link together computers of different makes and using different machine languages into one time-sharing system. Professor Leonard Kleinrock, who heads the UCLA project, says creation of the network represents a major forward step in computer technology and may serve as the forerunner of large computer networks of the future. The ambitious project is supported by the Defense Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Seven New Departments

On September 25, 1969, formation of seven departments within UCLA’s newly established School of Engineering and Applied Science is announced by Dean Chauncey Starr. Starr says the departments have been organized by “broad areas of learning and research rather than by the end use to which a graduate will put his academic background on his first job.

Expedience Means Bad Drivers

In November of 1969, a study by Edward Levonian of the Institute for Transportation and Traffic Engineering, says that the personality trait of “expedience” in youngsters is often related to a record of driving violations. The research psychologist defines expediency as “orientation toward self-benefit at the expense of others, or, less formally, as looking out for number one, even if it means hurting someone else.” The results are based on a 220 item questionnaire given to 1,080 15-year-old students enrolled in driver’s education classes in City of Los Angeles high schools.


Minority Engineers

In February of 1970, the success of a two-year effort to implement the Engineering Special Education Program to help high school seniors from minority groups meet the academic qualifications to enroll at UCLA is reported. The program was begun by UCLA engineering seniors Jim Murray and Ronald Fountain, and then supported by professor Morris Asimow. Under the program, 32 students from Compton, Centennial, and Dominguez high schools serve six months as engineering aides at UCLA, with some of them developing a design for improved housing in Compton.

Smog Hurts Plants

In August of 1970, Ruth Ann Bobrov Glater determines by examining plant damage in Los Angeles that the levels of nitrogen oxides in smog are increasing. Whereas an excess of hydrocarbons in smog had been causing leaf damage on some vegetable crops (such as lettuce, spinach and beets) and ornamental flowers (dahlias, petunias and fuchsias) between 1940 and 1960, thereafter a different type of damage, that causes plants’ lower leaves to drop off, was occurring. This type of damage, Glater says, signals an increase in concentrations of nitrogen oxides resulting from auto and aircraft engine emissions.


Particles In Smog

In May of 1971, professor Albert Bush warns of possible health hazards from the breathing of thousands of tiny particles invisible to the eye that exist in polluted air. Bush says that the particles are small enough to slip past nasal passages and be deposited in the respiratory system or lungs and that gaseous irritants may adhere to the surfaces of tiny particles and be carried by them to the eyes and respiratory system.

Teeth That Hear

In May of 1971, Fred Allen from the School of Engineering and Earl Collard of the School of Dentistry have developed an electronic device that allows a person to hear through the teeth. A wristwatch receiver-transmitter receives either radio frequency or audio signals and translates them into vibrations of the teeth through a device fitted inside a dental bridge. The vibrations are transmitted through the tooth, jaw and cranial bones to the inner ear, allowing a person to hear.

Cow Chips And Glass

In July of 1971, professor John D. Mackenzie responds to the needs of an Imperial Valley rancher and develops a method of mixing cow dung and waste glass to produce a lightweight, building material that doesn’t burn, is waterproof, an excellent thermal and noise insulator, can be painted, nailed, drilled, sawed and glued together, and is cheap and easy to produce. Mackenzie notes that the material is also odorless.


Hydrogen Car

In July of 1972, five engineering students have modified a 1972 American Motors Gremlin with a Ford “Boss” 351 engine to run on hydrogen gas and are preparing to enter it in the Urban Vehicle Design Competition scheduled in August. Lab tests indicate that the car will not only beat the scheduled 1976 pollution control standards but will actually emit slightly cleaner air than it takes in. Student designers of the vehicle include Frank Lynch, Joe Finegold, Ned Baker, Bob Takahashi, and Johnny Lu. Their faculty sponsor is Albert Bush.

Women In Engineering

In August of 1972, the results of a study on women in engineering led by associate dean Alfred Ingersoll concludes that more women are being attracted to the engineering profession, but the lack of role models and the “executive suite barrier” prevents them from moving into upper level jobs in engineering management. Practicing women engineers make up less than one percent of the engineering work force, Ingersoll notes, while women represent half of the nation’s technical talent pool.

Hydrogen Car Wins

In September of 1972, the UCLA team has won the 1972 Urban Vehicle Design Competition with their hydrogen-powered Gremlin. The team would like to now develop solid hydrogen storage methods which could eliminate weight and storage problems of using hydrogen gas to power the vehicle.


Diamond Hard Coatings

In April of 1974, it is announced that professor Rointan F. Bunshah has developed a new material called titanium carbide, second only in hardness to diamond. Described by a colleague as “easily the most startling material development in many years,” titanium carbide promises to have a wide range of uses, especially as a super-hard coating for cutting, drilling, and grinding tools.

Copper Recovery

In May of 1974, professors Douglas N. Bennion of UCLA and John Newman of UC Berkeley announce development of a low cost, non-polluting process for recovering copper from ores and scrap metal. Using a concentrating cell, the electrochemical process yields high concentrations of copper, and can also be used to recover mercury, lead, cadmium, silver, and gold.

UCLA Engineering Milestones:

1941 – 1954
1955 – 1964
1965 – 1974
1975 – 1984
1985 – 1994
1995 – 2004
2005 – 2014
2015 – Present