The Institute has an illustrious history and a glorious past. The Thomason College, the oldest engineering college in India, owes its birth to the waters of Mother Ganges. With¬out the River Ganges there would have been no canal of that name, and, without the canal, no college at Roorkee. The Ganges Canal soon reached maturity, but its offspring, the Thomason College, planned by men of wisdom and foresight, grew steadily from the smallest beginnings till it attained the proud position which it now holds as one of the leading educa¬tional institutions of the East with great traditions and a reputation second to none.
The establishment of an Engineering college at Roorkee was suggested to the Honourable James Thomason, Lieutenant-Governor of the North-West Provinces, about 1846, by Colonel Cautley of the Royal Artillery, who had been Superinten¬dent-General of Canals since 1836 and was busily engaged in the scheme, first contemplated by Colonel Colvin of the Bengal Engineers, for the employment of the waters of the Ganges for irrigation. While there is no doubt that the immediate require¬ments of the Ganges Canal in engineer officers and subor¬dinates were chiefly responsible for the foundation of the Thomason College, it is probable that broader issues also influenced the minds of Mr. Thomason and his advisers and that an important point was the necessity for some systematic training for Civil Engineers in India, or at least in Northern India. The Western Jumna Canals were commenced in 1817 and the Eastern Jumna Canal in 1822. In 1847 the annual expenditure on establishment for these under¬takings was Rs.1,04,000 and on annual repairs- Rs.35,000. In Dehra Dun, Rohilkhand and near Delhi, works for drainage and irrigation were maintained requiring skilful superintendence. The roads from Jubbulpur to Mirzapur, the grand trunk roads from Calcutta to Delhi and from Agra to Bombay and the Land Revenue Settlement Survey had been completed. It was apparent that there existed a large demand for skill in every branch of Civil Engineering. To meet this demand there were officers of the Army, European non-commissioned officers and soldiers and Indians. To make these men efficient agents, the well-educated Europeans, lately arrived in the country, required instruction in Indian languages and in the peculiarities of materials and construction in India, The European soldiers required scientific instruction and the Indians, from their local experience and ability to bear exposure to the climate were likely to prove efficient instruments if they were well taught and inspired with a proper sense of responsibility.
As early as the year 1845, Lieutenant Baird Smith of the Bengal Engineers, then Superintendent of the Eastern Jumna Canal, began training young Indians at Saharanpur in Civil Engineering for the grade of Sub-Assistant Executive Engineer and in 1846 twenty candidates were admitted to this class. In 1847, after the First Punjab War, Lord Hardinge, the Governor-General, determined on the vigorous prosecution of the Ganges Canal scheme. This undertaking, especially in the first few miles of its course, was beset with great engineer¬ing difficulties. Evidently it would tax to the utmost the skill industry and resources of the people and country. The science that was necessary to construct a work of this magni¬tude would also be kept constantly in exercise for its main¬tenance, improvement and extension. Immediate measures were necessary to provide a constant supply of well-trained and experienced Engineers. Out of this emergency, the Roorkee College arose, later to be known as the Thomason College. The circumstances which caused the selection of Roorkee as the site for the College were thus stated in the proposal made to the Governor-General on September 23, 1847............................... (Click here to download complete history)