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Biography

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE

American civil engineer (1839-1919). Author of the first authoritative specifications on bridge construction, published in 1884.

Theodore Cooper: A Biographical Outline

1839 Born January 13th in Cooper's Plain, NY, the son of John Cooper, Jr., a physician, and Elizabeth M. Evans.
1858 graduated as civil engineer from the Resselaer Institute (now Rensselaer Polytechnic) at the age of nineteen
1861 Becomes Assistant Engineer on the Troy and Greenfield Railroad and Hoosac Tunnel. The same year enlists in the Navy and becomes Assistant Engineer for the construction of the gunboatChocura, on which he will serve for the last three years of the Civil War.
1865 Detached from the Chocura, he is ordered to the United States Naval Academy at Newport, RI, then to Annapolis, Md., as Instructor in the new department of Steam Engineering.
1868 Ordered to the Nyack in the South Pacific, where he will serve for two years.
1870 Returns to the Naval Academy.
1872 Resignes from the Navy. In May Capt. James B. Eads, Engineer of the Bridge and Tunnel Company, appoints Cooper the inspector of steel manufacturing for the St. Louis Bridge. He also appoints him superintendent of Andrew Carnegie's giant Keystone Bridge Company in Pittsburgh. At a later point Eads puts Cooper in charge of the construction of the St. Louis Bridge, a successful project that will launch Cooper's career as a bridge engineer.
1879 Sets up as independent consulting engineer in New York. Among his most prestigious projects will be the Seekonk Bridge in Providence, the Sixth Bridge in Pittsburgh, the Second Avenue Bridge in New York City, the Newburyport Bridge over the Merrimac River, and the Junction Bridges over the Allegheny River.
His paper "The Use of Steel for Bridges" is published in the Transactions of the American Society of Civil Engineers. Cooper will receive a Normal Medal for this work.
1884 Contributes the important work "General Specifications for Iron Railroad Bridges and Viaducts," the first authoritative specifications on bridge construction ever published and circulated.
1885/1885 Serves as director of the American Society of Civil Engineers.
1889 His paper "American Railroad Bridges" is published in the Transactions of the American Society of Civil Engineers. Cooper will receive a Normal Medal for this work.
1894 Appointed by the late President Cleveland as a member of a board of five engineers to determine the span of the Hudson River Bridge. Other consulting work will include the New York Public Library, the Suburban Rapid Transit Company, the New York Rapid Transit Commission, the Boston Rapid Transit Commission, and the harlem River Commission.
1897 Accepts to serve as consulting engineer for the construction of the Quebec Bridge by the Quebec Bridge Company.
1907 The Quebec Bridge collapses, effectively ending Cooper's career as a bridge engineer.
1919 Dies on August 24th in New York City.