John Saylor Coon
(1889 to 1923)
John Saylor Coon received his degree in mechanical engineering from Cornell University. The program was suppose to take four years, but he completed it in three at the head of his class. Not only did he construct an engine and a dynamo electric machine - the first one built in the U.S. - that were both featured at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition in 1876, but he was also a charter member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Before coming to Georgia Tech, Coon was an instructor at Cornell for a year, worked as an engineer in the mining industry, and spent several years as a consultant for efficient tests on pumps and locomotives.
Coon joined the faculty in 1889, a year after Georgia Tech first opened its doors. He was offered the job as president after Georgia Tech's first president, Dr. I. S. Hopkins, passed away, but he turned it down. "Uncle Si," as he was affectionately known by his students, is considered by some to be Georgia Tech's greatest professor. The John Saylor Coon Building on Cherry Street is named after him and was originially constructed as the mechanical engineering building in the early twentieth century.