Nov. 1 marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of Stephen Van Rensselaer (1764-1839), the founder of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Fifth in direct descent from Kiliaen Van Rensselaer, the first Patroon, Stephen Van Rensselaer inherited a vast landed estate in Rensselaer and Albany counties at age 5.

Stephan VanRensselaerHe graduated from Harvard and spent time in state government, including as the second Lieutenant Governor of New York, and as a member of the U.S. Congress (1822-29). During this time he memorably cast the vote that put John Quincy Adams in the White House at the expense of Andrew Jackson. His chief services to the state, however, were economic and educational. He was a member of the Erie Canal commissions and president of the state’s first board of agriculture. He was a lenient landlord for 3,000 tenants. He was founder and supporter of a wide variety of social, educational, business, and governmental institutions.

In 1824 it was his vision and support that enabled Amos Eaton to establish the Rensselaer School “for the purpose of instructing persons, who may choose to apply themselves, in the application of science to the common purposes of life.”

As Rensselaer approaches its 200th year, the Institute is highlighting important milestones of how the world has been transformed by the achievements of Rensselaer people—past and present. Inside Rensselaer is showcasing some of the remarkable achievements and anniversaries throughout the year, including notable milestones and alumni and alumnae accomplishments.

More about the Bridge to the Bicentennial.