On November 20 (December 2, Gregorian calendar), 1809, by Manifesto of Emperor Alexander I, there were founded the Corps of Water and Overland Ways Engineers and, annexed to it, Institute of the Transport Engineers Corps allocated in the Palace bought by the State from Prince Nikolay B. Yusupov (architect Giacomo Quarengui). In November 1810, classes for the first intake students began.
The first Rector and organizer of the Institute of the Transport Engineers Corps was Agustin de Betancourt (1789-1824), one of the greatest scientists in mechanics of that time, who had an experience in organization of a similar higher educational institution in Madrid. When devising the first curricula and study programmes, he used the best practices of European higher technical education: advances of the École polytéchnique de Paris, École des Ponts et Chaussées de Paris, Escuela de Caminos, Canales y Puertos de Madrid. In the early years of its existence, the Institute trained broad-scoped civil engineers and transport specialists; and even in 1835, before the construction of the first Russian railway (1837), the civil engineering course curriculum integrated special sections on the railway construction and operation.
In the same years, the foundations of the national school of the natural sciences were being laid. For the first time in Russia, higher mathematics was taught in an engineering higher school.
And if the mathematics teaching methods were primarily developed by outstanding French scientists Pierre-Dominique Bazaine and Gabriel Lamé and Russian scientists Vasiliy I. Viskovatov and Semyon E. Guriev, the activity was continued and improved by academicians Mikhail V. Ostrogradsky, Viktor Y. Bunyakovsky, etc. Academician Germain Heinrich Hess, «grandfather of Russian chemists» Alexander A. Voskresensky and the creator of the chemical elements periodic law Dmitry I. Mendeleev, who lectured at this higher school, influenced greatly on the formation of the chemistry scientific school.
An entire constellation of famous railway engineers, including academician and Minister of Railways Pavel P.Melnikov and professor of the Institute Nikolay O. Kraft, designers and constructors of the first Russian railway main line St. Petersburg – Moscow and many others graduated from this higher school. Originally, the Institute was an open higher educational institution with a four-year study course. Although the students were given military rank on graduation, officially the Institute was considered a civil educational establishment. In December 1823, the Institute of the Transport Engineers Corps was reformed into a closed educational institution similar to military schools, and military subjects were integrated into its curricula. And it was not until 1864 that the Institute reconverted into a first category civil higher education institution with a five-year study course; and since 1877 it had been called Emperor Alexander I Institute of Transport Engineers. At the Institute of Transport Engineers, the improvement of the curriculum of general engineering, civil engineering and transport disciplines was continued. The Institute’s professors began delivering lectures on new scientific disciplines: theory of elasticity applied to analysis of structures; beddings and foundations; practical photography; geology and physical geography; electrical engineering and long distance power transmission; construction materials technology, etc. In 1865, there came into existence the first 12 departments embracing all lines of educational activity.
In the late 19th and early 20th century, with the most active participation of the higher school alumni, the Trans-Siberian main line, the greatest railway of all times and nations, was built. The early 20th century was marked by the creation of novel modes of transport: electrical, automobile and air transports. Their development started. In connection with this, new departments were established at the Institute of Transport Engineers. In the first half of the 20th century, the general railway construction courses were developed. Lectures on these disciplines were delivered by outstanding scientists and famous railway engineers: Grigory D. Dubelir, Vyacheslav N. Evreinov, Evgeny O. Paton, Grigory P. Peredery, Yakov M. Gakkel, etc.
In the same years, the scientific schools, both in transport and general science disciplines, widely known in our country and abroad, were founded at the Institute. Simultaneously with the development of transport, control devices were developed and improved. Professor Yakov N.Gordeenko was the initiator and creator of the national signaling and block system. Since the middle of the 19th century, telegraphy and, later on, telephone and radio have been widely used on transport. In 1930, the specialization (major) in signaling and block systems and telecommunications was introduced at the Institute, and in 1933 a department was established on its ground.
Specialists that the Institute trained were so needed that it did not suspend its work even in 1917-1920 and graduated annually 90 engineers on average. In 1924, the Institute was renamed into Leningrad Institute of Transport Engineers. In 1918-1928, the Institute was under the jurisdiction of the People’s Commissariat for Education, and since 1928, under the authority of the People’s Commissariat for Transport, and then Ministry of Railways. Once and for all, Leningrad Institute of Railway Transport Engineers (LIIZhT) became a railway oriented higher school in 1933. For the first time, this abbreviation, LIIZhT, appeared on December 27th, 1930.
A considerable assistance the Institute’s lecturers, students and graduated provided to the battlefront during the Great Patriotic War. Their efforts contributed a lot to the rehabilitation of the ravaged economy in the country as a whole and especially in Leningrad and on Oktyabrskaya Railway. At the same time, there sprang up new scientific schools, founded by such professors and major transport figures as Konstantin G. Protasov (bridges), Yury A. Limanov (tunnels and metro systems), Alexander E. Alekseev (electrical machinery), Alexander S. Pereborov (railway automatics and telemechanics).
In the second half of the 20th century – beginning of the 21st century, the educational process continue to improve, ties with enterprises become deeper, new specialized classrooms and laboratories spring, where up-to-date instructional technologies are used, a computer center and display classrooms enter in service, the first ever comprehensive of teaching and education plan in the higher school practice is worked out, and the Institute branches and instructional advisory offices are organized.
New faculties are organized and new specialties and specializations are introduced. In 1980s-1990s, a great attention was paid to the Institute’s activity complex planning and prognostication. Engineering skills system of training initiated to reconstruct and this led to Institute’s status modification: in 1993 it became a university and was given a new name: Petersburg State Transport University (now – Emperor Alexander I St. Petersburg State Transport University, the PGUPS). Employees, specialists and scientists of the University take part in the design, consulting and expertise of the ring motorway, Ladozhsky railway terminal, dike dam, Smolninskaya embankment construction; in the rehabilitation of the city’s big and small bridges, Konstantinovsky palace, railway terminals and metro stations. The rehabilitated Yusupovs’ palace is already a city’s visiting card: city-wide and regional events are held there regularly. Obukhovkaya square, with a monument to Agustin Betancourt erected in it, has also been transformed.
According to rating carried out by the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation over recent years, the PGUPS ranks 10-13 among 175 Russia’s technical universities.