Campus & Community

SEAS debuts new seal, which captures the idea of ‘coming full circle’

3 min read

Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) announced the debut of its new seal earlier this week. The design is based on the seal created for the Harvard School of Engineering in 1936 by Pierre de Chaignon la Rose (class of 1895).

“I think ‘re-engineered’ is the most appropriate way to describe the process and the end result,” said Michael Patrick Rutter, communications director at the School.

The group involved in the conceptual and design process wavered among high concepts, like the notion of scale (from nano to macro), to fundamental principles, such as particles and waves, to the less abstract and quirky, including a lone bumblebee. Connected rings, networks, fractals, circuits, and crystalline structures were some of the countless other ideas that did not make final cut.

“After much thought and discussion, we decided that paying homage to our past was the most appropriate way to celebrate our present and future,” said Venkatesh “Venky” Narayanamurti, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Narayanamurti gave particular credit to Eliza Grinnell, the School’s user services coordinator, who created dozens of potential variations for the seal. The final, provost-approved design was chosen because it suitably captured the idea of “coming full circle,” a phrase Narayanamurti has used to describe the transition of the division to a School.

The seal

The three-color seal (black, white, and crimson) is composed of three elements:

• The modern version of the Harvard “veritas” chief appears at the top.

• Directly below the chief, the horizontal chain stitch highlights the work of Gordon McKay, an entrepreneur and philanthropist most well-known for improving, patenting, and licensing a revolutionary machine for sewing shoes. (The McKay endowment now supports more than 40 faculty members in engineering and applied sciences.)

• In the main body of the seal is the coat of arms of the Lawrence family, honoring donor Abbott Lawrence, for whom the Lawrence Scientific School, the progenitor of the School/Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences, was named.

The Lawrence arms (called the “ragged cross”) appear as originally rendered by de Chaignon la Rose for the 1936 engineering seal. That same year, the designer also drafted the seals for the Dental, Public Health, and Medical Schools, in honor of the tercentenary of the University.

In the article “Harvard Seals and Arms,” author and Harvard historian Samuel Eliot Morison suggests that the original engineering seal was likely never put into official, or at the very least, widespread use. From 1946 to 1949, the School of Engineering was fully integrated into the Faculty of Arts and Sciences to form the Division of Engineering Sciences; the nonschool entity was no longer entitled to use a separate seal.