IIT Roorkee has its roots in the Roorkee College which was set up in 1847. It was renamed as the Thomason College of Civil Engineering in 1854. The College laid the foundation of modern Engineering education and the use of civil engineering practices in the infrastrucure development of the country. The irrigation infrastructure in the form of dams and canals, roads and highways, railways, bridges etc. in the country - all have been the outcome of the engineering education imparted in this - the only engineering institution in the country at that point of time.
It got elevated as the first technical University of the country in 1948 through the Roorkee University Act, 1947 passed by the United Provinces Legislature.
Roorkee University also became the first institution in the country to offer postgraduate programs in engineering and technology in 1955. On september 21, 2001, the University was converted into an IIT by the Government of India through an Act of Parliament and recognised it as an Institution of National importance.