Engineers are a talented bunch. And although their talents typically take them to a quiet office or a lab, that's not always so. Sometimes, their gifts place them in the limelight, and we tend to forget where they started.
Jimmy Carter and Herbert Hoover, for example, took their talents to the top spot in world politics. Tom Landry used his analytical skills to become a legendary football coach. And Alfred Hitchcock's innate intelligence launched a career as history's most recognizable film director.
Of course, there will always be a few who are rumored to be engineers, but aren't. Folklore has it, for example, that Cindy Crawford, Ashton Kutcher, and Mr. T were engineers. But none were awarded engineering degrees or toiled as engineers. And Mayim Bialik, best known from Blossom and as Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory, went from child star to earning a PhD in neuroscience from UCLA. She will be speaking this week at Design West.
Here, we've collected photos of individuals, most of whom earned engineering degrees and then found fame elsewhere. Did we miss anyone? Tell us in the comments section below. Click the image below to start the slideshow.
Filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock directed Psycho, The Birds, North by Northwest, Rear Window, Vertigo, and many other major movies, but started his working life as an engineer. He studied engineering at the London County Council School of Engineering and Navigation and worked as a draftsman before launching a career in movies in the 1920s. (Source: Wikipedia)
Something is terribly wrong when an educational system, in 13 years K-12, can't prepare a graduate to earn a decent living or go on to a BS degree without incurring a crushing debt.
We don't expect an 18 year-old with no experience in competitive sports to become an NFL quarterback. Does it make any more sense to expect a high school graduate who's never studied any technology in detail, who's never worked on technical problems hands-on to become a competent engineer?
Engineering education ought to begin long before college. My route began with an interest in amateur radio starting in the 7th grade, studying the ARRL handbook, repairing CB equipment and building a 80/40 meter receiver (which took over a year to finally get it working). I went to college with general class amateur and 1st class commercial FCC licenses. I was typical of many who got into electrical engineering that way.
The same is true for technicians. It shouldn't cost a fortune to learn how HVAC systems or autos operate. I contacted a local technical school instructor recently to see how he taught electrical courses. He said they minimized math in the two DC and two AC courses offered for electricians because most of their students had a poor background in high school. Asked how he treated the subject of phase in AC circuits and the difference between resistance and reactance, he said they essentially ignored it.
I'm not too worried about the male/female ratio. I think it's looking up, half of our interns this year were female chemical, material science, and electrical. My daughter was just accepted into the Madison School of Engineering last week. I'm so proud of her! With the renewed emphasis on STEM and Advanced Placement classes the curve is changing. I'd say our chemical side is currently 50% or more female and our analytical dept. is 90% female. EE, ME, and software still male dominated here in the Midwest.
I agree that music and engineering seem too different to both interest the same person, but I'll admit I probably use only half my brain. The most brilliant people I know seem to be good at everything. They play instruments at the highest levels, and may work as surgeons during day. I met a medical student this fall that was an engineer first, and had built a company doing computer controls. Now he was becoming a doctor because he wanted to help society, instead of being part of the business rat race. You would think he would be busy enough with all his studies, but on the side he was helping to develop a program to better display medial research results for the doctors he was training under. I know he will never now as much about my field of engineering as I do, and he can ask the simplest of questions, but I also know he could have learned everything I know in about 1/10 the time it took me. So learning an instrument for him is just something to do, to understand and appreciate it better. Maybe I'll take up the harmonica....
Alan Kulwicki received a Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering from University of Wisconsin in 1977, and became the 1992 NASCAR Winston Cup Champion. At a time when Owner/Driver combinations were rare, Kulwicki used that combination and won the championship. His death in a plane crash was not only a loss for the racing world, but for the whole world.
You neglected GENERAL SIR JOH MONASH, the smartest general you never heard of, unless you are Australian. His face is on the Australian $100 bill. When he died, 10% of all the Australians in the world were at his funeral. He built railroads, introduced reinforced concrete to Australia, and electrified the state of Victoria. He was also a patent lawyer and a concert pianist. After he took command of the Australian Corps in 1918, he never lost a battle and spearheaded the "hundred days campaign" which defeated the Germans on the Western Front. However, most histories of WW1 don't mention him or skip most of his accomplishements, because the Brits didn't like him. (1) He was a reservist, a civilian when the war broke out, not a member of the old boys club. (2) He was Australian, not British, and used innovative tactics not found in the approved manuals. (3) He was an engineer, not a cavalryman, and entirely too intellectual for the British Army. (He was also fluent in German) (4) And the reason he wasn't welcome in their officers' clubs, he was a (nonpracticing) Jew. if you Google him, you will likely find Monash University, named after him, and the town of Monash, built by him. Several of his concrete bridges are still in use. He was also active in civic affairs, like veterans affairs and the Boy Scouts.
American actor, James Hong, studied to be a civil engineer at USC. He recently starred as "Grandpa Chen" in the movie RIPD. I remember him best as "David Lo Pan", the villian in Big Trouble in Little China". He also did a hilarious bit part in an episode of "the Drew Carey Show".
I would like to set the record straight. Jimmy Carter is not an engineer!
I am a Georgia Tech alumnus. Many years ago shortly after Jimmy Carter
left office, the faculty of Ga Tech decided to honor Jimmy Carter by granting him
an honorary engineering degree, due to the fact that he attended Ga Tech for a very short period long ago. I believe it was on quarter. He transferred to a military school after that.
When the alumni of Ga Tech got wind of the honorary degree there was a large outcry. So the administration of Ga Tech, in order to preserve the peace, agreed to in the future only consider US presidents with a history at Ga Tech for honorary degrees.
So I repeat - Jimmy Carter has an unearned lambskin - his degree was given to him as part of a ceremony only. It is a degree in Nuclear Engineering.
It should be obvious if you hear him discuss it, he calls it 'nucular' engineering.
Five years ago, optical heart rate tracking seemed like an obvious successor to the popular chest straps used by many fitness buffs, but the technology has faced myriad engineering challenges on its way to market acceptance.
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