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)
Thanks Nadine. I knew somebody would challenge me when I noted I didn't see the engineer in Hitchcock's work. Perhaps he gets the extra credit for making his engineering approach seem natural and un-engineered.
Good point, Al. I, too, was surprised that there were no electrical engineers on the list. I can't imagine why. I have actually bumped into a few other names since publishing the article, but none of those were EEs either.
There are a few engineers in Congress, TJ. I was amazed, however, to learn from commenter Dave Palmer that there are 15 engineers in Congress. I now know of a couple others -- Cliff Stearns (who was recently voted out) and Dan Lipinski of Illinois. But 15 surprised me. Thanks to Dave Palmer for that info.
I agree that engineering sets the stage for other skills, Liz. I also foun it interesting how many of our engineers used skills obtained at MIT: John H. Sununu; John E. Sununu; Tom Scholz and Pete Stark. That's a high percentage from a single school.
Hi Nadine - I appreciate your comment and I certainly see your perspective. However, I am simply speaking from my own experiences. I grew up as a "tomboy" and I was the only girl the boys would let play soccer at recess and I was usually one of the first picked. This speaks to my statement that regardless of the venue - typically competence will override gender bias. But it has also been my experience (I have been in engineering for twenty years) that striking up a conversation about hall effects is rather difficult with other women (and some men of course). I did not mean that statement to be stereotypical as a limiting factor, because we should all have the freedom to break through stereotypes, but I also believe that if I am in a fire and need someone to rescue me - I will have more confidence if the rescue worker who appears is a 250 lb. person of physical muscular strength. While I don't deny that can take the shape of a female rescue worker - the likelihood of that being the case is fairly slim. God made each of us unique with different gifts - but some gifts seem a little more lopsided towards one gender or the other, although of course that is not always the case. Part of it is how our educational system is structured as well - girls and boys mature at different rates yet they receive instruction in math and science at the same age - studies have been done that show this may have a negative effect on learning for girls in these areas which could account for some of the stereotypical views we are discussing.
I absolutely embrace and applaud women in engineering - I was asked to be a guest speaker at a seminar for high school counselors on that very topic. I know some other female engineers that absolutely excel. And I do stand on my statement - a woman can achieve her dream to be an engineer (or anything else for that matter) if she has the potential it requires to do so, as well as the attitude it takes to persevere. Competence overcomes gender bias. But my observation comes from being the ONLY woman engineer in a large semiconductor firm that was willing to hire women in engineering. At one point I was test engineering manager and in a position to hire - but did not ever receive women applicants. The majority of the ladies I interact with at church and social functions aren't interested in technical topics, but I can strike up a conversation with a non-technical guy and he will usually have a passing interest. Sorry for the seemingly stereotyping - maybe it is just my generation, Nadine. I am glad there are folks like you that are standing up for women in science and engineering.
From my understanding of his work, Hitchcock planned and controlled every detail. He was very methodical. Today, the special effects in a movie like The Birds seem underwhelming, but at the time, it was awesome. Consider the shower scene in Psycho. There was nothing like before. I can see it in the precision in his decisions and process.
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For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.