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)
Chuck, this is a very instructive list. It is good to see so many talented people who were educated as engineers. This is also germaine to the higher education debate going on in this country. We are often afraid of the rising power of countries like China and India, at least partly becuase they are graduating so many engineers. At the same time there are articles and columns in American papers talking about the diminishing returns of a college degree. The problem with those analyses is that they lump all degrees together. We don't need more social workers and english majors, do we? We need more engineers, as evidenced by the debate on H1B visas. Even if some of those engineering grads don't spend most of their career as practicing engnieers, they typically bring analytical skills to areas of endeavour that help them to be successful. We need more of that.
Ah, OK, I just sort of meant it anecdotally, Rich, as it seems like so much of the innovation we write about comes out of MIT. I am sure a case can be made for more than one institution to be the best...I certainly didn't mean to offend anyone at the other fine engineering universities out there!
Here is a link to someone's list of top undergraduate engineering schools...MIT is at the top but as you can see of course there are a number of other fine schools: http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/rankings/engineering
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.
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