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)
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.
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.
The question of whether engineers could have foreseen the shortcut maintenance procedures that led to the crash of American Airlines Flight 191 in 1979 will probably linger for as long as there is an engineering profession.
More than 35 years later, the post-mortem on one of the countryís worst engineering disasters appears to be simple. A contractor asked for a change in an original design. The change was approved by engineers, later resulting in a mammoth structural collapse that killed 114 people and injured 216 more.
If youíre an embedded systems engineer whose analog capabilities are getting a little bit rusty, then youíll want to take note of an upcoming Design News Continuing Education Center class, ďAnalog Design for the Digital World,Ē running Monday, Nov. 17 through Friday, Nov. 21.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.