In April, we posted an online slideshow called "18 People You Didn’t Know Were Engineers." Within hours of its publication, readers began to suggest names of other luminaries -- astronauts, politicians, athletes, and actors -- who were educated or had worked as engineers.
Some surprised us. Could anyone have predicted, for example, that at least four inductees in the Pro Football Hall of Fame had been educated as engineers? Or that a man who made films about blood-sucking vampires and flesh-eating cockroaches could have been educated as an electrical engineer? (He lasted only four days in his only engineering job.)
Predictably, there were also a few suggestions that turned out to be more folklore than truth. For example, we could find no information to support the claims that actor Donald Sutherland, musician Herbie Hancock, or singer/songwriter Neil Young had ever received degrees in engineering or worked as engineers, although numerous websites suggested it.
So once again, we’ve collected photos of individuals, most of whom earned engineering degrees and then found fame elsewhere. Following are the latest 18 people you didn’t know were engineers. Click on the photo to start the slideshow.
Lonnie Johnson holds a master’s degree in nuclear engineering from Tuskegee University, has earned 80 patents, and has launched two thin film battery companies, but he is best known for his invention of the SuperSoaker Water Gun. Johnson originally made the toy using a water bottle, plastic tubing, and duct tape, but it ended up reaching more than a billion dollars in sales. (Source: Wikipedia)
I always took Nielsen for a consumer research-oriented individual. It's interesting to know about his academic history. But the one that really shocked me was Rowan Atkinson, perhaps because of his "Mr. Bean" personification.
Great work, Charles, highlighting the social impact of an engineering education. As you've done so much research into who is, or isn't, an engineer, could you focus on governments. It fascinates me that most of the Chinese ruling committee are engineers (mostly civil engineers) and, while we might disagree with a lot of their ideology, we have to admire the way they've been able to ditch those aspects of their ideology that got in the way of economic growth, and have consistently produced the fastest growing economy in the world. Most other countries seem to be run by lawyers, with a good few teachers (in Ireland anyway), doctors, accountants and real estate agents. It would be really interesting to see the contributions (positive and negative) that engineers make when they are in government.
Another angle that we'd probably rather not publicise is that there is a disproportionate number of engineers among suicide bombers.
The ones who didn't make the list probably required more research than those who did. It took numerous calls to colleges to determine whether some of these people were engineers or not. I would have liked the list to have more balance by adding people like Donald Sutherland, Herbie Hancock and Neil Young, to name a few who were unprovable, but it was not to be.
One that surprised (and delighted) me was Norman Schwarzkopf. But being from Detroit originally, Lee Iacocca was a home town hero -- so no surprise there ( father'd the Mustang and saved Chrysler Motors). Most surprising was Leonid Brezhnev. Thanks for the list – Great research!
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