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 Johnson originally made the toy using a water bottle, plastic tubing, and duct tape, but it ended up reaching more than a billion dollars in sales.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)
Nice slide show, Chuck. Many of these are not surprising, especially all of those involved in the space program. The one that really hits it out of the park is Mr. Bean. Come to think of it, he looks like an engineer. Plus, I gotta see The Unauthorized Life.
Mr. Bean! Yes, he definitely has the look of an engineer, you're right, Rob. But I would think he would have historically acted a bit more clever considering his background. Thanks for another fun slideshow, Chuck!
Bill Nye is another one that I didn't expect. Recently I saw a clip where he is bashing anyone who doesn't believe the religion of evolution. What happened to his education of not having preconceived notions but to test everything?
My daughter went to high school with a NFL and Arena Football League place kicker named Todd France. He went to Univ. of Toledo and majored in Mechanical Engineering. Holds records for his postiion at UT and played for several NFL teams as well as many years with the Philadelphia Soul of the AFL. He scored a touchdown against Marshall with a trick play "Nerd up the middle" (that was the team's name for it) where they set up for a field goal and he took a handoff from the holder and ran it in. He served in the Peace Corp but don't know what has happened with him since.
The first list was more interesting for me than this one. Growing up in the 80's, it was obvious that astronauts were engineers. For an older generation, it was obvious that astronauts started as air force pilots.
Lists are nice but analysis is always appreciated. Holding 80 patents is a clear application of engineering skills for Lonnie Johnson but did Schwarzkopf ever apply "engineering thinking" in his career?
Perhaps you could make a list of the most influential people in engineering who were not, in fact, engineers. I suggest that the list should start with Scott Adams (maybe the Wright borthers would be on it, too, and Chuck Yeager)
You've gone two rounds, pretended that people should be surprised that astronauts have engineering backgrounds, and even extended your definition of engineer to include Scott Adams, and still not mentioned "Weird Al" Yankovic, who got his bachelor's degree in Architecture at the San Luis Obispo campus of Cal Poly? Really?
My computer hates this website too. Don't bother scrolling till page is finished loading as it will jump what you are reading offscreen anway. Amazon, ebay,yahoo - none of these do it. Only hardware people at EDN?
I have several personal favorites in this list, with two being George Halas and Dr. Stefan Humphries. Most people recognize Halas as the co-founder of the National Football League, but few know of Humphries. There are a couple of good stories from Sports Illustrated in the 1980s about Humphries. See the index below. One is called "He Came Out Picture Perfect." The other is "The Can't Miss Kid."
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!
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.
Really interesting post Charles. I remain amazed at the number of graduate engineers who never practice our profession. They simply go into other fields. One of the very best attorneys in our town is a graduate engineer but decided law school was his destiny and not engineering. When asking him why, he replied the rigors of engineering study were the major reason for his success as a lawyer. In other words, he learned to think and reason. The individuals in your slide show, I'm sure, excelled due to their engineering background—although possibly not Mr. Bean. Who knows?
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.
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.
Obama should be on the list for engineering the downfall of our once great nation. He has engineered a debt so massive our great grandchildren will still be paying on the interest. He engineered the downfall do the best medical system in the planet. He engineered the destruction of countless innocent lives as his expertise in civil engineering designed the downfall of stable governments under the guise of liberation (he's not alone as Clinton, Bush, Bush lead the way).
Yes, he should be on the list, as well...
Conventional wisdom holds that MIT, Cal Tech, and Stanford are three of the country’s best undergraduate engineering schools. Unfortunately, when conventional wisdom visits the topic of best engineering schools, it too often leaves out some of the most distinguished programs that don’t happen to offer PhD-level degrees.
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