Engineering is generally regarded as a profession of integrity. There are, however, exceptions. Every year, a handful of engineers end up on the wrong side of the law, for offenses ranging from trade secret theft and spying to computer hacking and bank robbery. Because they’re a clever bunch, engineers tend to gravitate toward intellectual crimes, but a few have been known to cross over into violence, ranging from assault to murder.
We’ve collected photos of some of engineering’s best-known offenders. From cloak-and-dagger spies to passionate pepper sprayers, we present some of the most notable, and strangest, of engineering’s malefactors.
Click on the photo below to start the slideshow.
Nearly 30 years after shooting four men who he thought were trying to mug him on a New York subway, Bernhard Goetz’s name is still remembered internationally. Goetz, who held a B.S. degree in electrical and nuclear engineering from New York University, was acquitted of attempted murder and first degree assault charges, but was convicted of criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree. (Source: Google Images/Time.com)
Fascinating slideshow, Chuck. Where on earth did you come up with this idea? What I found surprising was the number of engineers convicted of corporate espionage. Do you know if these are just the highlight or corporate spying? Or, is this pretty much the total population?
Given what Google & Facebook pay people these days to detect and prove vulnerabilities I'm not sure No 5 Robert Tappan Morris Could be considered a criminal. I leave it open to debate of course.
What I firmly believe though is that the Italian case shoulbn't be listed here. No one can predict with 100% accuracy whether an earthquake is going to happen or not. If they would have predicted an earthquake and everyone left the location and the earthquake didn't happen, would they sue them for loss of income etc?
The Italian Judge's Ruling of Manslaughter against a Seismic Engineer made me think of a news clip where actor Morgan Freeman commented on the devastating tornado in Moore, Oklahoma this past spring. Morgan stated the killer tornado was the result of our government's policies and actions related to Global Warming, and stressed "We Must Change". I think playing the role of GOD in the Bruce Almighty film has gotten to his head.
Ah yes the GOD complex. I think attributing any one climate incident to global warming is a fool's folley but the general trend is a different matter. I'm amazed how many scientists (and more importantly politicians) untrained in the intricasies of climate science seem to be so ready to condem climate science. It's like an opthamologist (the other disipline scientist) or a baker (the politician) telling a brain surgeon how to remove a tumour. I think the line "an inconvenient truth" explains the thinking of politicians and skeptics. It's in human nature to refuse to admit inconeient things. A neighbour of ours was dying of incurable lung cancer and refused to admit it. He thought his doctors didn't know what they were talking about. The truth caught up with him. Either way (climate change or not) the truth will soon catch up with us. The next 30-40 years will confirm a result for this global experiment one way or the other.
Not knowing the specifics of the earthquake case I'm inclined to agree that it seems unreasonable to pin blame. If the 'guilty' had some how put a seal of approval on an area as being at very low or no risk, and then buildings were built or not upgraded in earthquake survivability based on their expert input... then... perhaps.
So far as the tornado/weather blame game. If you fly, heat and air-condition to comfort (as opposed to survival levels), or drive a lot... and believe strongly in AGW... look in the mirror.
Always remember when the graphs and chart come out, and especially when the 100 year old photos of glaciers are compared to today's pics... 18,000 years ago NYC was under ice 365 d/y. The ice age ending had nada to do with man's activity.
The ice has been retreating at an average rate of 10 miles per century for those 18,000 years. Slight variations come and go, but over the long run melting has been the rule.
It'd be far more convincing to me if the main voices crying about the impending doom acted as if they believed it. My favorite act of hypocrisy from the AGW gods was...
Re your statement "and believe strongly in AGW... look in the mirror." I couldn't agree more. We use about 60% of the water that the governement is telling us we can (water uses power) and have reduced our gas usage by keeping the thermostat low and designed our house to be as energy efficient as poossible. We have fluorescent or LED lighting every where although I think when cradle to grave is considered toilets and other rooms where lighting is very intermittant I think incandescents have a smaller carbon footprint because they don't need as much energy to make them and they last longer in intermittant use than compact fluorescents we have some that have been running for 12 years where as the CFL's only last about a year. I run my business from home so I tend to go as long as a month on a tank of gas and we have air conditioning but it is typically only used on about 15 days a year when it gets really hot. The other days we close up the house and then in the evening when it cools down we blow the heat tof the day out with a fan. We also have solar. I'm sure we could do better and I'm looking into other things. We don't have the carbon footprint of a straw hut but it is lower than almost anyone I know. I hear what you're saying about the last ice age, but CO2 does heat the place and CO2 has been going up AND 95% of the CO2 is man liberated (as opposed to made) so short of some consistent evidence to the contrary I'm going to err on the side of caution. I may end up being proven a fool but if the AGW case holds up I will sleep better knowing that I contributed as little as possible even if it's a lonely crusade and a drop on a hot stone.
Those are all good and common sense ways to go if you can. The main issue I have with high profile GW prophets is that they are often the biggest offenders with the biggest carbon/consumption foot prints going. That, and then they try to make me feel guilty because I like incandescent bulbs and a decent sized car. pfft...
My retirement place is about to become my address of residence a few years early; I'm selling the triplex asap. Once I'm at the retreat more I'll be doing a lot of the stuff you already have in place. Plus I'll be renting something small near work to avoid the 1 1/2hr each way drive.
Good on you for being so prepared.
Back to the slide show... when Astronaut Lisa Nowak pulled her little stunt I remember thinking that this was proof that a degree and a high level job does not equal smarts in general...
And about convicted kidnapper/murderer of more than 30 women, John Crutchley. I worked with an engineer who we found out later had been incarcerated for a time. I'm unsure as to the actual crimes committed but it didn't sound good... and he was a loon.
Among his other weirdnesses he would get freaked out on days that contrails were visible. He said that the government was using them to mark his location... putting 'X's in the sky above him. There was a lot more holy cow stuff that he talked about and he was let go after a couple months.
The guys use to say he was going to come back armed someday and get even with the non-believers among us, with me being a standout on that list...
I guess this article lends support to the thought that engineers as a group are probably no less affected by mental illness and bad judgment calls than the general populace. I once worked with an engineer that would take his teddy bear to work to sooth himself when he was depressed. Someone should do thoose numbers to see whether there is in fact a difference. It should however take into account whether there is a difference between true engineers that live and breathe their profession and those that fell into the job not knowing what else to do.
Charles, This is really very good and interesting topic which you have posted . I always wander why engineers commit soo many crimes, agreed that they are inovative they are creative they have lot of computer , netweorking and internet knowledge. But then also why only engineers ?? I can understand that hey hack or they become backers, they do bank robbery or any sort of major robbery is also understandable this is not correct but it can relate to engineers but slaughtering some one , killing , kidnapping this is just too wierd . I wander is the physcy of engineers is different or wht exactly is the issue .
There are usually two types of hackers white hat and black hat . Hackers that are hired by any organisation to work for them and hack their own system in order to help them those are white hat however hackers working from outside to hack a system or software to harm someone or to do something evil those are called black hat hackers . Usually people get confused with the termonology of hackers and engineers and hackers called themselves as engineers however hackers are very creative people who stretches there limits to do something new . on the contrary engineers are also very creative creatures but they remain within given budget and try to do things are possibly possible .
In general, I think engineers are a pretty law-abiding bunch, Debera. I had a hard time tracking down wayward engineers for this column. I like the comment made by bobjengr below: "...the engineering profession has one fatal flaw -- it has to take its practioners from the human race."
Chuck, a lot of these are espionage cases. When I worked in the aerospace industry on classified projects, we were aware of a number of spies operating in our area. This was just around the time of the end of the cold war (just before and just after). It was a strange thing.
#1. Broadcom CEO Henry Nicholas - drug use and consorting with prostitutes... sometimes at work. Threatening employees with murder, etc.
#2. Autotote betting scandal - 3 Autotote employees found a way to place bets after the results of the race were known. This of course raised their odds of success considerably! They were detected when a 43 to 1 shot won the last race of the 2002 Breeder's Cup.
#3. And in the world of espionage Klaus Fuchs stands out in my mind, he defeated the incredibly tight security on the Manhattan project by simply handing secret papers to a Russian compatriot while standing on a bridge in Santa Fe NM.
First, let me say that you have my condolences for the loss of your wife.
I am confused by your statement that signals have been changed to give cross-turning traffic the right of way (ROW). Can you provide more information (maybe a link or two) about this? It is certainly true that sometimes cross-turning traffic does have ROW, but this is only when through traffic has a red light or stop sign.
In the Oakland County, MI case you referenced, the cross-turning driver (Prainito) would not have had the ROW (he had a flashing yellow light) if it weren't for the fact that the other driver (Cram) was speeding (54/45; from car's computer). Apparently in this case, it was decided that Cram forfeited the ROW because he was speeding.
Neither Cram nor his passenger (the County Exec, Patterson) were wearing seatbelts!
I don't believe that this accident was caused by a traffic signal. It was caused by two careless drivers: one who was speeding and not wearing his seatbelt (or requiring his passenger to wear one), and another who should not have turned left in front of the other driver. Not wearing a seatbelt tells us something about how safety-conscious the driver was.
When I drive with my young adult daughter as a passenger, she will often talk about who has the ROW. She knows all the rules well, but I am concerned that her lack of driving experience will get her into an accident. Ultimately, it does not matter who has the ROW if you want to avoid accidents. You do your best to follow the rules and signals, but you also must always watch out for other drivers who are not so careful. Many decades of driving experience tell me that I should not trust any other driver to know the rules and follow them and the signals and signs.
I thought beeing an Engineer mean mostly the ability to link different related thing in order to make something work ) Here we have a strange example of linking totally unrelated things.
Hope you agree that being an "engineer" and being a "good human being" is not exactly the same thing. Also the very same meaning of the "being a good human being" could vary from one culture/country to another which also in no way related to being an "engineer".
Though I admit your article could provoke some discussions. Guess that was your intention. Well done then )
Statistically, you are wrong. As you can learn from a brief visit to the local penitentiary, there is an almost linear correlation between education and morals (yes, thats education, not religious belief - sorry, all). Since engineers, by definition, have enjoyed a good education, it follows that the numberof immoral actors among them will be small, compared to the population in general.
For some reason, this theory doesn't hold true for lawyers.
I have to disagree on one point. I believe that most engineers are born, not produced by a decent education. It is more to do with the way our mind works, understanding the fundamentals and applying them to find solutions. Education teaches us the maths involved, conventions which allow ithers to understand the work of others, the standards which industry requires etc, but the core of the individual has to be right to start with. I have come across degree qualified people who could calculate a factor to the n'th decimal point on something that they were familiar with, but present the same thing in a different way, and they are stumped.
I'm not sure where I ultimately come down on the "nature versus nurture" issue. Most of the mechanical and electrical engineers I've known have had long histories, starting back when they were kids, of taking things apart and figuring out how they worked. On the other hand, some of the systems, industrial and structural engineers I've known seemed to fall into their professions because they were good at math and science, and didn't seem to have a history of working on their cars or tinkering.
One example. My daughter, now 20 and finished 2nd year as a science student aiming for environmentsl zoońogy. When she was 4, she saw a road barrier, the loose end of which was resting on the ground. She proceeded to describe a better way, ibvolving a cunterweight and sliding barrier só that when open, it would balance, but when closed, some weight would rest on the cradle. She may have transferred the principle from a seesaw(teeter totter to americans i think) where i had rigged a sliding balance weight for different sized kids. She has done almost no tinkering, but frequently shows that she understands mechanisms
On the other hand...I know a full professor of engineering mechanics (I won't name the university), who never tinkered with anything, is completely incapable of fixing the simplest mechanisms and yet has a Ph.D. in engineering and is now a Fellow in a prestigious engineering association.
sbkenn, i totally agree with you engineers are not produced or manufactured they are born . Engineers usually think out of the box and no one can force a person to be an engineer due to preasure he may study hard but he cannot creat the qualities of good engineer that are god gifted . Everyone cant be a good engineer just hard work cant make someone a good engineer to be a good engineer engineering should be inside you . You should be creative you should have different physique, should think out of the box .
Thinking outside the bix. What box ?
Sorry for dragging this thread off track, but one Dilbert strip: our hero,, as a child, is diagnosed as "being an engineer". In the time that it takes the doctor to tell the parents, Dilbert has fixed the water cooler.
I worked for a very short time at McDonnell-Douglas before it was bought by Boeing. I worked in a mock-up department and we had to use a numeric code to enter the shop. I had visions of James Bond type action, but was told what was most feared was industrial espionage from other domestic aircraft manufacturers.
On another note, I was also shocked at the number of Chinese Nationals represented in this collection. Furthermore, any judge who would sentence people for not being able to predict an earthquke should be caned in the public square.
Mostly engineers don't "go bad", or step over to the "dark side", instead, mostly the poorer ones just do incompetent stuff that makes messes for others to deal with. All of those earlier comments about traffic laws, and those incredibly rambling responses, show what I mean about that.
But the temptation is that as engineers we often do know not only how things work, but how to get around things designed for security. Once we know how things function we can know how to get around those functions. Like that pick proof lock that we sometimes see advertised, although not so much any more. As an engineer I can see how the system functions and get around that pick-proof loock without needing to pick it. Just one example there. All of the security systems in buildings, we know how to paralyze them, but we don't do it. And the poor folks in the TSA, who do a faily good job at keeping simple weapons off of airplanes, and a really excellent job of inconveniencing the majority of us. But stil weapons and explosives get carried aboard the planes, since the "bad guys" are not stupid, just evil, and they count a few engineers among their ranks.
So we find that having all kinds of knowledge gives us all kinds of potential, and we also discover that with all of this comes a great deal of responsibility to use our skills and intellect in manners that will benefit society, rather than becoming those who would take from society for their own purposes without regard for what is right. Much is expected from those of us to whom much has been given. Ayn Rand is wrong.
Very very interesting post Charles. I think the engineering profession (as well as others) has one fatal flaw—it has to take it's practitioners from the human race. I will admit I was definitely surprised at the number of cases where theft of intellectual property was the crime. I suppose I should not have been that surprised though. I wonder how many of the property crimes were committed by individuals on H1B visas, if any.
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