You don’t have to be an engineer to have an opinion about engineering. Husbands, wives, friends, and neighbors of engineers all form their own ideas about the profession, and about the people who do it on a daily basis.
We've gathered a few famous thoughts on the subject, as well as a few that are lesser known. Some are insightful, some poetic, some flat-out funny. Many are drawn from uncharacteristically introspective engineers; more come from outside the profession. From physicists and engineers to movie stars and authors, we offer a view of engineering, from inside and out. Click on Albert Einstein's photo to start the slideshow.
“Scientists investigate that which already is. Engineers create that which has never been.”
@warren: I agree with those. I also would have included, "Where were you when the paper was blank?"
@Charles: I am sure you could have used Scott Adams for at least 25 quotes. He is one of the few people in the world of business who can give voice to the frustration of being lead dog of anything and find yourself surrounded by second guessers and incompotent people who can only react to the effort while not contributing one original thought.
Nancy--I agree completely. Armstrong's quote is definitely my favorite. I suppose he nailed it. Some years ago I was talking with a neighbor up the street, an accountant by profession. This 'ol boy was a graduate accounting major. During our conversation, he asked my profession. Engineer I replied. His comment--' I always did lover trains'. At first, I really thought he was joking—really. After I indicated I was a mechanical engineer, we went into a lengthy discussion as to the various engineering disciplines available to entering university students. He actually was somewhat blown away with the options available. I could not believe his ignorance relative to our profession. (Oh by the way--he does not do my books!!!!!!!! )
"It is a great profession. There is the fascination of watching a figment of the imagination emerge through the aid of science to a plan on paper. Then it moves to realization in stone or metal or energy. Then it brings jobs and homes to men. Then it elevates the standards of living and adds to the comforts of life. That is the engineer's high privilege.
The great liability of the engineer compared to men of other professions is that his works are out in the open where all can see them. His acts, step by step, are in hard substance. He cannot bury his mistakes in the grave like the doctors. He cannot argue them into thin air or blame the judge like the lawyers. He cannot, like the architects, cover his failures with trees and vines. He cannot, like the politicians, screen his shortcomings by blaming his opponents and hope the people will forget. The engineer simply cannot deny he did it. If his works do not work, he is damned...
On the other hand, unlike the doctor his is not a life among the weak. Unlike the soldier, destruction is not his purpose. Unlike the lawyer, quarrels are not his daily bread. To the engineer falls the job of clothing the bare bones of science with life, comfort, and hope. No doubt as years go by the people forget which engineer did it, even if they ever knew. Or some politician puts hs name on it. Or they credit it to some promoter who used other people's money . . . But the engineer himself looks back at the the unending stream of goodness which flows from his successes with satisfactions that few professions may know. And the verdict of his fellow professionals is all the accolade he wants."
Several of the quotations were from people that candidly indicated that they did not understand or were unable to become engineers. I do not think that those quotes contributed much to the subject. Unfortunately, we appear to have a society that is very dependent on engineering and science for its daily existence, but is often very ignorant of the technology that supports their life style.
While I like reading Freeman Dyson, I disagree that engineers should build things with as few original ideas as posible. As the author of some patents, I think that engineers often supply new ideas to help solve problems and support the idea into engineering reality.
In reply to the quote that he "did not see any girls running to engineers", I would comment that I suspect that many engineers make for supportive long term stable partners. So perhaps the attraction to the "glitterati" may not be so important in the long run. At a 25th high school reunion in the midst of talking to one of the "in crowd ladies" about family and children, she suddenly stopped and exclaimed: "You turned out to be human." Which I thought was the best and funniest remark I heard at that reunion.
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