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)
@jacksos1: Unfortunately, 1 out of 18 more or less reflects the proportion of women engineers as a whole (at least when it comes to mechanical and electrical engineering -- some fields, like chemical or industrial engineering, have a somewhat higher proportion of women). And several decades ago, which is when most of these people were active, the proportion was even lower.
I recently submitted an article about engineers in the U.S. Congress, which hopefully will be published soon. Joe Barton, who is included in Chuck's slideshow, is one, but there are a total of 15 in the current Congress; none of them are women.
That's what I was afraid of, Dave. The percentage of women in engineering used to be accepted at around 10%. I don't know if it has gone up in recent years, but in the days of Hedy Lamarr and Alfred Hitchcock, it was certainly lower.
Charles, thank you for a glimpse of history. This was quite an interesting article. I didn't know there were ANY engineers in congress; maybe more engineers and fewer lawyers might improve the workflow in DC.
Thanks for this cool bit of information and retrospective, Chuck. A lot of this is news to me! I guess the moral of hte story is that engineering gives you a good basis for success in many areas! And it makes sense, given the intelligence and logic required. It sets the stage for all kinds of other skills, I think.
the moral of this story is "Get the degree but don't enter the field if you want to succeed". Interesting that only one person featured in the article actually created something technical (Hedy Lamarr) but wasn't trained as an engineer, all of the others avoided the field entirely.
When you look at who contributes the most for the advancement of civilization, all these people "wasted their talents". They went for the buck, ego and fame instead of using their talent as they were meant to.
We can blame our society's value system.
Our engineers are under-paid, under-appreciated, and treated like a commodity by the big ego sector - that claims all the credit.
Where would anybody be without engineers? There would be no use for any of these ex-engineer's alter talents.
John Sununu's: "No level of glibness can get you through a thermodynamics exam."
The smartest general you never heard of was the Australian, Sir John Monash. As an engineer he built railroads, introduced reinforced concrete to Australia, and electrified the state of Victoria. Oh, by the way, he also was an educator, a lawyer, and a concert pianist as well as being a "Saturday afternoon soldier", a reservist. When World War One broke out he shipped out for Gallipoli and then, after being prehaps the last Aussie to leave the beach, he made his name on the Western Front. In 1918 he took command of the Austrlian Corps and spearheded the "hundred days" assault that won the war. He revolutionized tactics, never lost a battle, was given gredit by the Germans for inventing the blitzkrieg. His meticulous planning, technical innovations (like air dropping ammunition to advancing troops), and attention to training made is diggers, man for man, about two and half times as effective as other units, as measured by ground captured, prisoners captured, and guns captured. After the war, in addition to engineering, he was active in veterans' affairs (he sent his idle men to school, "inventing the GI bill"), boy scouts, and other civic afairs. His face is on the Australian $100 bill.
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 country’s 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 you’re an embedded systems engineer whose analog capabilities are getting a little bit rusty, then you’ll want to take note of an upcoming Design News Continuing Education Center class, “Analog Design for the Digital World,” 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.