Distinguishing Between Scientists & Engineers

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Charles Murray
User Rank
Fixing refrigerators
Charles Murray   10/3/2011 11:12:22 AM
When I was in college, an aquaintance, upon hearing I was an engineering student, asked me: "So what will you do when you graduate, fix refrigerators?" Because the term "engineer" is used to describe maintenance, repair and even garbage collection, headline writers (like the one at The Wall Street Journal), look for a term of greater distinction. "Scientist" sounds more impressive to them. After all, no one ever referred to their garbage man as a "sanitary scientist."

Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Engineering and science
Rob Spiegel   10/3/2011 11:03:18 AM
I can understand your frustration, Henry. The Wall Street Journal headline was just plain wrong, especially since "engineering" was used in the quote. Chalk that up to the fact that headline writers are not usually the author of the article. Journalists run into this all the time -- the headline writer getting it wrong (except at Design News of course).

I would guess the source of the problem is simple. So many of the advances we have seen over the past few decades have involved collaboration between science and engineering -- from space flight to Moore's Law. This has spilled over into biomedicine when it comes to develoments such as bio "engineering."

While you're correct in pointing out the two disiplines are essentially different, you'll find both the scientist and the engineer at the birth of most of our technical advances.

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