While Professor Petroski's points are all well taken, and I agree with him about the common misuse of the terms, what really sticks in my craw (and forgive me for going off on a slight tangent) is the commonly believed shibboleth that theres a shortage of engineers in the United States. No; there's a shortage of companies willing to pay what US engineers were making before they were laid off in droves. Many (most?) of those laid off engineers are highly capable. They just don't fit the desired hiring profile.
I cannot believe the number of commentors who have advanced the patently ridiculous notions that, firslty, either science alwas preceedes engineering, or secondly, and even more ridiculous, that because a scientific discovery or two once resulted in an engineered product, that science always preceeds engineering. The first notion might be a result of engineers not paying attention in history class - if they took history as a liberal arts elective at all. The second notion is simply a failure in logic which is inexcusable for an engineer.
Large scale engineering began in Mesopotamia about 10,000 years ago when canals were dug between isolated city-states. Those ancient civil engineers are, of course, anonymous siimply because writing had not been invented back then. We do know the name of the engineer who built one of the pyramids, Imhotep.
While there some historically earlier acientists/alchemists, astrologers/astronomers, recreational-puzzle-solvers/mathemeticians, for all practical purposes, modern science began as a hobby for ilde rich men duriing The Enlightenment.
And yes, today's engineers use math and some scientific principles, but still and all, engineering is mostly empircal and only partly theoretical.
For a modern example, the thermionic effect was discovered by Thomas Edison. Vacuum tube engineers kept refining the design of tubes up until the 1990's belive it or not (in Russia for miliary applications because tubes are not susceptible to EMP). But most vacuum-tube applications were obsoleted by the development of the transistor in 1948 or so (and I don't want to hear that the transist was developed by scientists, please!). The point I am trying to get to, is that It was not until much after 1948 that physicists finally developed a theory for the rather puzzling phenomon of thermionic emission.
or, as another exapmle, metalugrists continually develop new allows and heat treating processes. Sure they studied the crystaline structures of metals in college. But that knowledge is of no practical importance to them.
And finally, once again, it wa engineers, and not "rocket scientists," who put men on the moon.
A dictionary definition of an engineer is someone who uses scientific principles to design, maintain or repair equipment. From that, I guess that a scientist is someone investigates the way things are ... be it throught physics, chemistry, biology etc, and formulates theories on those investigations. As someone else has said .. engineers take those theories and occassionally disprove them !.
Another debate: Distinguishing between engineers and technicians.
I suggest that an engineer does stuff through an understanding of what is going on, and often write proceedures that give technicians what they need to do their job ... usually without actually understanding the principles involved. Being an enginer doesn't require any formal qualification, just an understanding, be it through intuitition, or education. The guy(or gal) who comes to tune your TV, or fix your phone, generally, is a technician doing what he has been shown how to do. Dilberteven as a child is an engineer, because he can design of fix almost anything, without ever having seen the device, or manual before. He examines and draws conclusions from a general understanding of the processes involved.
so Maxwell, Einstein, Marie Curie, Lavoisier, plus most of the mathematicians were actually mental masturbator without much drive for the design of useful device; anyway you need this kind of masturbator to open some really new fields, even if you are unable to share their passion....
As a person who became a NON-DEGREED ENGINEER and a SCIENTIST on the " bleeding edge " at Cray Research, let me offer my thoughts on the subject...
A SCIENTIST PROVES OR DISPROVES A THEOREM WITH THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD.
" If an experiment has REPEATABLE RESULTS, the THEOREM becomes a FACT or LAW OF NATURE "
Then the ENGINEER can use that FACT to create SOMETHING OF VALUE to the population/business at large.
I will probably end up discussing some of the problems related to this very issue in the " Sherlock Ohms " blog that I subscribe to here...
I have literally been at the crux of this issue and have had to work out the difference as I have worn both " Lab Coats " ( and have actually run labs ) and " short sleeve Engineer shirts " ( with no tie that cuts off curculation to the brain ) in my professional career.
That is my two cents on the matter. It is already a known FACT that Main $tream Media has no clue about how to do REPORTING ( the 5 Ws and an H ) these days.
I'm concerned you might have the 'saving drill' a little mixed up. Very likely several scientists lead by a Science Advisor determined what were the needs of the issue. Then used an Engineer to make and test the final product. How this works is thusly:
An issue is brought up by senior management. The President or CEO would assign the job to the Advisor. The advisor then selects from his scientific and engineering team of experts a small team of one to three and they would apply themselves to the issue. They would fix or advise engineering what to change to make a fix.
I was a Sr. Scientist and acting Engineer - notice the modifier. I was used world wide to isolate problems and with that, find solutions. Engineers are very practical, but are often unaware of all things that can get into their 'stuff'. I constantly created hardware and software or documentation to the extent that the design engineers would take the project and make a pretty one.
Therefore I believe it depends on the company and science backgrounds of the scientists.
A Physicist is best matched with Electrical/Electronic Engineering. While a Chemist with a Chemical Engineer and then into the Bio Engineering disciplines and so forth. Physics is again applied with the Mechanical Engineers. Likely one of the neatest concepts - simple in design but worth a pile of gold - is the measuring of very high voltage and high current of the high tension lines. It was simply solved and the engineer fitted the connectors and electronics package. The Scientist used light rotating in a fiber optic cable. The engineer was stumped until a simple loop was demonstrated in the lab. Then the eureka moment occurred.
I have to tell at least a dozen people a year that I am not an engineer... I'm not a scientist either (and I've not been accused of that lately ;). I frequently do things that each of those holding said titles have been through many years of schooling to learn to do.
I’ve always thought that an engineer had a degree from a university stating that they had passed a course load of required math and physics... which gave them that title...
I've also heard that in the old days a company might 'make' someone an engineer due to their continued performance of duties normally requiring that degree. I guess the same might apply to ‘scientist’… No?
But as to ‘news’ reports being inaccurate… What else is new? There are so many mistakes in an average newspaper that I don’t see how anyone can believe them at all. Mostly, I think this is because there are so many things to know now-a-days that generic reporters can’t keep up.
To report on something, you should have at least a basic understanding of the subject. Knowing what questions to ask requires this as a minimum. Not to mention as this article points out… what terms/lingo to use in the report.
The column and then a number of the comments about scientists versus engineers overlooks a number of developments, I think. I just finished reading The Emperor of Maladies, which is all about the history of cancer and the Herculean efforts of the researchers (still ongoing) to figure out what cancer is and how to treat it. These scientist were definitely working on behalf of society, not as isolated ‘pure’ scientists only interested in what ‘is’. They are acutely aware of all the deaths attributable to this disease and are undertaking deep, complex bioengineering (a combination of both science and engineering) to unlock the secrets of cancer and come up with NEW drugs to treat it. Seems to me the so-called divide between science and engineering may be a bit artificial in this day of molecular-level structural design.
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