Quotations for Engineers
"Engineering is a great profession. There is the satisfaction of watching a figment of the imagination emerge through the aid of science to a plan on paper. Then it moves to realisation in stone or metal or energy. Then it brings homes to men or women. Then it elevates the standard of living and adds to the comforts of life. This is the engineer's high privilege."
"Engineering is the professional art of applying science to the optimum conversion of natural resources to the benefit of man."
~Ralph J. Smith
"Engineering problems are under-defined, there are many solutions, good, bad and indifferent. The art is to arrive at a good solution. This is a creative activity, involving imagination, intuition and deliberate choice."
"The joy of engineering is to find a straight line on a double logarithmic diagram."
"Engineers ... are not mere technicians and should not approve or lend their name to any project that does not promise to be beneficent to man and the advancement of civilization."
"Engineers ... are not superhuman. They make mistakes in their assumptions, in their calculations, in their conclusions. That they make mistakes is forgivable; that they catch them is imperative. Thus it is the essence of modern engineering not only to be able to check one's own work but also to have one's work checked and to be able to check the work of others."
~Henry Petroski, To Engineer Is Human. Engineers Creed
"Scientists dream about doing great things. Engineers do them."
~James A. Michener
"Engineering is the science of economy, of conserving the energy, kinetic and potential, provided and stored up by nature for the use of man. It is the business of engineering to utilize this energy to the best advantage, so that there may be the least possible waste."
~William A. Smith
“Intellectuals solve problems, geniuses prevent them”
"The ideal engineer is a composite ... He is not a scientist, he is not a mathematician, he is not a sociologist or a writer; but he may use the knowledge and techniques of any or all of these disciplines in solving engineering problems."
~N. W. Dougherty
"The engineer is the key figure in the material progress of the world. It is his engineering that makes a reality of the potential value of science by translating scientific knowledge into tools, resources, energy and labor to bring them into the service of man ... To make contributions of this kind the engineer requires the imagination to visualize the needs of society and to appreciate what is possible as well as the technological and broad social age understanding to bring his vision to reality."
~Sir Eric Ashby
"Engineering is not merely knowing and being knowledgeable, like a walking encyclopedia; engineering is not merely analysis; engineering is not merely the possession of the capacity to get elegant solutions to non-existent engineering problems; engineering is practicing the art of the organized forcing of technological change... Engineers operate at the interface between science and society..."
~Dean Gordon Brown, M.I.T.
"Strive for perfection in everything you do. Take the best that exists and make it better. When it does not exist, design it."
~Sir Henry Royce
"The engineer has been, and is, a maker of history."
~James Kip Finch
"Aeroplanes are not designed by science, but by art in spite of some pretence and humbug to the contrary. I do not mean to suggest that engineering can do without science, on the contrary, it stands on scientific foundations, but there is a big gap between scientific research and the engineering product which has to be bridged by the art of the engineer."
~British Engineer to the Royal Aeronautical Society, 1922, quoted by Walter G. Vincenti in What Engineers Know and How They Know It.
"Engineering refers to the practice of organizing the design and construction [and, I would add operation] of any artifice which transforms the physical world around us to meet some recognized need."
~G. F. C. Rogers, The Nature of Engineering, A Philosophy of Technology.
"No one wants to learn by mistakes, but we cannot learn enough from successes to go beyond the state of the art."
~Henry Petroski, To Engineer is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design.
"The history of engineering is really the history of breakages, and of learning from those breakages. I was taught at college 'the engineer learns most on the scrapheap'."
~C. A. Claremont, Spanning Space.
"The well being of the world largely depends upon the work of the engineer. There is a great future and unlimited scope for the profession; new works of all kinds are and will be required in every country, and for a young man of imagination and keenness I cannot conceive a more attractive profession. Imagination is necessary as well as scientific knowledge."
~Sir William Halcrow, addressing the Institution of Civil Engineers.
"A great bridge is a great monument which should serve to make known the splendour and genius of a nation; one should not occupy oneself with efforts to perfect it architecturally, for taste is always susceptible to change, but to conserve always in its form and decoration the character of solidity which is proper."
"From the laying out of a line of a tunnel to its final completion, the work may be either a series of experiments made at the expense of the proprietors of the project, or a series of judicious applications of the results of previous experience."
~H. S. Drinker
"Engineering or Technology is the making of things that did not previously exist, whereas science is the discovering of things that have long existed."
~David Billington, The Tower and the Bridge: The New Art of Structural Engineering (1983), 9.
"Can one think that because we are engineers, beauty does not preoccupy us or that we do not try to build beautiful, as well as solid and long lasting structures? Aren't the genuine functions of strength always in keeping with unwritten conditions of harmony? ... Besides, there is an attraction, a special charm in the colossal to which ordinary theories of art do not apply."
~Gustave Eiffel, quoted in Henry Petroski, Remaking the World: Adventures in Engineering (1998), 173.
"Engineering is quite different from science. Scientists try to understand nature. Engineers try to make things that do not exist in nature. Engineers stress invention. To embody an invention the engineer must put his idea in concrete terms, and design something that people can use. That something can be a device, a gadget, a material, a method, a computing program, an innovative experiment, a new solution to a problem, or an improvement on what is existing. Since a design has to be concrete, it must have its geometry, dimensions, and characteristic numbers. Almost all engineers working on new designs find that they do not have all the needed information. Most often, they are limited by insufficient scientific knowledge. Thus they study mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology and mechanics. Often they have to add to the sciences relevant to their profession. Thus engineering sciences are born."
~Yuan-Cheng ("Bert") Fung, Y.C. Fung and P. Tong, Classical and Computational Solid Mechanics (2001), 1.
"...a failed structure provides a counterexample to a hypothesis and shows us incontrovertibly what cannot be done, while a structure that stands without incident often conceals whatever lessons or caveats it might hold for the next generation of engineers."
"When faced with a problem you do not understand, do any part of it you do understand and then look at it again."
"The simplest solution is the best solution."
"The best way to get a project done faster is to start sooner."
"Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment."
~Frederick P. Brooks
"Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler."
"A good engineer thinks in reverse and asks himself about the stylistic consequences of the components and systems he proposes."
"However, the occasional visit of success provides just the excitement an engineer needs to face work the following day."
"We are continually faced by great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems."
"I am an engineer, but what I find important and necessary is that you just learn things as you go along."
"So here we have pi squared, which an engineer would call 10."
"The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were."
~John F. Kennedy
"The more physics you have the less Engineering you need."
"If a major project is truly innovative, you cannot possibly know its exact cost and its exact schedule at the beginning. And if in fact you do know the exact cost and the exact schedule, chances are that the technology is obsolete.''
~Joseph G. Gavin, Jr., discussing the design of the Grumman lunar module that landed NASA astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon on July 20, 1969.