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Engineering Quotes (94 quotes)

The Mighty Task is Done

At last the mighty task is done;
Resplendent in the western sun
The Bridge looms mountain high;
Its titan piers grip ocean floor,
Its great steel arms link shore with shore,
Its towers pierce the sky.

On its broad decks in rightful pride,
The world in swift parade shall ride,
Throughout all time to be;
Beneath, fleet ships from every port,
Vast landlocked bay, historic fort,
And dwarfing all the sea.

To north, the Redwood Empires gates;
To south, a happy playground waits,
In Rapturous appeal;
Here nature, free since time began,
Yields to the restless moods of man,
Accepts his bonds of steel.

Launched midst a thousand hopes and fears,
Damned by a thousand hostile sneers,
Yet Neer its course was stayed,
But ask of those who met the foe
Who stood alone when faith was low,
Ask them the price they paid.

Ask of the steel, each strut and wire,
Ask of the searching, purging fire,
That marked their natal hour;
Ask of the mind, the hand, the heart,
Ask of each single, stalwart part,
What gave it force and power.

An Honored cause and nobly fought
And that which they so bravely wrought,
Now glorifies their deed,
No selfish urge shall stain its life,
Nor envy, greed, intrigue, nor strife,
Nor false, ignoble creed.

High overhead its lights shall gleam,
Far, far below lifes restless stream,
Unceasingly shall flow;
For this was spun its lithe fine form,
To fear not war, nor time, nor storm,
For Fate had meant it so.

Written upon completion of the building of the Golden Gate Bridge, May 1937. In Allen Brown, Golden Gate: biography of a Bridge (1965), 229.
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Ah, bien je prétends que les courbes des quatre areêtes du monument, telles que le calcul les a fournies, donneront une grand impression de force et de beauté.
Well, I think the curves of the four pillars of the monument, as the calculations have provided them, give it a great sense of force and beauty.
In Horst Hamann, Paris Vertical (2005), 26
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Engineering, too, owes its most useful materials to the achievements of chemists in identifying, separating, and transforming materials: structural steel for the framework of bridges and buildings, portland cement for roadways and aqueducts, pure copper for the electrical industries, aluminum alloys for automobiles and airplanes, porcelain for spark plugs and electrical insulators. The triumphs of engineering skill rest on a chemical foundation.
In Fundamental Chemistry, and Elementary Textbook for College Classes (1936), 8.
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Natura non facit saltum or, Nature does not make leaps… If you assume continuity, you can open the well-stocked mathematical toolkit of continuous functions and differential equations, the saws and hammers of engineering and physics for the past two centuries (and the foreseeable future).
From Benoit B. Mandelbrot and Richard Hudson, The (Mis)Behaviour of Markets: A Fractal View of Risk, Ruin and Reward (2004,2010), 85-86.
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A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.
In Mostly Harmless (1992), 135.
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A scientist can discover a new star but he cannot make one. He would have to ask an engineer to do it for him.
The Design of Design (1969), 1
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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.
In John D. North, 'The Case for Metal Construction', The Journal of the Royal Aeronautical Society, (Jan 1923), 27, 11.
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All important unit operations have much in common, and if the underlying principles upon which the rational design and operation of basic types of engineering equipment depend are understood, their successful adaptation to manufacturing processes becomes a matter of good management rather than of good fortune.
In William H. Walker, Warren K. Lewis and William H. MacAdams, The Principles of Chemical Engineering (1923), Preface to 1st. edition, v.
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Although my Aachen colleagues and students at first regarded the “pure mathematician” with suspicion, I soon had the satisfaction of being accepted a useful member not merely in teaching but also engineering practice; thus I was requested to render expert opinions and to participate in the Ingenieurverein [engineering association].
As quoted in Paul Forman and Armin Hermann, 'Sommerfeld, Arnold (Johannes Wilhelm)', Biography in Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1975), Vol. 12, 527. Cited from 'Autobiographische Skizze', Gesammelte Schriften, Vol 4, 673–682.
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An undertaking of great magnitude and importance, the successful accomplishment of which, in so comparatively short a period, notwithstanding the unheard of unestimable difficulties and impediments which had to be encountered and surmounted, in an almost unexplored and uninhabited wilderness . . . evinced on your part a moral courage and an undaunted spirit and combination of science and management equally exciting our admiration and deserving our praise.
(In recognition of his achievement building the Rideau Canal.)
John By
Address by the Montreal Committee of Trade. Quoted in 'John By', University of Toronto Press, Dictionary of Canadian Biography (1966), vol.7, 130.
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Ask a follower of Bacon what [science] the new philosophy, as it was called in the time of Charles the Second, has effected for mankind, and his answer is ready; “It has lengthened life; it has mitigated pain; it has extinguished diseases; it has increased the fertility of the soil; it has given new securities to the mariner; it has furnished new arms to the warrior; it has spanned great rivers and estuaries with bridges of form unknown to our fathers; it has guided the thunderbolt innocuously from heaven to earth; it has lighted up the night with the splendour of the day; it has extended the range of the human vision; it has multiplied the power of the human muscles; it has accelerated motion; it has annihilated distance; it has facilitated intercourse, correspondence, all friendly offices, all dispatch of business; it has enabled man to descend to the depths of the sea, to soar into the air, to penetrate securely into the noxious recesses of the earth, to traverse the land in cars which whirl along without horses, to cross the ocean in ships which run ten knots an hour against the wind. These are but a part of its fruits, and of its first-fruits; for it is a philosophy which never rests, which has never attained, which is never perfect. Its law is progress. A point which yesterday was invisible is its goal to-day, and will be its starting-point to-morrow.”
From essay (Jul 1837) on 'Francis Bacon' in Edinburgh Review. In Baron Thomas Babington Macaulay and Lady Trevelyan (ed.) The Works of Lord Macaulay Complete (1871), Vol. 6, 222.
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At their best, at their most creative, science and engineering are attributes of liberty—noble expressions of man’s God-given right to investigate and explore the universe without fear of social or political or religious reprisals.
From 'Sarnoff Honored by I.R.E.', in Department of Information of the Radio Corporation of America, Radio Age: Research, Manufacturing, Communications, Broadcasting (Apr 1953), 12, No. 2, 32.
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Besides electrical engineering theory of the transmission of messages, there is a larger field [cybernetics] which includes not only the study of language but the study of messages as a means of controlling machinery and society, the development of computing machines and other such automata, certain reflections upon psychology and the nervous system, and a tentative new theory of scientific method.
In Cybernetics (1948).
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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.
Quoted in Henry Petroski, Remaking the World: Adventures in Engineering (1998), 173.
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During the war years I worked on the development of radar and other radio systems for the R.A.F. and, though gaining much in engineering experience and in understanding people, rapidly forgot most of the physics I had learned.
From Autobiography in Wilhelm Odelberg (ed.), Les Prix Nobel en 1974/Nobel Lectures (1975)
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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 organizing forces of technological change ... Engineers operate at the interface between science and society.
In Bert Scalzo, et al., Database Benchmarking: Practical Methods for Oracle & SQL Server (2007), 37.
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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.
Y.C. Fung and P. Tong, Classical and Computational Solid Mechanics (2001), 1.
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Engineering is the application of scientific and mathematical principles to practical ends such as the design, manufacture, and operation of efficient and economical structures, machines, processes, and systems.
In Bernice Zeldin Schacter, Issues and Dilemmas of Biotechnology: A Reference Guide (1999), 1, citing the American Heritage Dictionary, 2nd College Edition.
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Thomas Tredgold quote
Engineering … the great sources of power in nature (source)
Engineering is the art of directing the great sources of power in nature for the use and convenience of man.
(1828) At a meeting of the Council of the Institution of Civil Engineers of Great Britain (29 Dec 1827), by resolution, Honorary Member Thomas Tredgold was asked for a description of what a Civil Engineer is, in order that it could be put in the petition for a charter. (As cited by F.R. Hutton, in 'The Field of the Mechanical Engineer', The Engineering Digest (1908), Vol. 3 , 10.) The wording was repeated in the Charter of the Institution. (Reported in 'Society of Civil Engineers', The Gentleman's Magazine (1828), 143, 628.) The quote is excerpted from the longer definition therein.

Engineering is the art of directing the great sources of power in nature for the use and the convenience of people. In its modern form engineering involves people, money, materials, machines, and energy. It is differentiated from science because it is primarily concerned with how to direct to useful and economical ends the natural phenomena which scientists discover and formulate into acceptable theories. Engineering therefore requires above all the creative imagination to innovate useful applications of natural phenomena. It seeks newer, cheaper, better means of using natural sources of energy and materials.
In McGraw Hill, Science and Technology Encyclopedia
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Engineering is the art or science of making practical.
The Existential Pleasures of Engineering (1976), x.
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Engineering is the profession in which a knowledge of the mathematical and natural sciences gained by study, experience, and practice is applied with judgment to develop ways to utilize, economically, the materials and forces of nature for the benefit of mankind.
In EAC Criteria for 1999-2000 as cited in Charles R. Lord, Guide to Information Sources in Engineering (2000), 5. Found in many sources, and earlier, for example, Otis E. Lancaster, American Society for Engineering Education, ‎Engineers' Council for Professional Development, Achieve Learning Objectives (1962), 8.
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Engineering is the professional and systematic application of science to the efficient utilization of natural resources to produce wealth.
T. J. Hoover and John Charles Lounsbury (J.C.L.) Fish, The Engineering Profession (1941), 10.
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Engineering is the professional art of applying science to the optimum conversion of the resources of nature to the uses of humankind.
In American Society of Civil Engineers, Engineering Issues (1964), 90-92, 49. Other sources attribute, without citation, to Ralph J. Smith (1962).
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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.
(1908). Quoted, without source, in Appendix A, 'Some Definitions of Engineering' in Theodore Jesse Hoover and John Charles Lounsbury Fish, The Engineering Profession (1941), 463.
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Engineering or Technology is the making of things that did not previously exist, whereas science is the discovering of things that have long existed.
The Tower and the Bridge: The New Art of Structural Engineering (1983), 9.
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Engineering training deals with the exact sciences. That sort of exactness makes for truth and conscience. It might be good for the world if more men had that sort of mental start in life even if they did not pursue the profession.
Reprint of his 1916 statement in 'Engineering as a Profession', Engineer’s Week (1954).
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Engineering without imagination sinks to a trade.
Reprint of his 1916 statement in 'Engineering as a Profession', Engineer’s Week (1954).
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Engineers use knowledge primarily to design, produce, and operate artifacts. … Scientists, by contrast, use knowledge primarily to generate more knowledge.
What Engineers Know and How They Know It (1990), 226. In Camilla Stivers, Democracy, Bureaucracy, and the Study of Administration (2001), 144.
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Every technological success is hailed as a great scientific achievement; every technological disaster is deemed an engineering failure.
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For many parts of Nature can neither be invented with sufficient subtlety, nor demonstrated with sufficient perspicuity, nor accommodated unto use with sufficient dexterity, without the aid and intervening of the mathematics, of which sort are perspective, music, astronomy, cosmography, architecture, engineery, and divers others.
The Advancement of Learning (1605), Book 2. Reprinted in The Two Books of Francis Bacon: Of the Proficience and Advancement of Learning, Divine and Human (2009), 97.
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Great triumphs of engineering genius—the locomotive, the truss bridge, the steel rail— ... are rather invention than engineering proper.
From The Economic Theory of the Location of Railways (1887, 1914), 1.
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I ask any one who has adopted the calling of an engineer, how much time he lost when he left school, because he had to devote himself to pursuits which were absolutely novel and strange, and of which he had not obtained the remotest conception from his instructors? He had to familiarize himself with ideas of the course and powers of Nature, to which his attention had never been directed during his school-life, and to learn, for the first time, that a world of facts lies outside and beyond the world of words.
From After-Dinner Speech (Apr 1869) delivered before the Liverpool Philomathic Society, 'Scientific Education', collected in Lay Sermons, Addresses, and Reviews (1870), 63. Previously published in Macmillan’s Magazine.
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I had a Meccano set with which I “played” endlessly. Meccano which was invented by Frank Hornby around 1900, is called Erector Set in the US. New toys (mainly Lego) have led to the extinction of Meccano and this has been a major disaster as far as the education of our young engineers and scientists is concerned. Lego is a technically trivial plaything and kids love it partly because it is so simple and partly because it is seductively coloured. However it is only a toy, whereas Meccano is a real engineering kit and it teaches one skill which I consider to be the most important that anyone can acquire: This is the sensitive touch needed to thread a nut on a bolt and tighten them with a screwdriver and spanner just enough that they stay locked, but not so tightly that the thread is stripped or they cannot be unscrewed. On those occasions (usually during a party at your house) when the handbasin tap is closed so tightly that you cannot turn it back on, you know the last person to use the washroom never had a Meccano set.
Nobel laureate autobiography in Les Prix Nobel/Nobel Lectures 1996 (1997), 189.
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I have long aspired to make our company a noble prototype of industry, penetrating in science, reliable in engineering, creative in aesthetics and wholesomely prosperous in economics.
In Alan R. Earls and Nasrin Rohani, Polaroid (2005), 7.
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I will build a motor car for the great multitude … constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise … so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one—and enjoy with his family the blessing of pleasure in God’s great open spaces.
(1909). In My Life and Work (1922), 73.
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I've never seen a job being done by a five-hundred-person engineering team that couldn't be done better by fifty people.
Statement once told to the author, as quoted in Thomas J. Peters, Liberation Management: Necessary Disorganization for the Nanosecond Nineties (1992), 572.
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If the Commission is to enquire into the conditions “to be observed,” it is to be presumed that they will give the result of their enquiries; or, in other words, that they will lay down, or at least suggest, “rules” and “conditions to be (hereafter) observed” in the construction of bridges, or, in other words, embarrass and shackle the progress of improvement to-morrow by recording and registering as law the prejudices or errors of to-day.
[Objecting to any interference by the State with the freedom of civil engineers in the conduct of their professional work.]
Letter (13 Mar 1848) to the Royal Commission on the Application of Iron in Railway Structures. Collected in The Life of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Civil Engineer (1870), 487. The above verbatim quote may be the original source of the following statement as seen in books and on the web without citation: “I am opposed to the laying down of rules or conditions to be observed in the construction of bridges lest the progress of improvement tomorrow might be embarrassed or shackled by recording or registering as law the prejudices or errors of today.” Webmaster has not yet found a primary source for his latter form, and suspects it may be a synopsis, rather than a verbatim quote. If you know of such a primary source, please inform Webmaster.
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If you ask ... the man in the street ... the human significance of mathematics, the answer of the world will be, that mathematics has given mankind a metrical and computatory art essential to the effective conduct of daily life, that mathematics admits of countless applications in engineering and the natural sciences, and finally that mathematics is a most excellent instrumentality for giving mental discipline... [A mathematician will add] that mathematics is the exact science, the science of exact thought or of rigorous thinking.
Address (28 Mar 1912), Michigan School Masters' Club, Ann Arbor, 'The Humanization of the Teaching of Mathematics. Printed in Science (26 Apr 1912). Collected in The Human Worth of Rigorous Thinking: Essays and Addresses (1916), 65-66.
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In despair, I offer your readers their choice of the following definitions of entropy. My authorities are such books and journals as I have by me at the moment.
(a) Entropy is that portion of the intrinsic energy of a system which cannot be converted into work by even a perfect heat engine.—Clausius.
(b) Entropy is that portion of the intrinsic energy which can be converted into work by a perfect engine.—Maxwell, following Tait.
(c) Entropy is that portion of the intrinsic energy which is not converted into work by our imperfect engines.—Swinburne.
(d) Entropy (in a volume of gas) is that which remains constant when heat neither enters nor leaves the gas.—W. Robinson.
(e) Entropy may be called the ‘thermal weight’, temperature being called the ‘thermal height.’—Ibid.
(f) Entropy is one of the factors of heat, temperature being the other.—Engineering.
I set up these bald statement as so many Aunt Sallys, for any one to shy at.
[Lamenting a list of confused interpretations of the meaning of entropy, being hotly debated in journals at the time.]
In The Electrician (9 Jan 1903).
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In engineering, that only is great which achieves. It matters not what the intention is, he who in the day of battle is not victorious is not saved by his intention.
In Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit (1887), 21.
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In my intercourse with mankind, I have always found those who would thrust theory into practical matters to be, at bottom, men of no judgement and pure quacks.
Quoted in James Kip Finch, Engineering Classics of James Kip Finch.
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Indeed, the most important part of engineering work—and also of other scientific work—is the determination of the method of attacking the problem, whatever it may be, whether an experimental investigation, or a theoretical calculation. … It is by the choice of a suitable method of attack, that intricate problems are reduced to simple phenomena, and then easily solved.
In Engineering Mathematics: A Series of Lectures Delivered at Union College (1911, 1917), Vol. 2, 275.
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It certainly strikes the beholder with astonishment, to perceive what vast difficulties can be overcome by the pigmy arms of little mortal man, aided by science and directed by superior skill.
About his visit to Lockport on the Erie Canal, in Letter IX, to a friend in England from Lockport, New York (25 Jul 1831), collected in Narrative of a Tour in North America (1834), Vol. 1, 233-234,
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It is both a sad and a happy fact of engineering history that disasters have been powerful instruments of change. Designers learn from failure. Industrial society did not invent grand works of engineering, and it was not the first to know design failure. What it did do was develop powerful techniques for learning from the experience of past disasters. It is extremely rare today for an apartment house in North America, Europe, or Japan to fall down. Ancient Rome had large apartment buildings too, but while its public baths, bridges and aqueducts have lasted for two thousand years, its big residential blocks collapsed with appalling regularity. Not one is left in modern Rome, even as ruin.
In Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences (1997), 23.
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It is contrary to the usual practice of professional men to give their opinions upon each other's work unless regularly called upon in the way of their profession.
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It seems to be saying perpetually; 'I am the end of the nineteenth century; I am glad they built me of iron; let me rust.' ... It is like a passing fool in a crowd of the University, a buffoon in the hall; for all the things in Paris has made, it alone has neither wits nor soul.
About the Eiffel Tower.
Paris (1900). In Peter Yapp, The Travellers' Dictionary of Quotation: Who Said What, About Where? (1983), 183.
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It so happens that the work which is likely to be our most durable monument, and to convey some knowledge of us to the most remote posterity, is a work of bare utility; not a shrine, not a fortress, not a palace, but a bridge.
Writing upon the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge, New York.
'The Bridge as a Monument', Harper's Weekly (26 May 1883), 27, 326. In David P. Billington, The Tower and the Bridge: The New Art of Structural Engineering (1983), 17.
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It would be well if engineering were less generally thought of, and even defined, as the art of constructing. In a certain important sense it is rather the art of not constructing; or, to define it rudely but not inaptly, it is the art of doing that well with one dollar, which any bungler can do with two after a fashion.
From The Economic Theory of the Location of Railways (1887, 1914), 1.
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Nature never “fails.” Nature complies with its own laws. Nature is the law. When Man lacks understanding of Nature’s laws and a Man-contrived structure buckles unexpectedly, it does not fail. It only demonstrates that Man did not understand Nature’s laws and behaviors. Nothing failed. Man’s knowledge or estimating was inadequate.
In "How Little I Know", in Saturday Review (12 Nov 1966), 152. Excerpted in Buckminster Fuller and Answar Dil, Humans in Universe (1983), 31.
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No one wants to learn by mistakes, but we cannot learn enough from successes to go beyond the state of the art
To Engineer is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design (1992), 62.
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On one occasion committee members were asked by the chairman, who was also in charge of the project, to agree that a certain machine be run at a power which was ten percent lower than the design value. [Franz Eugen] Simon objected, arguing that “design value” should mean what it said. Thereupon the chairman remarked, “Professor Simon, don’t you see that we are not talking about science, but about engineering, which is an art.” Simon was persistent: “What would happen if the machine were run at full power?” “It might get too hot.” “But, Mr. Chairman,” came Simon’s rejoinder, “Can’t artists use thermometers?”
(1908). From N. Kurti, 'Franz Eugen Simon', Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society (Nov 1958), 4, 247.
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One man’s “magic” is another man’s engineering. “Supernatural” is a null word.
In Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1987), 250.
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Piecemeal social engineering resembles physical engineering in regarding the ends as beyond the province of technology. (All that technology may say about ends is whether or not they are compatible with each other or realizable.)
In The Poverty of Historicism (1960), 64.
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Problems in human engineering will receive during the coming years the same genius and attention which the nineteenth century gave to the more material forms of engineering.
We have laid good foundations for industrial prosperity, now we want to assure the happiness and growth of the workers through vocational education, vocational guidance, and wisely managed employment departments. A great field for industrial experimentation and statemanship is opening up.
Letter printed in Engineering Magazine (Jan 1917), cover. Quoted in an article by Meyer Bloomfield, 'Relation of Foremen to the Working Force', reproduced in Daniel Bloomfield, Selected Articles on Employment Management (1919), 301.
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Put glibly:
In science if you know what you are doing you should not be doing it.
In engineering if you do not know what you are doing you should not be doing it.
Of course, you seldom, if ever, see either pure state.
In The Art of Doing Science and Engineering: Learning to Learn (1975, 2005), 5.
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Science and engineering students presumably are left to learn about their literature in the same way they learn about sex.
'Learning for Life', Journal of Chemical Information and Computer Sciences (1981), 21 (4), 2A.
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Science can amuse and fascinate us all, but it is engineering that changes the world.
Isaac Asimov's Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 78.
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Science is concerned with what is possible while engineering is concerned with choosing, from among the many possible ways, one that meets a number of often poorly stated economic and practical objectives.
From Turing Award lecture (1968), 'One Man's View of Computer Science', collected in ACM Turing Award Lectures: The First Twenty Years, 1966 to 1985 (1987), 209. ACM is the Association for Computing Machinery. Also in Journal of the ACM (Jan 1969), 16, No. 1, 5.
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Stone, wood and iron are wrought and put together by mechanical methods, but the greatest work is to keep right the animal part of the machinery.

The automatic computing engine now being designed at N. P. L. [National Physics Laboratory] is atypical large scale electronic digital computing machine. In a single lecture it will not be possible to give much technical detail of this machine, and most of what I shall say will apply equally to any other machine of this type now being planned. From the point of view of the mathematician the property of being digital should be of greater interest than that of being electronic. That it is electronic is certainly important because these machines owe their high speed to this, and without the speed it is doubtful if financial support for their construction would be forthcoming. But this is virtually all that there is to be said on that subject. That the machine is digital however has more subtle significance. It means firstly that numbers are represented by sequences of digits which can be as long as one wishes. One can therefore work to any desired degree of accuracy. This accuracy is not obtained by more careful machining of parts, control of temperature variations, and such means, but by a slight increase in the amount of equipment in the machine.
Lecture to the London Mathematical Society, 20 February 1947. Quoted in B. E. Carpenter and R. W. Doran (eds.), A. M. Turing's Ace Report of 1946 and Other Papers (1986), 106.
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The automatic computing engine now being designed at N.P.L. [National Physics Laboratory] is atypical large scale electronic digital computing machine. In a single lecture it will not be possible to give much technical detail of this machine, and most of what I shall say will apply equally to any other machine of this type now being planned. From the point of view of the mathematician the property of being digital should be of greater interest than that of being electronic. That it is electronic is certainly important because these machines owe their high speed to this, and without the speed it is doubtful if financial support for their construction would be forthcoming. But this is virtually all that there is to be said on that subject. That the machine is digital however has more subtle significance. It means firstly that numbers are represented by sequences of digits which can be as long as one wishes. One can therefore work to any desired degree of accuracy. This accuracy is not obtained by more careful machining of parts, control of temperature variations, and such means, but by a slight increase in the amount of equipment in the machine.
Lecture to the London Mathematical Society, 20 February 1947. Quoted in B. E. Carpenter and R. W. Doran (eds.), A. M. Turing's Ace Report of 1946 and Other Papers (1986), 106.
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The day when the scientist, no matter how devoted, may make significant progress alone and without material help is past. This fact is most self-evident in our work. Instead of an attic with a few test tubes, bits of wire and odds and ends, the attack on the atomic nucleus has required the development and construction of great instruments on an engineering scale.
Nobel Prize banquet speech (29 Feb 1940)
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The dollar is the final term in almost every equation which arises in the practice of engineering in any or all of its branches, except qualifiedly as to military and naval engineering, where in some cases cost may be ignored.
From Address on 'Industrial Engineering' at Purdue University (24 Feb 1905). Reprinted by Yale & Towne Mfg Co of New York and Stamford, Conn. for the use of students in its works.
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The essence of engineering consists not so much in the mere construction of the spectacular layouts or developments, but in the invention required—the analysis of the problem, the design, the solution by the mind which directs it all.
As quoted, “he said to the writer in effect,” Robert Fletcher, 'William Hood '67, Chief Engineer of the Southern Pacific Railroad Lines, Dartmouth Alumni Magazine (1919), Vol. 11, 223.
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The first nonabsolute number is the number of people for whom the table is reserved. This will vary during the course of the first three telephone calls to the restaurant, and then bear no apparent relation to the number of people who actually turn up, or to the number of people who subsequently join them after the show/match/party/gig, or to the number of people who leave when they see who else has turned up.
The second nonabsolute number is the given time of arrival, which is now known to be one of the most bizarre of mathematical concepts, a recipriversexcluson, a number whose existence can only be defined as being anything other than itself. In other words, the given time of arrival is the one moment of time at which it is impossible that any member of the party will arrive. Recipriversexclusons now play a vital part in many branches of math, including statistics and accountancy and also form the basic equations used to engineer the Somebody Else’s Problem field.
The third and most mysterious piece of nonabsoluteness of all lies in the relationship between the number of items on the check [bill], the cost of each item, the number of people at the table and what they are each prepared to pay for. (The number of people who have actually brought any money is only a subphenomenon of this field.)
Life, the Universe and Everything (1982, 1995), 47-48.
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The first principle of architectural beauty is that the essential lines of a construction be determined by a perfect appropriateness to its use.
Quoted in J. Harriss, The Tallest Tower: Eiffel and the Belle Epoque (1975), 20. Cited by David P. Billington, 'Bridges and the New Art of Structural Engineering,' in National Research Council (U.S.). Transportation Research Board Subcommittee on Bridge Aesthetics, Bridge Aesthetics Around the World (1991), 67.
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The Golden Gate Bridge is a giant moving math problem.
Quoted on web site for PBS American Experience episode for 'Golden Gate Bridge.'
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The inspirational value of the space program is probably of far greater importance to education than any input of dollars... A whole generation is growing up which has been attracted to the hard disciplines of science and engineering by the romance of space.
Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin, Edwin E. Aldrin et al., First on the Moon (1970), 376.
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The life work of the engineer consists in the systematic application of natural forces and the systematic development of natural resources in the service of man.
Paper presented (15 Nov 1905) to the Association of American Agricultural Colleges and Experiment Stations, Washington, D.C., Proceedings of the 19th Annual Convention of the Association of American Agricultural Colleges and Experiment Stations (1906), Vol. 19-24, 90. Initials only given in this paper for H.W. Tyler (of Massachussetts); Webmaster tentatively matched with Harry Walter Tyler of M.I.T.
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The most important object of Civil Engineering is to improve the means of production and of traffic in states, both for external and internal trade. It is applied in the construction and management of roads, bridges, railroads, aqueducts, canals, river navigation, docks and storehouses, for the convenience of internal intercourse and exchange; and in the construction of ports, harbours, moles, breakwaters and lighthouses; and in the navigation by artificial power for the purposes of commerce. It is applied to the protection of property where natural powers are the sources of injury, as by embankments forthe defence of tracts of country from the encroachments of the sea, or the overflowing of rivers; it also directs the means of applying streams and rivers to use, either as powers to work machines, or as supplies for the use of cities and towns, or for irrigation; as well as the means of removing noxious accumulations, as by the drainage of towns and districts to ... secure the public health.
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The Principle of Uncertainty is a bad name. In science or outside of it we are not uncertain; our knowledge is merely confined, within a certain tolerance. We should call it the Principle of Tolerance. And I propose that name in two senses: First, in the engineering sense, science has progressed, step by step, the most successful enterprise in the ascent of man, because it has understood that the exchange of information between man and nature, and man and man, can only take place with a certain tolerance. But second, I also use the word, passionately, about the real world. All knowledge, all information between human beings, can only be exchanged within a play of tolerance. And that is true whether the exchange is in science, or in literature, or in religion, or in politics, or in any form of thought that aspires to dogma. It's a major tragedy of my lifetime and yours that scientists were refining, to the most exquisite precision, the Principle of Tolerance, and turning their backs on the fact that all around them, tolerance was crashing to the ground beyond repair. The Principle of Uncertainty or, in my phrase, the Principle of Tolerance, fixed once for all the realization that all knowledge is limited. It is an irony of history that at the very time when this was being worked out there should rise, under Hitler in Germany and other tyrants elsewhere, a counter-conception: a principle of monstrous certainty. When the future looks back on the 1930s it will think of them as a crucial confrontation of culture as I have been expounding it, the ascent of man, against the throwback to the despots' belief that they have absolute certainty. It is said that science will dehumanize people and turn them into numbers. That is false: tragically false. Look for yourself. This is the concentration camp and crematorium at Auschwitz. This is where people were turned into numbers. Into this pond were flushed the ashes of four million people. And that was not done by gas. It was done by arrogance. It was done by dogma. It was done by ignorance. When people believe that they have absolute knowledge, with no test in realitythis is how they behave. This is what men do when they aspire to the knowledge of gods. Science is a very human form of knowledge. We are always at the brink of the known; we always feel forward for what is to be hoped. Every judgment in science stands on the edge of error, and is personal. Science is a tribute to what we can know although we are fallible. In the end, the words were said by Oliver Cromwell: 'I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ: Think it possible you may be mistaken.' We have to cure ourselves of the itch for absolute knowledge and power. We have to close the distance between the push-button order and the human act. We have to touch people. [Referring to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.]
'Knowledge or Certainty,' episode 11, The Ascent of Man (1972), BBC TV series.
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The sand should be neither coarse nor fine but of a middling quality or about the size of the common pop(p)y seed. If the sand is too coarse the mortar will be short or brittle . . . If the sand is too fine the cement will shrink and crack after it has been used.
Directions for Using White's Patent Hydraulic Cement.
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The scientist describes what is; the engineer creates what never was.
Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society (1980), 26, 110. As cited in Alan L. Mackay, A Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (1994), 138. (Also seen as “Scientists study/discover the world as it is, engineers create the world that never has been.”)
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The scientist discovers a new type of material or energy and the engineer discovers a new use for it.
The Development of Design (1981), 19.
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The so-called ‘crank’ may be quite original in his ideas. … Invention, however, in the engineering sense involves originality; but not that alone, if the results are to be of value. There is imagination more or less fertile, but with it a knowledge of what has been done before, carried perhaps by the memory, together with a sense of the present or prospective needs in art or industry. Necessity is not always the mother of invention. It may be prevision.
Address as M.I.T. acting president, to the graduating class (11 Jun 1920). Published in Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Technology Review (Jul 1920), 22, 419-420.
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The story of civilization is, in a sense, the story of engineering—that long and arduous struggle to make the forces of nature work for man's good.
The Ancient Engineers (1963), 1.
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The valuable properties of this cement depend in a great measure on the mode of preparing it for use. The mixing should therefore be conducted with care in order to form a perfect union of the powdered cement, sand and water. This can be best accomplished by the use of the New England corn hoe on a board floor or by beating with a hand stamper; not much labour is required if properly applied. Mechanics can judge when the mixture is perfect by the appearance of the mortar, which, when properly prepared, very much resembles putty.
Directions for Using White's Patent Hydraulic Cement.
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There are three schools of magic. One: State a tautology, then ring the changes on its corollaries; that's philosophy. Two: Record many facts. Try to find a pattern. Then make a wrong guess at the next fact; that's science. Three: Be aware that you live in a malevolent Universe controlled by Murphy's Law, sometimes offset by Brewster's Factor; that's engineering.
Circulated as an e-mail 'fortune cookie', an interesting remark included with the signature.
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There is only one nature—the division into science and engineering is a human imposition, not a natural one. Indeed, the division is a human failure; it reflects our limited capacity to comprehend the whole.
from Recent Development of Physical Science (p. 10)
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This cement can be used in any situation and for any purpose to which any other mortar or hydraulic cement can be applied. It does not become perfectly hard within one or two months.
Directions for Using White's Patent Hydraulic Cement.
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Three engineering students were discussing who designed the human body. One said, “It was a mechanical engineer. Just look at all the joints.” The second said, “No, it was an electrical engineer. The nervous systems many thousands of electrical connections.” The last said, “Obviously, it was a civil engineer. Who else would run a toxic waste pipeline through a major recreation area?”
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To every bushel of the powdered cement add one bushel of sand, mix them together and pass them through a sieve, then add a sufficient quantity of water to make it (by well mixing and working) about the consistency of a soft putty. It is then fit to use but should not be kept more than six or eight hours and should be thoroughly worked just before it is used.
Directions for Using White's Patent Hydraulic Cement.
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Today we are on the eve of launching a new industry, based on imagination, on scientific research and accomplishment. … Now we add radio sight to sound. It is with a feeling of humbleness that I come to this moment of announcing the birth in this country of a new art so important in its implications that it is bound to affect all society. It is an art which shines like a torch of hope in the troubled world. It is a creative force which we must learn to utilize for the benefit of all mankind. This miracle of engineering skill which one day will bring the world to the home also brings a new American industry to serve man’s material welfare … [Television] will become an important factor in American economic life.
Address at dedication of RCA Exhibit Building, New York World Fair before unveiling the RCA television exhibit (20 Apr 1939). In RCA Review: A Technical Journal (1938), Vols 3-4, 4. Also quoted in Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner, 'Father Of Broadcasting David Sarnoff', Time (7 Dec 1998) and in Eugene Lyons, David Sarnoff: A Biography (1966), 216.
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Today's water institutions—the policies and laws, government agencies and planning and engineering practices that shape patterns of water use—are steeped in a supply-side management philosophy no longer appropriate to solving today's water problems.
From a study Postel wrote for Worldwatch Institute, quoted in New York Times (22 Sep 1985), 19.
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We had the full backing of our government, combined with the nearly infinite potential of American science, engineering and industry, and an almost unlimited supply of people endowed with ingenuity and determination.
In And Now It Can Be Told: The Story Of The Manhattan Project (1962), 415.
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We may discover resources on the moon or Mars that will boggle the imagination, that will test our limits to dream. And the fascination generated by further exploration will inspire our young people to study math, and science, and engineering and create a new generation of innovators and pioneers.
Speech, NASA Headquarters (14 Jan 2004). In Office of the Federal Register (U.S.) Staff (eds.), Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, George W. Bush (2007), 58-59.
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Why is it that the self-aggrandizements of Cicero, the lecheries and whining of Ovid and the blatherings of that debauched old goose Seneca made it onto the Net before the works that give us solid technical information about what Rome was really good at, viz. the construction of her great buildings and works of engineering?
From headnotes written by Bill Thayer to his online transcription of Vitruvius: On Architecture.
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[An engineer's] invention causes things to come into existence from ideas, makes world conform to thought; whereas science, by deriving ideas from observation, makes thought conform to existence.
Types of Technology', Research in Philosophy & Technology (1978), Vol. 1, 244.
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[Engineering] 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 homes to men or women. Then it elevates the standards of living and adds to the comforts of life. That is the engineer’s high privilege.
Reprint of his 1916 statement in 'Engineering as a Profession', Engineer’s Week (1954).
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[Engineers are] the direct and necessary instrument of coalition by which alone the new social order can commence.
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[M]anufacturing, science and engineering are … incredibly creative. I’d venture to say more so than creative advertising agencies and things that are known as the creative industries.
Interview by Melanie D.G. Kaplan, 'James Dyson: Why we need to re-focus on the old economy' posted on smartplanet.com (3 Nov 2010).
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[The principle, in building a sewer system, was] ...of diverting the cause of the mischief to a locality where it can do no mischief.
Quoted in George Drysdale Dempsey and Daniel Kinnear Clark, On the Drainage of Lands, Towns, & Buildings (1887), 246.
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[The surplus of basic knowledge of the atomic nucleus was] largely used up [during the war with the atomic bomb as the dividend.] We must, without further delay restore this surplus in preparation for the important peacetime job for the nucleus - power production. ... Many of the proposed applications of atomic power - even for interplanetary rockets - seem to be within the realm of possibility provided the economic factor is ruled out completely, and the doubtful physical and chemical factors are weighted heavily on the optimistic side. ... The development of economic atomic power is not a simple extrapolation of knowledge gained during the bomb work. It is a new and difficult project to reach a satisfactory answer. Needless to say, it is vital that the atomic policy legislation now being considered by the congress recognizes the essential nature of this peacetime job, and that it not only permits but encourages the cooperative research-engineering effort of industrial, government and university laboratories for the task. ... We must learn how to generate the still higher energy particles of the cosmic rays - up to 1,000,000,000 volts, for they will unlock new domains in the nucleus.
Addressing the American Institute of Electrical Engineering, in New York (24 Jan 1946). In Schenectady Gazette (25 Jan 1946),
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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