The Best Quotes About Engineering

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The Best Quotes About Engineering

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Engineers are better known for their actions rather than words. But that hasn’t stopped some of the top engineers saying some pretty profound (or in some cases, downright hilarious) things. Engineers of all backgrounds and walks of life have insightful things to say about the discipline and life itself - even if sometimes, the quotes around 

1. Henry Petroski

“Science is about knowing, engineering is about doing.”

Let’s start with a serious one. Henry Petroski is a renowned civil engineering professor and failure analysis expert. He’s certainly got a point. Science demands rigour, proof, deep analysis. You could say the same about engineering, but at the end of the day it comes down to doing. You try, sometimes you fail, but you keep on trying. That’s the spirit of engineering and it’s the attitude that catapulted the world into the modern age.

2. Sir James Dyson

“Manufacturing, 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.”

Anyone who can make vacuum cleaners and hand-dryers cool has got to be worth listening to. And Sir James doesn’t disappoint. This little gem of a quote sums up what we all know deep down – engineering is a creative art. It’s just the rest of the world that doesn’t realise it.

3. Albert Einstein

“I was originally supposed to become an engineer but the thought of having to expend my creative energy on things that make practical everyday life even more refined, with a loathsome capital gain as the goal, was unbearable to me.”

Einstein reveals his true colours in this quote. A) He doesn’t like engineering. B) He doesn’t like capitalism. Who’d have thought that one of the world’s greatest ever minds could be so misguided? Oh well, we all have our flaws. And we can’t really criticise the man who explained pretty much everything we know about our universe. Pity though, he would have made an excellent engineer – such a waste of talent!

4. Simon R. Green

“First rule of engineering; beware prototypes. Along with, avoid anything made by an engineer who doesn't have all his own fingers.”

Ok, so Simon R. Green is a sci-fi author, not an engineer, but this quote is just too funny to be omitted from this list on a technicality.

5. Elizabeth Donnelly

"The difficulty in treating everyone identically is that it assumes that women and men are identical. We are not and generally the treatment assumes a default male template... The world expects women to change, when it is the structures that need to change."

NewEngineer.com interviewed Elizabeth Donnelly for our 2020 Handbook. She is the CEO of the Women's Engineering Society and is a strong champion for women working in the STEM subjects.

6. Bruce Dickinson

“Engineering stimulates the mind. Kids get bored easily. They have got to get out and get their hands dirty: make things, dismantle things, fix things. When the schools can offer that, you’ll have an engineer for life.”

Yes, that is the Bruce Dickinson - former lead singer of Iron Maiden. What you may not realise is that Bruce set up his own aviation business after retiring from music (well, music or shouting loudly down a microphone, depending on your taste).

7. Elon Musk

“I don’t spend my time pontificating about high-concept things; I spend my time solving engineering and manufacturing problems.”

Elon addresses a popular misconception people hold about him. He’s either seen as a messianic or Iron Man type figure, or a Bond villain plotting world domination. Love him or loathe him, he’s definitely pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the world of engineering as evidenced by his SpaceX’s recent successful re-entry and safe landing of a spacecraft – a world first.

8. Jean-Rodolphe Perronet

“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.”

This 18th Century structural engineer makes an interesting point about the aesthetics of engineering structures and how popular opinion changes like the wind. Maybe one day people will even grow to like the ‘walkie-talkie’ building in London.

9. Chien-Shiung Wu

"It is shameful that there are so few women in science...There is a misconception in America that women scientists are all dowdy spinsters. This is the fault of men."

Okay, so Chien-Shiung Wu is actually an experimental physicist, but her point still stands for the engineering disciplines, even if women have become more represented in recent years.

10. Henry Petroski

“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 again, giving some very serious, sound and noteworthy advice. Engineering students or recent graduates, etch this into your mind and never forget it.

11. Anon

“I take the vision which comes from dreams and apply the magic of science and mathematics, adding the heritage of my profession and my knowledge of nature's materials to create a design.

I organise the efforts and skills of my fellow workers employing the capital of the thrifty and the products of many industries, and together we work toward our goal undaunted by hazards and obstacles.

And when we have completed our task all can see that the dreams and plans have materialised for the comfort and welfare of all.

I am an Engineer, I serve mankind, by making dreams come true.”

Pure poetry. It’s a shame we’ll never know how wrote it, but in some ways that just adds to the mystique. Pretty sure that this is what Brunel said every night before going to bed. This quote was supposedly found pinned to a site hut during the construction of the Konkan railway.

12. Isambard Kingdom Brunel

“[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.”

And since we mentioned the great man in the previous quote, here is one of his best. Ok, so he wasn’t exactly a wordsmith. But do you really need to make pithy quotes when you’re basically responsible for changing the world and kickstarting the industrial revolution? This quote shows his pioneering way of thinking and his refusal to be constrained by orthodox thinking. Modern engineers would do well to take note.