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Quotes - Page 1

A bridge is built for us to pass over; it is a work of utility, and which should endure. It should be in keeping with its object, solid, clean, simple, well executed without vain ornament.
- Paul Sejourne
Grandes Voutes

A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.
- Douglas Adams
Mostly Harmless

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'.

A good scientist is a person with original ideas. A good engineer is a person who makes a design that works with as few original ideas as possible
- Freeman Dyson

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.
- Jean Peronnet

An engineer is someone who is good with figures, but doesn't have the personality of an accountant.
- An Arts graduate's view of engineers

An engineer is someone who washes his hands before going to the toilet.
- Anon

Another places upon his nose a pair of paper or wooden spectacles; he performs the duty of engineer, comes, goes, makes a plan, looks at the workmen, draws lines, plays the pedant, cries that everything is being ruined, causes the work to be abandoned and resumed at his will, and directs it at great length and as absurdly as possible.this character is termed the geometer, and he does his best to make himself unendurable to those who wield the spade and pickaxe.
- George Sand
The Haunted Pool

A person filled with gumption doesn't sit about stewing about things. He's at the front of the train of his own awareness, watching to see what's up the track and meeting it when it comes. That's gumption. If you're going to repair a motorcycle, an adequate supply of gumption is the first and most important tool. If you haven't got that you might as well gather up all the other tools and put them away, because they won't do you any good.
- Robert M Pirsig
Zen and the Art of Moytorcyle Maintenance

Architects and engineers are among the most fortunate of men since they build their own monuments with public consent, public approval and often public money.
- John Prebble
The High Girders

A theory may be so rich in descriptive possibilities that it can be made to fit any data.
- Phillip Johnson-Laird
The Computer and the Mind

Boring - see Civil Engineers.
-
UK Yellow Pages (this reference has been removed from new editions of the Yellow Pages)

But even experimental scientists today, despite Einstein and Darwin, seem loath to abandon the search for an eternal changeless unhistorical reality of which pure mathematics could be the model
- Gordon Childe
What Happened in History

Civil Engineering is the art of directing the great sources of Power in Nature for the use and convenience of man; being that practical application of the most important principles of natural Philosophy which has in a considerable degree realized the anticipations of Bacon, and changed the aspect and state of affairs in the whole world. 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. This applied in the construction and management of Roads - Bridges - Rail Roads - 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.
- Thomas Tredgold
Charter of the British Institution of Civil Engineers

Electronic calculators can solve problems which the man who made them cannot solve; but no government subsidised commission of engineers and physicists could create a worm.
- Joseph Wood Krutch
The Twelve Seasons, 1949

Engineering is the art of modelling materials we do not wholly understand, into shapes we cannot precisely analyse so as to withstand forces we cannot properly assess, in such a way that the public has no reason to suspect the extent of our ignorance.
- Dr AR Dykes
British Institution of Structural Engineers, 1976.

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.
- Ove Arup

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.
- GFC Rogers
The Nature of Engineering, A Philosophy of Technology.

Engineering ... to define rudely but not inaptly, is the art of doing that well with one dollar, which any bungler can do with two after a fashion.
- Arthur Mellen Wellington
The Economic Theory of Railway Location (1911)

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
- John Fowler

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

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 thriftyand the products of many industries, and together we work toward our goalundaunted 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.
- Anon (supposedly found pinned to a site hut during the construction of the Konkan railway)
Contributed by Allan L Smith

Experience serves not only to confirm theory, but differs from it without disturbing it, it leads to new truths which theory only has not been able to reach.
- Dalembert
Quoted in introduction to PS Girard Traite Analytique de la Resistance des Solides

For 'tis the sport to have the engineer
Hoist with his own petar; and't shall go hard
But I will delve one yard below their mines
And blow them at the moon.
- William Shakespeare
Hamlet Act 3, Scene 4

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.
- HS Drinker
Tunneling, Explosive Compounds and Rock Drills (1878)

Go for civil engineering, because civil engineering is the branch of engineering which teaches you the most about managing people. Managing people is a skill which is very, very useful and applies almost regardless of what you do.
- Sir John Harvey Jones
giving advice on University courses to sixth form students on the BBC's Troubleshooter programme

He ... insists that no mathematical formula, however exact it may appear to be, can be of greater accuracy than the assumptions on which it is based, and he draws the conclusion that experience still remains the great teacher and final judge.
- James Kip Finch
Engineering Classics, commenting on Sejourne's Grandes Voutes

He was living like an engineer in a mechanical world. No wonder he had become dry as a stone.
- Simone de Beauvoir
The Mandarins

His father loved him dearly, but his work, that of a civil engineer, had left him with but little time for his family. Energetic, active, and always taken up with some responsible work, he did not spoil his children with excessive tenderness.
- Mme Estafavia
Russian short story: Vania

How could you do anything so vicious?
It was easy my dear, don't forget I spent two years as a building contractor.
- Priscilla Presley & Ricardo Montalban
in The Naked Gun

I am an old man now, and when I die and go to Heaven there are two matters on which I hope for enlightement. One is quantum electrodynamics and the other is the turbulent motion of fluids. And about the former I am rather more optimistic.
- Sir Horace Lamb
1932, Quoted in Computational Fluid Mechanics and Heat Transfer, by Anderson, Tannehill, and Pletcher, 1984.

[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.
- Isambard Kingdom Brunel
speaking to the 1847 Commission set up after the collapse of the River Dee

If a builder builds a house for a man and does not make its construction firm and the house collapses and causes the death of the owner of the house - that builder shall be put to death. If it destroys property, he shall restore whatever it destroyed, and because he did not make the house firm he shall rebuild the house which collapsed at his own expense. If a builder builds a house for a man and does not make its construction meet the requirement and a wall falls - that builder shall strengthen the wall at his own expense.
- The Code of Hammurabi, c. 2250 BC

Improvement makes strait roads: but the crooked roads without Improvement are roads of Genius.
- William Blake
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

I'm the chap who builds motorways through places like Twyford Down and when people complain I say f... off.
- Sam Small
giving a Young Conservative's view of the civil engineering profession (unclear whether this view is his)

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.
- John Smeaton
Quoted in Engineering Classics of James Kip Finch

In practical work he can be ingenious with regard to modifying apparatus; he uses engineering rather than imagination.
- Head Teacher's reference for a student applying to University

In free society art is not a weapon.... Artists are not engineers of the soul.
- President John F Kennedy
Address at Dedication of the Robert Frost Library, Nov 1963.

I sell here, Sir, what all the world desires to have - power.
- Matthew Boulton (British Engineer)
quoted in Boswell's life of Dr Johnson

It 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 realization in stone or metal or energy. Then it brings jobs and homes to men. Then it elevates the standards of living and adds to the comforts of life. That is the engineer's high privelege.
The great liability of the engineer compared to men of other professions is that his works are out in the open where all can see them. His acts, step by step, are in hard substance. He cannot bury his mistakes in the grave like the doctors. He cannot argue them into thin air or blame the judge like the lawyers. He cannot, like the architects, cover his failures with trees and vines. He cannot, like the politicians, screen his shortcomings by blaming his opponents and hope that the people will forget. The engineer simply cannot deny that he did it. If his works do not work, he is damned. That is the phantasmagoria that haunts his nights and dogs his days. He comes from the job at the end of the day resolved to calculate it again. He wakes in the night in a cold sweat and puts something on paper that looks silly in the morning. All day he shivers at the thought of the bugs which will inevitably appear to jolt his smooth consummation.
On the other hand, unlike the doctor his is not a life among the weak. Unlike the soldier, destruction is not his purpose. Unlike the lawyer, quarrels are not his daily bread. To the engineer falls the job of clothing the bare bones of science with life, comfort and hope.
No doubt as years go by people forget which engineer did it, even if they ever knew. Or some politician puts his name on it. Or they credit it to some promoter who used other peoples money with which to finance it. But the engineer himself looks back at the unending stream of goodness that flows from his successes with satisfactions that few professions may know. And the verdict of his fellow professionals is all the accolade he wants.
- Herbert Hoover
The Profession of Engineering (from his memoirs)

It takes an engineer to undertake the training of an engineer and not, as often happens, a theoretical engineer who is clever on a blackboard with mathematical formulae but useless as far as production is concerned.
- The Rev EB Evans
Letter to Frederick Handley Page

Let him not be grasping nor have his mind preoccupied with ... receiving perquisites, but let him with dignity keep up his position by establishing a good reputation. No work can be rightly done without honesty and incorruptibility.
- Vitruvius
De Architectura

"Mach 2 travel feels no different." a passenger commented on an early Concorde flight. "Yes," Sir George replied. "That was the difficult bit."
- Sir George Edwards, co-director of Concorde development
Quoted in Kenneth Owen, "Concorde, New Shape in the Sky"

Mary, I know what I'm gonna do tomorrow, and the next day, and next year, and the year after that. I'm shakin' the dust of this crummy little town off my shoes and I'm gonna see the world! ... Then I'm gonna come back home and go to college and see what they know, and then I'm gonna build things. I'm gonna build airfields, I'm gonna build skyscrapers a hundred storeys high, I'm gonna build bridges a mile long!
- James Stewart
in It's a Wonderful Life

Men build bridges and throw railroads across deserts, and yet they contend successfully that the job of sewing on a button is beyond them. Accordingly, they don't have to sew buttons.
- Heywood Broun
Seeing Things at Night, 'Holding a Baby'

My father wisely determined that I should go through all the gradations, both practical and theoretical, which could not be done if I went to the University, as the practical parts, which he considered the most important, must be abandoned; for he said, after a young man has been three or four years at the University of Oxford or Cambridge, he cannot, without much difficulty, turn himself to the practical part of civil engineering.
- Sir John Rennie
Autobiography, 1875, quoted in A. Burton (1992) 'The Railway Builders'


Our Philosophy is one of Teamwork!
We came across these quotes on the Bristol University website and thought you would like them.
Contributors: Richard Bennet, Carolyn Dougherty, Ronald E. Graham (compiler of What Engineers Are and Do FAQ), Mike Morton, Rob Price, John Schwab, John Stone, Allan L Smith, David Toll, Andy Vann, Frank Vann, Janet Vann
Many quotations taken from 'Engineering Classics of James Kip Finch' - an excellent book!


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