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
mistake that people make when trying to design something completely
foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.
- Douglas Adams
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
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
is someone who is good with figures, but doesn't have the personality
of an accountant.
- An Arts graduate's view of engineers
is someone who washes his hands before going to the toilet.
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
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
and engineers are among the most fortunate of men since they build
their own monuments with public consent, public approval and often
- John Prebble
The High Girders
may be so rich in descriptive possibilities that it can be made
to fit any data.
- Phillip Johnson-Laird
The Computer and the Mind
see Civil Engineers.
UK Yellow Pages (this reference has been removed from new editions
of the Yellow Pages)
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
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
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
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.
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
- Ove Arup
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.
... to define rudely but not inaptly, is the art of doing that
well with one dollar, which any bungler can do with two after
- Arthur Mellen Wellington
The Economic Theory of Railway Location (1911)
... 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
... 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.
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.
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
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.
Quoted in introduction to PS Girard Traite Analytique de la Resistance
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
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
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
you do anything so vicious?
It was easy my dear, don't forget I spent two years as a building
- 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
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
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
- John Smeaton
Quoted in Engineering Classics of James Kip Finch
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
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)
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
- 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
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
- James Stewart
in It's a Wonderful Life
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'
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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