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
A common mistake that people make when trying to
design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of
- Douglas Adams
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
An engineer is someone who washes his hands before
going to the toilet.
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
- 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
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
- 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
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
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.
- 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.
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
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 Classsics, commenting on Sejourne's
He was living like an engineer in a mechanical
world. No wonder he had become dry as a stone.
- Simone de Beauvoir
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
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
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,
I sell here, Sir, what all the world desires to
have - power.
- Matthew Boulton (British
quoted in Boswell's life of Dr
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.
eat 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 mistakethe 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
- 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
- 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.
"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
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'
No greater care is required upon any works than
upon such as are to withstand the action of water; for this reason, all parts of
the work need to be done exactly according to the rules of the art which all
workmen know, but few observe.
- Sextus Julius Frontinus
Nor aught availed him now
To have built in heaven high towers; nor did he
By all his engines, but was headlong sent
With his industrious crew to build in hell.
- John Milton
Nothing can be of great worth or holy which is the
work of builders and mechanics.
- Zeno, Stoic Philosopher
quoted in Bertrand Russell's
History of Western Philosophy
Nothing is so inspiring as seeing big works well
laid out and planned and a real engineering organisation.
- Frederick Handley Page
after a visit to Short &
Harland where they were building his aircraft, just before WWII
No village or man shall be forced to build bridges
at river banks, except those who ought to do so by custom and law.
Chapter 23 of Magna Carta
Oh! Ill fated bridge of the Silv'ry Tay,
I must now conclude my lay,
By telling the world fearlessly and without the
That your central girders would not have given
At least many sensible men do say,
Had they been supported on each side with
At least many sensible men confesses,
For the stronger we our houses do build,
The less the chance of us being killed.
- William McGonagall, the 'Poet
and Tragedian of Dundee'
One has to watch out for engineers - they begin
with the sewing machine and end up with the atomic bomb.
- Marcel Pagnol
Critiques des Critiques
Phases of a Project:
1 -- Exultation
2 -- Disenchantment
3 -- Search for the
4 -- Punishment of
5 -- Praise for the
Contributed by Rob Price
Philosophers have only interpreted the world in
various ways, but the real task is to alter it.
- Karl Marx
Eleven Theses on Feuerbach
Pure scientists have by and large been dim-witted
about engineers and applied science. They couldn't get interested. They wouldn't
recognise that many of the problems were as intellectually exacting as pure
problems, and that many of the solutions were as satisfying and beautiful. Their
instinct - perhaps sharpened in this country by the passion to find a new
snobbism wherever possible, and to invent one if it doesn't exist - was to take
it for granted that applied science was an occupation for second rate minds. I
say this more sharply because thirty years ago I took precisely that line
- CP Snow
The Two Cultures and A Second Look
Rise thou prostrate Ingineer, not all thy
undermining Skill shall reach my Heart.
- George Farquhar
The Beaux' Strategem, Act V, Scene
So far I have been speaking of theoretical
science, which is an attempt to understand the world. Practical science, which
is an attempt to change the world, has been important from the first, and has
continually increased in importance, until it has almost ousted theoretical
science from men's thoughts. ... The triumph of science has been mainly due to
its practical utility, and there has been an attempt to divorce this aspect from
that of theory, thus making science more and more a technique, and less and less
a doctrine as to the nature of the world. The penetration of this point of view
to philosophers is very recent.
- Bertrand Russell
History of Western Philosophy
[Solutions of problems of resistance are] not to
be found in meditation in a cabinet but in going over to the workshops of an
arsenal, where Galileo sought to apply the laws of statics and the resistance of
solids, [that is] to places that fall between the arts and science.
- PS Girard
Traite Analytique de la Resistance
some day it might be possible to tax them
- Michael Faraday
reply to Gladstone on being asked
what use his discoveries were
"Still," he concluded, "they put me
out to a good trade."
"Surely, dearest, it is almost a profession
to be an engineer."
"There's nothing undignified in labour.
Trade'll do me."
- Malcolm MacDonald
The World from Rough Stones
Tell me, Mr Hoover, what are your interests?
Madam, I am an Engineer
Really? I took you for a gentleman.
- Herbert Hoover
Conversation on making the
acquaintance of a lady on a steamship - apparently comment meant as a compliment
...(that) any general system of conveying
passengers would ... go at a velocity exceeding ten miles an hour, or
thereabouts, is extremely improbable.
- Railway engineer Thomas
That's one small step for a man, one giant leap
- Neal Armstrong
The contractors do not hesitate to enrich
themselves at the expense of the King or of those who work for them; & the
engineers or inspectors of the works, on the contrary, have only in mind the
honesty with which they act and to be highly esteemed; & they do not
hesitate to regard the former as their enemies, when they are unfaithful.
- Hubert Gautier
Traite des Ponts (1716)
The history of engineering is really the history
of breakages, and of learning from those breakages. I was taught at college 'the
engineer learns most on the scrapheap'.
- CA Claremont
The joy of engineering is to find a straight line
on a double logarithmic diagram.
- Thomas Koenig,
The major difference between a thing that might go
wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot
possibly go wrong goes wrong, it usually turns out to be impossible to get at
- Douglas Adams
The means by which we live has outdistanced the
ends for which we live. Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We
have guided missiles and misguided men.
- Martin Luther King Jr
Strength to Love, 1963
The newly placed earth of the Road is not
immediately to be compacted, as some will claim. Two or three months of time,
some rain, and those who pass over the Road better assure this than if we
compact with women and girls for many days; this is an unnecessary expense for
- Hubert Gautier
Traite des Chemins (1715)
The philosophies that have been inspired by
scientific technique are power philosophies, and tend to regard everything
non-human as mere raw material. Ends are no longer considered; only the
skillfulness of the process is valued. This also is a form of madness. It is, in
our day, the most dangerous form, and the one against which a sane philosophy
should provide an antidote
- Bertrand Russell
History of Western Philosophy.
[The problem of recognition is a] consequence of
these arts having been, in the early ages of European society, long practised
only by domestic slaves and degraded classes of men, they are less honoured than
they deserve; and still bear, even when their importance is acknowledged, part
of the stigma attached to the vices and debased state of their first professors.
- Mechanics Magazine 30 August
Quoted in George Street. New Civil
Engineer, 8 Feb 1996
The well being of the world largely depends upon
the work of the engineer. There is a great future and unlimited scope for the
profession; new works of all kinds are and will be required in every country,
and for a young man of imagination and keenness I cannot conceive a more
attractive profession. Imagination is necessary as well as scientific knowledge.
- Sir William Halcrow
Addressing the Institution of
The words art, artisan, and artificial all come
from the Latin word ars, and reinforce the notion that beauty and utility have
been inextricably linked. The jazz musician Duke Ellington is believed to have
said that if any music sounds good, it is good. The beauty of utility goes back
at least as far as the flint axe and is as contemporary as the supersonic
- Carroll Pursell
White Heat - People and Technology
The words 'theory' and 'practice' are of Greek
origin; they carry our thoughts back to the ancient philosophers by whom they
were contrived, and by whom they were also contrasted and placed in opposition,
as denoting two mutually conflicting and mutually inconsistent ideas. ... [this
fallacy] based on a double system of natural laws retarded for centuries the
development of physical science, notably mechanics.
- William Rankine
There are three possible roads to ruin - women,
gambling and technology. The most pleasant is with women, the quickest is with
gambling, but the surest is with technology.
- Georges Pompidou
Sunday Telegraph 1968.
There can be little doubt that in many ways the
story of bridge building is the story of civilisation. By it we can readily
measure an important part of a people's progress.
- Franklin D Roosevelt
Oct 18 1931
Therefore O students study mathematics and do not
build without foundations.
- Leonardo Da Vinci
The Notebooks of Leonardo Da
Vinci, Quaderni 1 7 r.
...as for earthquakes, though they were still
formidable, they were so interesting that men of science could hardly regret
- Bertrand Russell
on the rise of science, History of
This is not the age of pamphleteers. It is the age
of engineers. The spark-gap is mightier than the pen. Democracy will not be
salvaged by men who talk fluently, debate forcefully and quote aptly.
- Lancelot Hogben
Science for the Citizen
Very nice sort of place, Oxford, I should think,
for people that like that sort of place. They teach you to be a gentleman there.
In the Polytechnic they teach you to be an engineer or such like.
- George Bernard Shaw
Man and Superman (1903) act 2
We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us.
- Winston Churchill
We were shepherded in for our first lecture on
engineering drawing in a studio on the top floor of a building in Shakespeare
Street. There we were confronted by the lecturer, a Mr Rawlinson, an elderly
gentleman with a nicotine stained moustache. He looked around the room at us and
then said, "I know you lot. Your parents said, 'Our Jim's not very bright
in the head but he's good with his hands, so we'll make him an engineer'."
- Frank Vann
on his First Day at University
College Nottingham, 1941
Well if you ever plan to motor west
Try take my way on the highway that's the best
Get your kicks on Route 66
- Bobby Troup
What need the bridge much broader than the flood?
- William Shakespeare
Much Ado About Nothing
When engineers and quantity surveyors discuss
aesthetics and architects study what cranes do we are on the right road.
- Ove Arup
Whilst surveying what do you think I did? - only
what others have done - fell in love!
- Letter from Joseph Locke to
Quoted in A. Burton (1992) 'The