The Anonymous Widower

The Joy of Engineering

In many ways I am an engineer first, second and all the way to last.

In my troubles over the last couple of years, my reasoning and problem solving abilities have got me through it to a certain extent.  I even cook like an engineer. And these skills I learned in my long training and experience as an engineer, from helping my father in his print works, through the vacation jobs at Enfield Rolling Mills, my degree at Liverpool University, the experience at ICI and then my years of programming, where I wrote planning and data management systems for a variety of industries.

So why are engineers different?

Many people like doctors have a theory and try to prove it, whereas engineers have a problem and try to solve it, whilst sticking to the best scientific and management principles. One of my principles is that you can’t ignore scientific correctness at any time.  This is probably, why if you want to louse up a project, you just let politicians get their sticky fingers on it. Everywhere around you, you see good engineering ideas, that work, that probably had to overcome difficult obstacles from ignorant politicians to come to fruition. 

There is a simple idea from close to me.  Imagine the outcry if today, an electricity company said that they were going to lay 400 thousand volt cables underneath the towpaths of the Regent’s Canal and then cool them with water from the canal. After all water and electricity don’t mix! Do they? But that is what was done in the 1960s and as far as I can tell, there have been no problems.  It would appear too, that the cooling system is being upgraded judging by signs beside the canal.  So engineers are making a good idea even better.

Yesterday, the Head of the Electrical Engineering Department at Liverpool University invited me for a coffee and I spent an enjoyable hour with him discussing the problems of the world, that engineers could solve.

Few were controversial, but time and again engineering ignorance of the great and good came up as the reason a proven idea wasn’t implimented.

We must give everybody at least a basis of a scientific or engineering education, so that when someone says he’s going to do something, the idea can be properly discussed and the correct decisions taken. As an example, the public in this country is very much against waste incinerators, whereas in some countries like Austria, they have had serious discussions and use the best engineering designs to get rid of the waste that can’t be easily recycled, often by incineration in plants designed to advertise what they do.

So it is to be welcomed in the news today, that JCB have got involved in an academy to give young people a proper science, engineering and business education.

Let’s hope it’s not the only one.

I’ve enjoyed my time as an engineer so far and I’m not going to give up on it yet.

January 7, 2011 - Posted by | World | , ,


  1. With a partner and a nephew-in-law who are both engineers I’d also add that engineers are a teeny bit inflexible, totally single-minded and usually convinced they are right without allowing for the fact that things change so the answers to a problem may need to change … LOL! (Very practical and don’t give up easily on a problem either though, so not all bad!)

    Comment by Karrie | January 7, 2011 | Reply

  2. Modern science and technology information in schools is appalling. Both my daughters have GCSE in double science and it horrifies me what they dont know! And they grew up in a household with an engineer father and a mother with an OU degree which included a lot of science and maths modules. Maths is taught appallingly as well!

    And on a slightly different topic, my youngesr daughter studied WW1 poets as part of GCSE English, one of the poems was Dulce Et Decorum East. She went on to read English at uni, and one evening she phoned me up and told me in an amazed voice that she now understood the poem, she never had before. I asked her what had helped her understand it. It turned out that at GCSE she has asked the teacher what the Latin meant, and been told “It isnt important, you dont need to know”. So she didnt ask me, indeed she may not have realised it was Latin. The tutor at uni had of course told them what it meant. So the poem made sense!

    Comment by liz | January 7, 2011 | Reply

  3. […] after a stroke and some complications, but his mind is still all there and just as when I went to Liverpool, we discussed engineering and put the world to rights.  He also filled in some of the gaps in some […]

    Pingback by Death of a Friend « The Anonymous Widower | February 4, 2011 | Reply

  4. […] did mention briefly in an earlier post about this, but today as I walked from home along the busy towpath of the Regent’s Canal I […]

    Pingback by How The City of London Gets Its Electricity « The Anonymous Widower | March 20, 2011 | Reply

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