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Page 79 Appendix
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Page 81 Engineering in an Increasingly Complex Society Historical Perspectives on Education, Practice, and Adaptation in American Engineering A Report Prepared by Arthur L. Donovan Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for the Panel on Engineering Interactions With Society This report attempts to provide a preliminary yet comprehensive overview of engineering as a social and cultural activity. It draws on historical studies presented at a conference sponsored by the National Research Council: Engineering Interactions With Society: Issues, Challenges, and Responses in the History of Professional Engineering and Engineering Education, held in Washington, D.C., July 19–21, 1983. The report begins by characterizing engineering in three ways: as a distinctive type of knowledge, as a profession, and as a social practice. Three types of adaptation in engineering are then considered through a review of representative cases. The first type involves the interaction of science and engineering, the second the response to technological innovation, the third the influence of institutional factors. The report then examines the relationship between engineering and management and the implications this relationship has for engineering education. The final section of the report reviews selected historical cases of potential crisis in the engineering manpower supply system and the ways in which engineers present their work and their profession to themselves and the general public.
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Page 82 Contents The Nature of Engineering 83 Patterns of Adaptation 96 Engineering and Management 110 Engineering and Social Change 120 Conclusions and Recommendations 128 Acknowledgments 129 Participants, Conference on Engineering Interactions With Society 130
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Page 83 The Nature of Engineering Introduction It would be convenient were we able to begin our investigation of engineering with uncontroversial definitions of what engineering is and what it means to be an engineer. The fact is, however, that engineering encompasses such a complex and highly varied set of activities, and engineers have such a diverse set of skills and interests, that simple definitions are quite incapable of being both comprehensive and useful. Indeed, were we to begin with definitions, we would be answering at the outset, at least by implication, the very questions we have set out to investigate. Therefore, rather than proceeding abstractly and axiomatically, we will approach our subject more tentatively and from several vantage points, always seeking to illuminate its many facets while slowly building a picture of the whole. This is a method of investigation historians find both congenial and informative, but it is not an approach used only by historians. It is a method that those charged with characterizing contemporary engineering also find useful. The National Science Foundation, which collects statistical information on the education and employment of American engineers, has developed a three-part definition that includes as an engineer anyone who meets two of its three criteria. These criteria, formulated as questions, ask 1) Was the person educated as an engineer? 2) Does the person consider him- or herself an engineer? and 3) Is the person employed in a position classified as an engineering job? These three questions provide a good starting point for an investigation into the nature of engineering, for each directs our attention to a different way of conceiving of the subject. Asking if a person was educated as an engineer emphasizes the importance of formalized knowledge and knowledge acquisition in modern engineering as well as the role that schools of engineering play in certifying that their graduates are adequately trained to enter the profession. Since control of a specialized body of knowledge is one of the defining features of every profession, the ways in which that knowledge is systematized and transmitted to those wishing to enter the profession is a matter of great importance. While in the past engineers, like other professionals, acquired their characteristic skills through apprenticeship, today formal training in a postsecondary professional school is expected of all beginning engineers. The transmission of formalized knowledge is certainly the main concern of these schools, but
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Page 84 we should also be mindful of the ways in which they socialize aspiring engineers in the patterns of thought and conduct appropriate to their profession. Such socialization was clearly a major part of the experience of apprenticeship, and today it remains a large part of what engineers learn during their early years on the job. One particularly fascinating question, but one that is difficult to answer, asks how the responsibility simultaneously to socialize and educate affects the ways in which the central ideas of engineering education are conceptualized and conveyed in engineering schools. Asking if a person considers him- or herself an engineer directs attention away from questions of public certification and toward the individual's professional self-image. This is not to say that one can simply certify oneself as a professional engineer, for such clearly is not the case. But beyond the educational attainments and memberships in societies that one expects of a professional lie questions of self-description that are of crucial importance to the individual and to the profession of engineering as a whole. What does it mean to conceive of oneself as a professional engineer and how does it influence one's conduct when dealing with members of other professions and with those who are not professionals? And if one moves from a job that requires engineering expertise to one that is essentially managerial, as so many engineers do, in what sense is one still a professional engineer? These are questions of considerable significance to engineers as they fashion their careers and to those who wish to understand better the nature of engineering. Identifying engineers by referring to the jobs they perform appears to be a direct and uncomplicated way of getting at our central question, yet here, too, the situation is more complex than appears at first sight. There are, of course, certain engineering specialties that are legally defined for purposes of certification. One can also survey engineering employment and identify the various jobs that require certain specialties in engineering. But a closer look at the actual employment decisions and career patterns of those who consider themselves engineers reveals a much greater variety of options and actions than such formal classifications would lead one to expect. Not only do engineers move between specialties, employers in private industry and in the government frequently hire engineers for reasons that have little to do with their particular technical competence. The most interesting question, therefore, is how employers seeking to get a particular job done communicate with engineers attempting to construct rewarding careers. It is the agreements they reach that determine which jobs are to be considered engineering jobs, and seen in this light, it is evident that the list of jobs that fall into this category will vary greatly over time.
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Page 85 Engineering as a Method for Solving Problems Engineers take pride in ''getting the job done.'' They feel they are particularly well equipped for the tasks they undertake because they bring to them the principles of analysis and problem resolution they learned while studying to become engineers. These principles are commonly referred to as "the engineering method" and they are usually learned in classes devoted to engineering design. Eugene Ferguson, reflecting on his own experience as an engineering student, recalled being taught that "the first thing you do in design is to draw a circle around the system under consideration in order to define the boundaries and control whatever may cross them." He also pointed out that this approach to design, which presumes that the system under examination can be successfully isolated and controlled, was first developed by Italian military engineers in the sixteenth century. Whereas their predecessors had designed fortresses that incorporated whatever advantages were offered by the local landscape, the sixteenth-century Italian engineers argued for a more abstract approach. Favoring a purely geometric and symmetric design to one that embodied local features, they argued that the ideal fortress would be located on an open plain. The surrounding territory was to be stripped of any structures that might give aid to an attacking force, a stipulation that was captured by the pithy phrase of a seventeenth-century French general, "suburbs are fatal to fortresses." Fortress design was still being taught on these principles at West Point as late as 1860, and the more general" engineering method" embodied in this approach to design continued to inform engineering education up to the very recent past. Ferguson's story may be taken as a challenge to reexamine what we mean when we speak of the engineering method. Can it be that despite the vast expansion of our engineering knowledge since the sixteenth century, we still are using methods of analysis and design introduced over 400 years ago? This is a difficult question, for while on the one hand it is quite clear that in actual practice engineers use many different methods, the idea that there is a method common to all engineering is still a central concept both in engineering education and among those who believe they can identify an approach to problem solving that is distinctive to engineering. Can the so-called engineering method be defined in a way that enables us to distinguish engineering from other human endeavors? While engineering is a practical activity, so are cooking and child care. And while the engineering method is rational and empirical, so too are the methods used by scientists and judges. We get a bit closer to the
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Page 86 specific features of engineering when its method is characterized as reductive. When engineers engage a problem, they sharply delimit the number of parameters examined and focus on those that show some promise of enabling them to control the structure or process in question. While engineering shares with science the search for causal understanding, it differs from science in treating that understanding as a means to control rather than as an end itself. Engineers also differ from scientists in what might be called their propensity for conceptual innovation. Whereas scientists are free to develop new concepts as necessary, while deferring until later questions about the "reality" of the entities they propose, engineers are much more constrained by the need to ensure that the concepts they use in analysis and explanation refer to physical entities and conditions that can be subjected to human control. If this characterization of the engineering method is correct, then this method powerfully influences the determination of which problems are to be considered engineering problems, as well as how those problems are to be analyzed and resolved. While the above description of the engineering method helps spell out some of the ideas associated with this concept, it remains quite abstract and certainly does not provide a sufficient account of the nature of engineering. Even at the level of method, this generally conceived view of the subject omits all the detail that informs the methods actually used by practicing engineers. It also says nothing about the substantive knowledge that engineers utilize when analyzing and solving problems. As Edward Constant has pointed out, the knowledge engineers find useful can range from the most abstract and general scientific knowledge (one thinks of the Euclidean geometry employed by the Italian fortress builders) to the most specific and context-dependent knowledge acquired by experience (such as the knowledge possessed by the stonecutters who built fortress walls). Engineers spend a great deal of their time acquiring, evaluating, and applying knowledge, whatever its source. In principle they are omnivorous and opportunistic, taking and using information from any source that is able to provide it. In practice, of course, they have developed a variety of means for collecting and screening the flood of information that would otherwise inundate them. Indeed, successful engineers realize there is always a danger that useful channels of information will be closed off, as occurs when the well-known "not invented here" mentality becomes dominant. To understand how engineers function, one therefore must pay attention to the knowledge resources they draw on as well as the methods they employ.
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Page 87 The image of the engineer as an applier of scientific knowledge is in reality dated and quite inappropriate as a characterization of contemporary practice. In the nineteenth century it was thought that the relationships of science, engineering, and society could be captured in a rather simple formula, a crass but representative version of which served as the motto for the Century of Progress World's Fair held in Chicago in 1933: Science Finds, Industry Applies, Man Conforms. But this invocation of a well-worn slogan was at least a generation out of date, for with the rise of the science-based industries at the end of the nineteenth century, most notably the chemical and electrical industries, the relationship between science and engineering became much more complex than it had been. Rather than simply applying the discoveries of science, engineers increasingly had to design and carry out research programs of their own to generate the knowledge of substances and processes that they needed to solve the problems they faced. In the twentieth century, science and technology relate more through interpenetration than through sequential application, but we have not yet developed an understanding of this relationship that will allow us finally to dispense with the slogan that our predecessors found so uplifting. The realization that in the future engineers would have to generate much of the knowledge they would need naturally brought about a far-ranging examination of the ways in which young men were trained for careers in engineering. The focus of this particular debate has been the issue of creativity. As Michal McMahon has noted, throughout the twentieth century prominent engineering educators have been particularly concerned about sustaining the leading edge or creative sector of engineering. This concern has occupied a central place in the many reports they have produced and remains an issue today. What is creative engineering? The human capacity to be creative is certainly not something that is entirely the product of formal education, although it can be encouraged or discouraged by the attitudes of teachers and the ideologies of institutions. Thus, within engineering the issue of creativity becomes one of determining what sorts of engineering activities are considered to be of greatest importance and what means are most likely to promote their pursuit. Given the diversity within engineering as a whole, there is no reason to think that any single set of goals or activities will command general assent as being of preeminent importance. And since the word "creative" is a term of high praise in our culture, every active engineer will seek to characterize his work toward the goals he seeks to realize as creative. But we
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Page 88 should not avoid the debate over creativity in engineering just because it has a strong tendency to evoke self-serving rhetoric. The issue is too important to ignore, especially because it leads directly into an examination of some of the most important disagreements over values within engineering. In the present century the debate among engineering educators over creativity has pivoted on the issue of how much and what kind of instruction in scientific subjects should be required of engineering students. Rather than dividing over whether or not engineering students should study science extensively, for all parties agreed they should, the participants in this debate have differed on whether the values of science, and the kinds of knowledge produced under their guidance, are appropriate and fruitful values for engineering. Dugald Jackson, who developed the first cooperative training program in 1907 while serving as head of the electrical engineering department at MIT, believed that the primary responsibility of engineering educators was to prepare their students to serve industry and advance to managerial positions. A thorough grounding in science was needed, but Jackson did not believe that the disinterested and noncommercial values of science were appropriate for engineering and he valued managerial effectiveness over technical creativity. Charles Steinmetz, the legendary General Electric research engineer and a founder and president of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, opposed Jackson's philosophy of engineering education. He believed the success of modern engineering was a consequence of the progress of empirical science and he was appalled by the degree to which engineering schools continued to stress the acquisition of information rather than the mastery of modern methods of scientific investigation. He argued that while in college, engineering students should study the scientific foundations of engineering and the humanities, leaving until their entry into industry such training in technical practice as they might need. For Steinmetz, the promotion of creativity was the proper goal of education and for engineers the study of basic science was its means. A generation after Jackson and Steinmetz debated the issue of creativity, William Wickenden again raised Steinmetz's banner in his justly famous 1929 report on engineering education. As McMahon reports, Wickenden concluded that the engineering colleges were so burdened by having to train legions of engineers for the ordinary supervisory and commercial needs of industry that they were largely unfit to train students for the research activities that are also a vital part of engineering. A quarter century after Wickenden's report, Frederick Terman, reflecting on his wartime service as head of the Radar Countermeasures
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Page 89 Laboratory of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, again raised the question Steinmetz had addressed. An engineer himself, Terman concluded that the war had demonstrated the inadequacy of the training engineers received, since most of the major advances in electronics had been made by physicists. Unlike the engineers, the physicists had mastered the basic fundamentals of science while acquiring their advanced degrees, and they were quickly converted into extremely good engineers. The engineers he worked with, while they had functioned extremely well in some capacities, had shown little creativity. Reflecting on the engineering method, the relationship between science and engineering and the role of creativity in engineering help clarify certain aspects of the overall enterprise called engineering. But consideration of these issues also reveals that no one of them, nor even all of them taken together, provides a basis for a comprehensive understanding of the nature of engineering. Being an engineer involves the use of certain methods and the utilization of certain kinds of knowledge, but it also involves forms of professional association and social practice that cannot be seen as simply derived from its knowledge base. It is to the examination of these other aspects of engineering that we must now turn. Engineering as a Profession Engineers have long aspired to the dignity associated with being professional and there can be no doubt that today engineering is one of the largest and most prominent of the professions. What is in doubt is exactly how one should characterize the profession of engineering. One approach is to measure it against the standards of independence, collegiality, and ethical concern that have long been the guiding principles of the older professions of the ministry, the law, and medicine. Another approach is to describe carefully the actual concerns and practices of professional engineers and take these as defining. In fact, both the normative and descriptive approaches are needed, for the powerful urge to professionalize engineering has been motivated both by a desire to elevate the status of the engineer within the larger society and by a commitment to serve the functional needs of engineers as their numbers and specializations have multiplied. These two motivations have created a vitalizing tension within the profession of engineering, a tension that was evident when the first engineering societies were founded and is still present in the profession today. James Brittain has suggested that one way to step back from the
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Page 122 power system is not supported by the evidence of history. If the fluctuations of the system were predictable, these specialty subsystems well might establish an internal equilibrium, for they are strongly inclined in this direction. But in fact the demand for engineers, both in the aggregate and within separate specialties, is affected by so many factors, and the lag time involved in recruiting and training new specialists is so long, that in times of crises a considerable cross-flow between specialties is evident even in mature fields. For instance, in the area of petroleum engineering the 1973 oil embargo, an event that certainly evaded prediction, created a decade-long sharp increase in the demand for petroleum engineers. While this heightened demand led to increased enrollments in degree programs in petroleum engineering, it was satisfied in the short run primarily by an influx of engineers who moved into petroleum engineering from related areas in science and technology. The resilience of the overall engineering manpower system was again demonstrated, and it seems reasonable to attribute that resilience at least in part to the openness of the specialty subsystems of which it is composed. Alex Roland has drawn similar conclusions from his study of NASA's Apollo program. Driven by a fear of military vulnerability and a desire to demonstrate national power, the lunar-landing program involved engineering on a national scale and threatened to create intense stresses in the engineering manpower system. This threat was relieved in part by certain organizational choices made within NASA. Rather than developing the Apollo program on the Army arsenal model, in which almost all the engineering work is done in-house, NASA adopted the Air Force contracting system and consistently spent 90 to 95 percent of its budget on contracts with industrial suppliers of products and services. Having made this choice, NASA then hired a cadre of its own engineers to plan, supervise, and coordinate its contracts and operations. The engineers hired by NASA came from a variety of specialties, again illustrating the predominance of cross-flow in periods of high demand, and many of its engineers and managers were detailed to NASA from the military services. As a result, NASA never suffered from a shortage of qualified engineers. Although Roland has not studied the flow of engineering manpower in the corporations that contracted with NASA, his impression, shared by others familiar with this story, is that there, too, cross-flow between specialties was the key to meeting the sudden increase in demand for aerospace engineers. The sudden expansion of NASA associated with the Apollo program was followed by an equally unanticipated sudden decline. NASA managers, seduced by the technical sweetness of the devices they were
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Page 123 creating and lulled into believing there was a boundless national commitment to the exploration of space, planned for continued high levels of growth within the agency, but as early as 1963, long before the first lunar landing in 1969, political support for post-Apollo projects had begun to wane. Since 1965 NASA's budget has been steadily declining and it is now less than the military space budget. While this retreat from the space frontier has received a great deal of highly charged publicity, it appears that during the period of decline the engineers in NASA and in the corporations with which it has contracted have either successfully returned to the jobs they held before the Apollo program or have taken the experience they gained while on that project and applied it elsewhere. Thus while both the expansion and contraction of the Apollo program had the potential for creating a crisis in the engineering manpower system, that system in fact exhibited a surprising degree of resilience in responding to the stresses placed upon it. The realization that the engineering manpower system possesses a high degree of resilience has important implications for engineering education. Because we are incapable of predicting with a useful degree of accuracy future shifts in the demand for engineers, and because the response times of universities are so slow in comparison with those of the marketplace for engineering labor, attempts to tie the content of engineering education closely to the needs of industry have been of little use in anticipating or responding to short-term stresses in the engineering manpower system. Indeed, attempts to forge a tight link between engineering curricula and specific employment opportunities have probably done more harm than good from the point of view of individual flexibility and the resilience of the system, for they have emphasized specialization at an early stage of education and have thereby reduced the breadth of understanding that in fact facilitates movement between specialties. The character of the engineering research carried on in universities appears to have a considerable bearing on the flexibility of the engineers trained within them. The most effective link between college- and university-based engineers and the markets served by engineers appears to lie in the realm of research. While it is relatively easy to insure that research and development activities carried on within a corporation are market responsive, such is not the case in universities. When given the choice, university-based engineers, like their counterparts in science, are more apt to pursue technically sweet projects than those that are primarily of economic value, and this preference can powerfully influence the values of those studying in such institutions. But since practically all university research in science and engineering
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Page 124 now requires some form of outside sponsorship, research on economically useful projects will receive more attention when the number of technically sweet projects is limited. Such is the case at present, and there is reason to think that the next generation of engineers will be somewhat more attuned to the marketplace than the generation that received their degrees during the decades in which government projects dominated university-based research. Charles Schaffner made this point most emphatically when he said: The engineering curricula of today, the products of the engineering schools, the growth of the faculty and of faculty types, and the directions and everything that was created following World War II, all stem directly from federal government decisions in terms of first, defense, and second, NASA. These programs drenched the engineering schools with research money and pushed them in a direction that had nothing to do, in essence, with the business of the citizenry other than its defense. Eugene Merchant has concurred with this assessment, saying that "the Apollo program really finished off what the heavy Department of Defense support for research in universities started, namely, turning university engineering research and education away from an orientation towards civilian industry." One consequence of this emphasis, as Aaron Gellman has pointed out, was to decouple the very concept of engineering from normal markets. But as Gellman has also noted, times have changed and now all engineers, including those located in universities, must pay much more attention to the appropriability of their research, for that is what will determine its value in the current market for technological innovation. Engineering in Society Engineering is a go-ahead profession, much more given to problem solving than self-reflection. And yet, as the contexts within which engineers operate become more complex and as the interactions between society and engineering become more intricate and constraining, it becomes increasingly important that engineers have a clear understanding of their profession and the ways in which it is connected to the larger society of which it is a part. In an earlier era, when the practice of engineering was largely an autonomous activity, one could afford to defer such reflections until retirement or bash them out on short notice when called upon to address an audience eager to celebrate the achievements of the profession. But today the absence of a carefully
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Page 125 documented and fully reasoned justification for positions taken creates a vulnerability that may result in real harm, especially in the competition for good students and research support, and at the very least reflects badly on the profession. This is both unfortunate and unnecessary, for the case for the importance of engineering, when well presented, is quite compelling. The critical examination and reconceptualization of one's collective identity is a demanding task, one that only those who believe in themselves can successfully complete. But engineers are particularly well situated in this regard, for what other profession is of comparable importance in contemporary society? What is called for then is not a defense of the legitimacy of engineering, and certainly not a public-relations style puffing of its achievements, but rather a patient, evidentially grounded examination of the ways in which engineering functions in contemporary society. The key here is to see engineering as a distinct activity in society, not as an autonomous enterprise that on occasion acknowledges its tenuous connections to society. In recent years the profession of medicine has been subjected to a detailed and sometimes painful demythologizing, one consequence being that today it is widely recognized that medicine is a technical enterprise conducted under strong social constraints and having important social consequences. Engineering is in many ways like medicine, and while it may be able to avoid the more extreme forms of criticism that have been directed at physicians and their organizations, it will in time come to be understood primarily in terms of its functional role in society. Humanists and social scientists who study technology and engineering have already made a beginning in this direction, but to date their efforts have had little impact within engineering itself. In any case, primary responsibility for this effort must remain with the engineers, for it is their self-perception and public image that are at stake. The dangers of leaving the public interpretation of engineering entirely to others is nicely illustrated by the relationship between the contemporary aesthetic doctrine of postmodernism and engineering, a relationship that Thomas Hughes has reflected on at some length. Postmodernism is a reaction to the twentieth-century cultural style called modernism, a style that since its formulation early in the twentieth century has profoundly influenced all aspects of design from the sculpting of furniture to the planning of cities. The early modernists seized on what they took to be the defining feature of engineering, namely, its efficient use of materials and energy, and declared this to be the fundamental principle of modern aesthetics as well. Modernist
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Page 126 architects insisted that less is more, that is to say that beautiful objects are made with a minimum of material and a simplicity of design, and that form follows function. Engineers could not help but find such a doctrine appealing, for it not only honors design values central to engineering, it elevates those values to the level of high art. Indeed, what could be more flattering to engineers than to have designers, and especially architects, treat them not merely as producers of goods but rather as creators of profoundly humane and beautiful objects. They thus had little reason to criticize the public identification of modernism and engineering, even though if pressed most engineers would have admitted that the doctrines of modernism focus on only one aspect of their profession. Postmodernists, as Hughes points out, stand in complete opposition to what they consider the sterility of modernism. Unwilling to accept what they see as the diminishing constraints of the modernist movement, the postmodernists. reject the primacy of material efficiency in favor of a more varied and accommodating aesthetic. Robert Venturi, the earliest and most articulate of the postmodernists, asserts that ''less is not more, less is a bore.'' He rejects the image of the architect-engineer as a heroic builder and dismisses Le Corbusier's proposal for leveling Paris to clear the ground for a new Cartesian city by saying that architecture "must embody the difficult unity of inclusion rather than the easy unity of exclusion." Instead of geometric fortresses unencumbered by suburbs, Venturi favors "messy vitality." Why should engineers be concerned with this debate? At the very least they should be aware that many people outside their profession, and especially those concerned with questions of design, creativity and art, see the modernist/postmodernist debate as, among other things, an examination of the place of engineering in modern society. In this debate the modernists have been allowed to define what engineering is and, as we have seen, their definition is at best a partial one. It ignores the vital linkage between engineering values and market values that has been characteristic of engineering practice throughout this century. Had this linkage been recognized, the "postmodernist" automobiles created by Sloan's designers to realize the strategy of the annual model change would be seen to be just as much a product of modern engineering as was Ford's Model T. As things now stand, however, the postmodernists see no reason not to accept the modernist's identification of their doctrines with the essence of engineering, and engineers feel they have been treated unfairly when told they don't know how to deal with messy vitality. If they wish to prevent such misrepresentations and
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Page 127 misunderstandings in the future, engineers ought to be more attentive to the ways in which their profession is presented to the public at large. What it means to be a professional engineer also needs to be reconceptualized. Living as we do in the age of mass professionalism, in which nearly every occupation has been transformed, at least in name, into a profession, simply asserting that one is a professional is not very informative. Being a professional no longer entails sharing a common culture, since today cultural preferences and practices are largely matters of personal choice. Nor does it signify, in any discriminating sense, being educated, for today nearly half those of college age are enrolled in degree programs of one sort or another. Had professional societies been more vigorous in exercising self-discipline, the concept of professional behavior might be more meaningful than it is today, but such has not been the case. And had colleges and universities been as concerned with the economic health of the professions as they have been with their own expansion, we might be able to say that a professional is someone who enjoys the advantages associated with limited access to privileged status. The compromising of these older meanings of the concept of profession does not, of course, render meaningless the engineer's striving for professionalism. But the nature of the goal sought needs to be redefined in ways that are informative both to engineers and to those who worry about how the profession of engineering serves society at large. The ultimate goal of all such reconceptualizations is to develop within the community of engineers an increased ability to perceive, describe, and manage the diversity of modern engineering and the ways it changes in time. Engineering is a dynamic enterprise, both internally and in its relations with other aspects of society. As new specialties emerge, new attitudes toward work and management appear, new techniques of design and production are developed, and new expectations gain in importance, engineers need to be able to understand the forces that bring about these changes and the ways in which they can be integrated into existing patterns of thought and behavior. By knowing themselves better, engineers will be better able to serve their profession and its larger purposes successfully.
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Page 128 Conclusions and Recommendations The Resilience of the Engineering Manpower System Conclusions 1. Examination of previous crises in the engineering manpower system suggests that it has responded adequately and that calls for a radical expansion or reconstruction of existing arrangements for educating engineers cannot be justified by appeals to past experience. 2. Engineers have in the aggregate adapted rapidly and successfully to sudden changes in the demand for particular engineering specialties. Their ability to do so is directly dependent upon their mastery of the fundamentals of design and their knowledge of the underlying mathematics and science. Recommendations 1. The technical/scientific content of the undergraduate engineering curriculum should emphasize science, mathematics, and engineering design. Technical courses focusing on problems associated with particular engineering specialties should occupy a secondary position in all engineering curricula. 2. When introducing new technologies that render obsolete the knowledge and skills of engineers already employed, companies have an obligation to provide these engineers with educational opportunities that will enable them to remain productive. The continuing education programs offered by many colleges and universities may be helpful in this regard. The Conceptualization and Presentation of Engineering Conclusions 1. The ways in which engineering is presented to and understood by the general public is a matter of vital concern to engineers. 2. The nature of engineering can only be understood in a comprehensive manner if its many links to other sectors of society are described and analyzed in a detailed and careful way.
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Page 129 Recommendations 1. The social/humanistic component of the engineering curriculum should concentrate on issues and subjects of direct concern to engineers and interpret them by using the insights and analytic techniques of the social sciences and humanities. Courses such as the History of Technology, Ethics for Engineers, and Engineering and Public Policy offer valuable means for ensuring that engineering students will gain some understanding of the complex contexts of contemporary engineering. 2. Engineers, with the help of historians, philosophers, and other humanists and social scientists, should organize and encourage scholarly studies and public presentations designed to explicate the nature of engineering in all its many different forms. Studies of the interactions between engineering and other sectors of modern society and culture should be especially encouraged. Acknowledgments This report is an attempt to weave together and draw appropriate lessons from the historical papers and comments presented at a three-day conference sponsored by the National Research Council. The author is grateful to all those who prepared the thematic and case studies that occasioned lively discussion at the conference and provide the substantive content of this report. While the report draws heavily upon the proceedings of the conference, it does not attempt to provide an exact summary of what took place at that meeting, and the conference participants are in no way responsible for either the general conclusions and recommendations of this report or such errors as have been introduced during its preparation. The author is also extremely grateful to those individuals who took the trouble to review an earlier draft of this report, and especially to Melvin Kranzberg, Samuel Florman, Courtland Lewis, and Edwin Layton. Their constructive suggestions have improved the report at many points, while such errors and misjudgments as it still contains remain solely the responsibility of the author. Finally, the author would like to thank the staff and members of the Committee on the Education and Utilization of the Engineer, and especially George Ansell, for giving him the opportunity to participate in and contribute to their activities. It has been a valuable and much appreciated experience, and a most unusual one for an historian.
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Page 130 Participants, Conference on Engineering Interactions With Society Presenters James E. Brittain, School of Social Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology, "Engineering in Industrial Research and Development" P. Thomas Carroll, Division of Science and Technology Studies, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, "Orphaned Innovations: The Development of Large-Scale Solid Rocket Boosters at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory" Edward W. Constant II, Department of History, Carnegie Mellon University, "Technological Knowledge about Engineering Manpower: Some Preliminary Considerations" Eugene Ferguson, University of Delaware and Hagley Museum, Panelist Samuel Florman, Kreisler, Borg, Florman Construction Company, New York, Panelist Robert Friedel, IEEE Center for the History of Electrical Engineering, "Engineers and the Micro Revolution: The Emergence and Impact of Solid-State Electronics" James Hansen, Historian for NASA, Langley Research Center, "The Revolt against Max Munk at Langley Aeronautical Laboratory: A Case Study of the Fate of an Eccentric in an American Engineering Community" David A. Hounshell, Curator of Technology, Hagley Museum, and Department of History, University of Delaware, "Redesigning Production Engineering: Mass Production and the Model Change" Thomas P. Hughes, Department of History and Sociology of Science, Technology and Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Panelist Melvin Kranzberg, Callaway Professor of the History of Technology, Georgia Institute of Technology, "Engineering Education and Sociotechnical Needs: Reaction and Interaction" Larry Lankton, Department of Science, Technology and Society, Michigan Technological University, "The Social Side of Early American Engineering" Stuart W. Leslie, Mellon Scholar in the History of Science, Johns Hopkins University, "Industrial Research and Product Development at General Motors"
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Representative terms from entire chapter:
Page 131 Michal McMahon, Historical Consultant and Department of Humanities and Communication, Drexel University, "Engineering Education as 'Best Practice': Historical Reflections on the Crisis" Nathan Reingold, Editor, Joseph Henry Papers, Smithsonian Institution, "Vannevar Bush, Applied Mathematics, and the Nature of Engineering" Martin Reuss, Civil Works Historian, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, "Politics, Technology and the Development of Hydraulic Engineering: The Influence of Andrew A. Humphreys" Alex Roland, Department of History, Duke University, "The Race to the Moon: The Experience at NASA" Jeffrey L. Sturchio, Department of Humanities, New Jersey Institute of Technology, "Crisis in Industrial Chemistry: Synthetic Organic Chemicals and World War I" Neil Wasserman, Research Associate, Harvard Business School, "The Development of an Engineering Organization at AT&T" Committee Members* George S. Ansell, Dean of Engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Chairman, Panel on Engineering Interactions With Society Jordan J. Baruch, President, Baruch Associates, Washington, D.C. Erich Bloch, Vice-President, Technical Personnel Development, IBM Corporation Dennis Chamot, Assistant Director, Department of Professional Employees, AFL-CIO Aaron J. Gellman, President, Gellman Research Associates, Inc., Johnstown, Pa. Helen Gouldner, Professor of Sociology and Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, University of Delaware Jerrier A. Haddad, Chairman and Study Director, Committee on the Education and Utilization of the Engineer Lawrence M. Mead, Jr., Senior Management Consultant, Grumman Aerospace Corporation M. Eugene Merchant, Principal Scientist, Manufacturing Research, Cincinnati Milacron, Inc. Robert M. Saunders, Acting Dean, School of Engineering, University of California, Irvine *Titles and affiliations are as of the time of the conference.
Page 132 Charles E. Schaffner, Executive Vice-President, Syska and Hennessey, New York, N.Y. Judith A. Schwan, Assistant Director, Research Laboratories, Eastman Kodak, Inc. Donald G. Weinert, Executive Director, National Society of Professional Engineers Other Arthur L. Donovan, Director, Center for the Study of Science in Society, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Conference Chairman and Rapporteur Gary L. Downey, Assistant Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Center for the Study of Science in Society, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Lewis G. (Pete) Mayfield, Head, Office of Interdisciplinary Research, National Science Foundation William H. Michael, Jr., Executive Director, Committee on the Education and Utilization of the Engineer Vernon H. Miles, Assistant Director, Committee on the Education and Utilization of the Engineer Herbert H. Richardson, Head, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Steve Tucker, Program Manager, Edison Engineering Program, General Electric
OCR for page 132
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