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Suggested Citation:"Introduction." National Academy of Engineering. 1989. Engineering and the Advancement of Human Welfare: 10 Outstanding Achievements 1964-1989. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1469.
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Suggested Citation:"Introduction." National Academy of Engineering. 1989. Engineering and the Advancement of Human Welfare: 10 Outstanding Achievements 1964-1989. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1469.
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l~duchon The years 1964 to 1989, the first 25 years of the National Academy of Engineering, have witnessed more advancement in technology arid, consequently, greater change in the lives of people than any previous 25-year period in recorded history. As part of its anniversary celebration, the Academy has selected what it considers to be the 10 outstanding engi- neering achievements that have reached the public since the Academy's founding on December 5, 1964. Each represents a major advance or breakthrough in engineering and a significant contribution to human welfare. This brochure presents each of the 10 achievements in a separate story, where we share with you some of the engineering I challenge, insight, and excitement that attended the achievements. In doing so, we hope also to convey a better understanding of what engineering does and how it has contributed to human welfare over the past quarter century by improving our lives, extending our possibilities, and expanding . our norlzons. Members of the Academy and represen- tatives of several professional engineering societies submitted suggestions of outstand- j ing engineering achievements. More than 340 suggestions were reviewed by the NAE Advisory Committee on the 25th Anniver- sary Celebration. The Council of the Acade- my approved the top 10. No such list can encompass all the technological advances important to society; many other engineering accomplishments nearly made our list. The Indus Basin Scheme and its Tarbela Dam, for instance, bring flood relief and stable water supply to millions in Pakistan. The entirely new cities of Jubail and Yanbu ports at either end of the crude-oil pipeline across Saudi Arabia 2 gave modern living conveniences to tens of thousands of people in the desert. The Alaska pipeline, deepwater oil platforms, and drilling technologies help supply much of our energy need. Auto emission control systems, including the catalytic converter, and processes for vitrifying hazardous waste sealing them in glass for long-term storage provide additional protection for our environment. Artificial hearts, cardiac pacemakers, and orthopedic implants give new life to thousands of people. The top 10 achievements are presented here in nearly chronological order. In some cases we have grouped related achieve- ments. For instance, lasers stimulated the development of fiber-optic communication, so we placed them together. And we chose to lead the list with the moon landing, which is truly one of the outstanding engineering achievements of all time. The most striking aspect of these 10 diverse achievements is how closely they are tied together. The microprocessor, which has probably had the widest impact of all, has contributed to the development of today's application satellites, the CAT scan, computer- aided design and manufacturing, as well as genetically engineered products. Modern jumbo jets benefit from microprocessors, computer-aided design and manufacturing, lasers, fiber-optic communication, advanced composite materials, and application I satellites. In turn, many of these achieve ments are closely tied to earlier, sometimes seemingly unrelated advances in the basic sciences, including mathematics. It is also striking how widely and deeply these engineering advances have affected our daily lives. Weather satellites, which have been routinely used only since 1966, generate the satellite pictures seen on almost every television weather report. The micro- processor, invented in 1971, operates toys, televisions, videocassette recorders, ~ E N G ~ N E E R ~ ~ G ~ N D T ~ E A D VA N C E M E N ~ O F ~ U M A N W E ~ FA R E

microwave ovens, and burglar alarms in probably the majority of U.S. homes. Advanced composites, which first appeared in commercial products in 1973, are now used by most people who golf, ski, or play tennis. And every telephone call of any distance is undoubtedly carried on beams of laser light flashed through fiber-optic cable, a service that has been commercially available only since 1977. Because some engineering achievements are often viewed as sources of environmental degradation, it is important to note the beneficial effects many of these 10 have had on the environment. For example, the famous pictures of the earth taken by Apollo astronauts on their moon flights vividly I show us how delicate and small our planet is compared with the forbidding immensity of space. Photos from Landsat and other earth- observation satellites for the first time have given us a good look at our fragile global environment, pinpointing areas needing I help. And microprocessors, by improving the efficiency of everything from cars to power plants, help conserve scarce natural resources and greatly reduce the amount of pollutants released into the environment. The next 25 years will witness even more advances in technology, bringing ever- greater changes to our way of life. It is therefore important, if we are to ensure the wise use of technology, that all of us- engineers and nonengineers alike understand the nature of engineering and how it can be used to benefit us individually and as a society. Finally, it is obvious that many more fascinating challenges for engineers lie in the future. We've built CAT scans and other wonderful machines that peer into the unopened human body, but can we develop devices and techniques that perform a total chemical analysis of the body without breaking the skin? We've used microproces- sors to make soda machines talk, but can we use them to make computers really think before they speak? And yes, we have been to the moon, but what about going to Mars? The engineering achievements of the future are limited only by the laws of nature and . . . Our own ~mag~nahon. ~ 7~ ~,0:,,, ROBERT M. WHITE President I N T R O ~ ~ C T I O ~ ;' l 3

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This popularly written booklet contains nontechnical descriptions of 10 major engineering achievements selected by the National Academy of Engineering on the occasion of its 25th anniversary, December 5, 1989. The achievements are the moon landing, application satellites, the microprocessor, computer-aided design and manufacturing, computer-assisted tomography, advanced composite materials, the jumbo jet, lasers, fiber-optic communication, and genetically engineered products.

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