15 Great Thoughts on Engineering

From queens and presidents to engineers and CEOs, we present great thoughts on engineering.
  • Engineers tend not to be an introspective bunch. They may argue for hours about what constitutes good software code, but a discussion about their role in society is likely to be brief.

    Still, engineers occasionally step outside their stoic circles to provide a few deep thoughts on their profession’s place in the cosmos. And if they don’t, the outside world is always happy to step in and give its opinion.

    Here, we’ve collected a few of those insights. From queens and presidents to engineers and CEOs, we present thoughts on engineering, from inside and out.

  • “At its heart, engineering is about using science to find creative, practical solutions. It is a noble profession.” -- Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand since 1952

    (Image source: Wikimedia Commons, by Joel Rouse/ Ministry of Defence)

  • “Because we have a society that is by and large illiterate in these areas – science, math and engineering – what we do is a mystery to them, and they find it scary. And because of that, it creates easy opportunities for opponents of development, activist organizations, to manufacturer fear.” -- Rex Tillerson, 69th US Secretary of State and former civil engineer

    (Image source: US State Dept.)

  • “To make an embarrassing admission, I like video games. That’s what got me into software engineering when I was a kid. I wanted to make money so I could buy a better computer to play better video games – nothing like saving the world.” -- Elon Musk, CEO, Tesla, Inc.; CEO, founder SpaceX; CEO, Neuralink

    (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

  • “With engineering, I view this year’s failure as next year’s opportunity to try it again. Failures are not something to be avoided. You want to have them happen as quickly as you can, so you can make progress rapidly.” -- Gordon Moore (at left in photo), co-founder and chairman emeritus of Intel Corp.

    (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

  • “Relying on nothing but scientific knowledge to produce an engineering solution is to invite frustration at best and failure at worst.” -- Henry Petroski, professor of civil engineering and history at Duke University, author of “To Engineer Is Human”

    (Image source: Wikipedia)

  • “Software is a great combination between artistry and engineering.” -- Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft Corp.

    (Image source: Wikipedia, By DFID - UK Department for International Development)

  • “Leonardo da Vinci combined art and science and aesthetics and engineering. That kind of unity is needed once again.” -- Ben Shneiderman, professor of computer science at the University of Maryland, author of “Designing the User Interface: Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interaction”

    (Image source: Wikimedia Commons, By Robert Kosara)

  • “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.” -- Herbert Hoover, 31st President of the United States, mining engineer

    (Image source: Wikipedia)

  • “Millions of people were inspired by the Apollo program. I was five years old when I watched Apollo 11 unfold on television, and without any doubt it was a big contributor to my passions for science, engineering, and exploration.” -- Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com, electrical engineer

    (Image source: Wikipedia)

  • “Find something that you love to do, and find a place that you really like to do it in. I found something I loved to do. I’m a mechanical engineer by training, and I loved it. I still do. My son is a nuclear engineer at MIT, a junior, and I get the same vibe from him. Your work has to be compelling. You spend a lot of time doing it.” -- Ursula Burns, chairwoman and former CEO of Xerox Corp.

    (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

  • “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. There are no prima donnas in engineering.” -- Freeman Dyson, theoretical physicist and mathematician, professor emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study

    (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

  • “There’s a fundamental problem with how the software business does things. We’re asking people who are masters of hard-edged technology to design the soft, human side of software as well. As a result, they make products that are really cool – if you happen to be a software engineer.” -- Alan Cooper, software designer and programmer, recognized as the “Father of Visual Basic” (Image source: Wikimedia Commons, by cherylish)

  • “As an engineer, I’m constantly spotting problems and plotting how to solve them.” -- Sir James Dyson, industrial designer, founder of the Dyson Co.

    (Image source: Wikimedia Commons, by Royal Society uploader)

  • “Engineering is a jeans and hoodie culture, and sales is more formal.” -- Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube

    (Image source: Wikimedia Commons, by TechCrunch)

  • “My goal wasn’t to make a ton of money. It was to build good computers. I only started the company when I realized I could be an engineer forever.” -- Steve Wozniak, co-founder, Apple, Inc.

    (Imags source: Wikipedia, By Photo taken by Al Luckow)


Also see:

Steve Wozniak: Human Over Technology

15 Engineers Who Became CEOs

10 Vehicles With World-Class Dependability


Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 33 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and autos.


Design News, your slide shows still don't work. Braulio, Just because it is easily fixed on your PC, doesn't mean it will work everywhere. Some of us must deal with corporate firewalls and Windows installations, etc, etc. I have made many attempts to fix this with multiple browsers with no success. There are other systems at other web sites that work just fine. Design News needs to use a system that works more universally.

Not to pile on here, but the slideshow worked fine in Chrome and Firefox. The slideshow is based on a widely used jquery slider called Flexslider (open source, on Github). The code for the page has the usual workarounds for various older versions of Internet Explorer so that might be the problem. Not tested on a Mac yet tho. None of this is to mean that I like the slideshow -- I think the images should have been size-limited and the whole thing is a bit of a waste of bandwidth, content-wise.

I just tried this on Chrome Version 54.0.2840.71 m, IE Version 11.0.9600.18665CO and Firefox Version 53.0.3(32-bit) and Firefox 54.0(32-bit) with AdBlock Plus turned off and none of them work!

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