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Connections, Machines and Instruments: The Essence of Engineering

Here we show some of the less obvious contenders put forward to represent the Essence of Engineering - smaller, perhaps, in scale but enormous in their contributions to human welfare


The essence of engineering in my view has to be some form of joint. The joining of one thing to another has given freedom to man’s ingenuity for millennia and, with the industrial age, has created engineering on an immense scale.

Andrew Scoones
The Building Centre

The Pump

To me the essence of engineering is the pump - all pumps, from the circulation pump used in a British home as part of a heating system keeping a family warm in winter, to the hand pump which provides a community in the developing world with safe drinking water. Often by introducing an engineered solution as simple as a borehole and hand pump a village can gain access to uncontaminated groundwater. So a round of applause for the mighty pump, which improves so many lives.

Patricia Steven
Max Fordham Consulting Engineers

John Harrison’s marine clocks

John Harrison’s clocks might seem a strange or, worse, nostalgic choice to represent engineering in its purest form; they have neither the awesome scale nor presence of great bridges or towers. But they were the western world’s first effective solution to longitudinal navigation, pieces of incredible ingenuity, the fruits of more than 30 years of progressive work, and the product of an uneducated carpenter who was treated abominably by the establishment. The unfathomable complexity and originality of Harrison’s applied systems, the craftsmanship and minute scale of their construction, the visible and visceral action of their mechanics, the broader consequences of his work and the man himself, with all the difficulties through which he succeeded - all represent the essential spirit of engineering.

Jerome Flinders

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