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Add your own idea of what constitutes the 'Essence of Engineering'


AJ readers are encouraged to continue the discussion and nominate what they deem to be the ‘essence of engineering’

The Essence of Engineering supplement highlighted some of the key ideas, innovations and structures AJ readers believed constituted good engineering, here we encourage you to put forward your own ideas.

An exhibition of the work in this booklet runs from 20 July to 17 August at the Building Centre, London WC1. The best new submissions made to the AJ will also be displayed onscreen as part of the exhibition.


Readers' comments (11)

Add your own idea of what constitutes the 'Essence of Engineering'

  • Attending the 'Essence of Engineering' evening at the Building Centre was delightful. Very interesting ideas put forward.

    I'd like to think of canal locks as being one of the most vital parts of engineering, particularly as they're the back bone of Britain, enabling the industrial revolution.

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  • xI think it is always worthwhile to take some time to reflect on what it means to be an engineer even if the answer is always a little ethereal.

    Robert Myers comment below on ‘elegant efficiency’—

    “In all cases the best engineering demonstrates what Robert Myers called an ‘elegant efficiency’. It should appear an effortless and obvious result of the materials and the need that it addresses. The engineer must devise ways of solving problems with clarity and ease, always thinking of the practical reality of how things will be made.”

    Reminds me of something Dr. Leonard Shlain said in his book Art and Physics:

    “The craft (in Dr. Shlain’s case a surgeon) demands a finely honed sense of aesthetics: A maxim of the profession is if an operation does not “look” beautiful it most likely will not function beautifully.”

    One definition of engineering is: “Engineering is the application of scientific and artistic knowledge to bring about functional form.” We are human beings first and engineers second and it takes a whole person to make successful contributions to society.

    the follow illustrates this point:

    The Engineer

    I stopped
    searching for
    my father
    in my employer.

    I stopped trying
    to discover
    all the mysteries
    of the universe
    in a project.

    I came to know
    as a man
    rather than
    as my

    Now my
    is over.

    David Perrings, PE

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  • I nomainte the internal combustion engine.
    James Boyer-Smith

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  • The microchip? It has been the basis of so many of our current technologies. We'd be lost without it!
    Anna Hunt

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  • Screws and nails?
    Rose Jenner

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  • The living bridges in India, amazing human manipulation of nature to engineer passage without any man made materials.

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  • The Watts Governor. The key to good engineering is devising a solution that looks good, where the concept that is simple to understand, and that lasts the test of time. The Watts Governor is attached to the output of an engine. As its speed increases the balls are forced outwards under centripetal acceleration and this lifts the arm that closes the valve controlling the steam into the pistons. Less steam means less force from the pistons and the shaft slows down. Conversely if the engine slows down too much the balls can close inwards opening the valves to allow more steam to pass.

    It was in use for well over 100 years. It was one of the first integrating control systems and was common place on most moving devices. It allowed the ouputs of machines to be regulated, which enabled them to be used more easily to create machines that could reliably drive the industrial revolution. It is such an iconic shape classically associated with engines of the industrial revoltion.
    John Harrison, Price & Myers

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  • Not necesarily the 'essence' of but I'd say the most important invention for the development of engineering (and architecture) would be the cmaera. Its helped spread ideas across continents and generations.
    Alex Harper

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  • The Eiffel Tower.
    Ben Ryder

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  • Nuclear Fission.
    Not saying its a good thing and we could certainly live without it but if you're talking about the 'essence' then that is what comes to my mind.
    A Boyarty

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