Great Engineering Quotes

A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.
– Douglas Adams –

“The road to success is always under construction”
A bridge is built for us to pass over; it is a work of utility, and which should endure. It should be in keeping with its object, solid, clean, simple, well executed without vain ornament.
– Paul Sejourne –

Aeroplanes are not designed by science, but by art in spite of some pretence and humbug to the contrary. I do not mean to suggest that engineering can do without science, on the contrary, it stands on scientific foundations, but there is a big gap between scientific research and the engineering product which has to be bridged by the art of the engineer.
– Walter G Vincenti –

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
– Freeman Dyson-

A great bridge is a great monument which should serve to make known the splendour and genius of a nation; one should not occupy oneself with efforts to perfect it architecturally, for taste is always susceptible to change, but to conserve always in its form and decoration the character of solidity which is proper.
– Jean Peronnet-

An engineer is someone who is good with figures, but doesn’t have the personality of an accountant.
– An Arts graduate’s view of engineers-

An engineer is someone who washes his hands before going to the toilet.
– Anon-

Another places upon his nose a pair of paper or wooden spectacles; he performs the duty of engineer, comes, goes, makes a plan, looks at the workmen, draws lines, plays the pedant, cries that everything is being ruined, causes the work to be abandoned and resumed at his will, and directs it at great length and as absurdly as possible.this character is termed the geometer, and he does his best to make himself unendurable to those who wield the spade and pickaxe.
– George Sand –

Architects and engineers are among the most fortunate of men since they build their own monuments with public consent, public approval and often public money.
– John Prebble –

A theory may be so rich in descriptive possibilities that it can be made to fit any data.
– Phillip Johnson-Laird –

But even experimental scientists today, despite Einstein and Darwin, seem loath to abandon the search for an eternal changeless unhistorical reality of which pure mathematics could be the model
– Gordon Childe –

Electronic calculators can solve problems which the man who made them cannot solve; but no government subsidised commission of engineers and physicists could create a worm.
– Joseph Wood Krutch

Engineering is the art of modelling materials we do not wholly understand, into shapes we cannot precisely analyse so as to withstand forces we cannot properly assess, in such a way that the public has no reason to suspect the extent of our ignorance.
– Dr AR Dykes –

Engineering problems are under-defined, there are many solutions, good, bad and indifferent. The art is to arrive at a good solution. This is a creative activity, involving imagination, intuition and deliberate choice.
– Ove Arup –

Engineering refers to the practice of organizing the design and construction [and, I would add operation] of any artifice which transforms the physical world around us to meet some recognized need.
– GFC Rogers –

Engineering … to define rudely but not inaptly, is the art of doing that well with one dollar, which any bungler can do with two after a fashion.
– Arthur Mellen Wellington –

Engineers … are not mere technicians and should not approve or lend their name to any project that does not promise to be beneficent to man and the advancement of civilization
– John Fowler –

Engineers … are not superhuman. They make mistakes in their assumptions, in their calculations, in their conclusions. That they make mistakes is forgivable; that they catch them is imperative. Thus it is the essence of modern engineering not only to be able to check one’s own work but also to have one’s work checked and to be able to check the work of others.
– Henry Petroski –

To Engineer Is Human. Engineers Creed

I am an Engineer
I serve mankind
by making dreams come true.
– Anon –

Experience serves not only to confirm theory, but differs from it without disturbing it, it leads to new truths which theory only has not been able to reach.
– Dalembert –

For ’tis the sport to have the engineer
Hoist with his own petar; and’t shall go hard
But I will delve one yard below their mines
And blow them at the moon.
– William Shakespeare –

From the laying out of a line of a tunnel to its final completion, the work may be either a series of experiments made at the expense of the proprietors of the project, or a series of judicious applications of the results of previous experience.
– HS Drinker –

Go for civil engineering, because civil engineering is the branch of engineering which teaches you the most about managing people. Managing people is a skill which is very, very useful and applies almost regardless of what you do.
– Sir John Harvey Jones –

He … insists that no mathematical formula, however exact it may appear to be, can be of greater accuracy than the assumptions on which it is based, and he draws the conclusion that experience still remains the great teacher and final judge.
– James Kip Finch –

He was living like an engineer in a mechanical world. No wonder he had become dry as a stone.
– Simone de Beauvoir –

His father loved him dearly, but his work, that of a civil engineer, had left him with but little time for his family. Energetic, active, and always taken up with some responsible work, he did not spoil his children with excessive tenderness.
– Mme Estafavia –

How could you do anything so vicious?
It was easy my dear, don’t forget I spent two years as a building contractor.
– Priscilla Presley & Ricardo Montalban –

I am an old man now, and when I die and go to Heaven there are two matters on which I hope for enlightement. One is quantum electrodynamics and the other is the turbulent motion of fluids. And about the former I am rather more optimistic.
– Sir Horace Lamb –

[I am] opposed to the laying down of rules or conditions to be observed in the construction of bridges lest the progress of improvement tomorrow might be embarrassed or shackled by recording or registering as law the prejudices or errors of today.
– Isambard Kingdom Brunel –

If a builder builds a house for a man and does not make its construction firm and the house collapses and causes the death of the owner of the house – that builder shall be put to death. If it destroys property, he shall restore whatever it destroyed, and because he did not make the house firm he shall rebuild the house which collapsed at his own expense. If a builder builds a house for a man and does not make its construction meet the requirement and a wall falls – that builder shall strengthen the wall at his own expense.
– The Code of Hammurabi, c. 2250 BC –

Improvement makes strait roads: but the crooked roads without Improvement are roads of Genius.
– William Blake –

I’m the chap who builds motorways through places like Twyford Down and when people complain I say f… off.
– Sam Small –

In my intercourse with mankind, I have always found those who would thrust theory into practical matters to be, at bottom, men of no judgement and pure quacks.
– John Smeaton –

In practical work he can be ingenious with regard to modifying apparatus; he uses engineering rather than imagination.

In free society art is not a weapon…. Artists are not engineers of the soul.
– President John F Kennedy –

I sell here, Sir, what all the world desires to have – power.
– Matthew Boulton (British Engineer) –

It takes an engineer to undertake the training of an engineer and not, as often happens, a theoretical engineer who is clever on a blackboard with mathematical formulae but useless as far as production is concerned.
– The Rev EB Evans –

Let him not be grasping nor have his mind preoccupied with … receiving perquisites, but let him with dignity keep up his position by establishing a good reputation. No work can be rightly done without honesty and incorruptibility.
– Vitruvius –

“Mach 2 travel feels no different.” a passenger commented on an early Concorde flight. “Yes,” Sir George replied. “That was the difficult bit.”
– Sir George Edwards –

Mary, I know what I’m gonna do tomorrow, and the next day, and next year, and the year after that. I’m shakin’ the dust of this crummy little town off my shoes and I’m gonna see the world! … Then I’m gonna come back home and go to college and see what they know, and then I’m gonna build things. I’m gonna build airfields, I’m gonna build skyscrapers a hundred storeys high, I’m gonna build bridges a mile long!
– James Stewart –

Men build bridges and throw railroads across deserts, and yet they contend successfully that the job of sewing on a button is beyond them. Accordingly, they don’t have to sew buttons.
– Heywood Broun –

No greater care is required upon any works than upon such as are to withstand the action of water; for this reason, all parts of the work need to be done exactly according to the rules of the art which all workmen know, but few observe.
– Sextus Julius Frontinus –

Nor aught availed him now
To have built in heaven high towers; nor did he scape
By all his engines, but was headlong sent
With his industrious crew to build in hell.
– John Milton –

Nothing can be of great worth or holy which is the work of builders and mechanics.
– Zeno, Stoic Philosopher –

Nothing is so inspiring as seeing big works well laid out and planned and a real engineering organisation.
– Frederick Handley Page –

No village or man shall be forced to build bridges at river banks, except those who ought to do so by custom and law.

Oh! Ill fated bridge of the Silv’ry Tay,
I must now conclude my lay,
By telling the world fearlessly and without the least dismay,
That your central girders would not have given way,
At least many sensible men do say,
Had they been supported on each side with buttresses,
At least many sensible men confesses,
For the stronger we our houses do build,
The less the chance of us being killed.
– William McGonagall –

One has to watch out for engineers – they begin with the sewing machine and end up with the atomic bomb.
– Marcel Pagnol –

Phases of a Project:
1 — Exultation
2 — Disenchantment
3 — Search for the Guilty
4 — Punishment of the Innocent
5 — Praise for the Uninvolved
– Anon –

Philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways, but the real task is to alter it.
– Karl Marx –

Pure scientists have by and large been dim-witted about engineers and applied science. They couldn’t get interested. They wouldn’t recognise that many of the problems were as intellectually exacting as pure problems, and that many of the solutions were as satisfying and beautiful. Their instinct – perhaps sharpened in this country by the passion to find a new snobbism wherever possible, and to invent one if it doesn’t exist – was to take it for granted that applied science was an occupation for second rate minds. I say this more sharply because thirty years ago I took precisely that line myself.
– CP Snow –

Rise thou prostrate Ingineer, not all thy undermining Skill shall reach my Heart.
– George Farquhar –

So far I have been speaking of theoretical science, which is an attempt to understand the world. Practical science, which is an attempt to change the world, has been important from the first, and has continually increased in importance, until it has almost ousted theoretical science from men’s thoughts. … The triumph of science has been mainly due to its practical utility, and there has been an attempt to divorce this aspect from that of theory, thus making science more and more a technique, and less and less a doctrine as to the nature of the world. The penetration of this point of view to philosophers is very recent.
– Bertrand Russell –

Tell me, Mr Hoover, what are your interests?
Madam, I am an Engineer
Really? I took you for a gentleman.
– Herbert Hoover –

…(that) any general system of conveying passengers would … go at a velocity exceeding ten miles an hour, or thereabouts, is extremely improbable.
– Railway engineer Thomas Tredgold, 1835 –

That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.
– Neal Armstrong –

The contractors do not hesitate to enrich themselves at the expense of the King or of those who work for them; & the engineers or inspectors of the works, on the contrary, have only in mind the honesty with which they act and to be highly esteemed; & they do not hesitate to regard the former as their enemies, when they are unfaithful.
– Hubert Gautier –

The history of engineering is really the history of breakages, and of learning from those breakages. I was taught at college ‘the engineer learns most on the scrapheap’.
– CA Claremont –

The joy of engineering is to find a straight line on a double logarithmic diagram.
– Thomas Koenig –

The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong, it usually turns out to be impossible to get at and repair.
– Douglas Adams –

The means by which we live has outdistanced the ends for which we live. Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.
– Martin Luther King Jr –

The newly placed earth of the Road is not immediately to be compacted, as some will claim. Two or three months of time, some rain, and those who pass over the Road better assure this than if we compact with women and girls for many days; this is an unnecessary expense for the contractor.
– Hubert Gautier –

The words art, artisan, and artificial all come from the Latin word ars, and reinforce the notion that beauty and utility have been inextricably linked. The jazz musician Duke Ellington is believed to have said that if any music sounds good, it is good. The beauty of utility goes back at least as far as the flint axe and is as contemporary as the supersonic Concorde.
– Carroll Pursell –

There are three possible roads to ruin – women, gambling and technology. The most pleasant is with women, the quickest is with gambling, but the surest is with technology.
– Georges Pompidou –

There can be little doubt that in many ways the story of bridge building is the story of civilisation. By it we can readily measure an important part of a people’s progress.
– Franklin D Roosevelt –

Therefore O students study mathematics and do not build without foundations.
– Leonardo Da Vinci –

…as for earthquakes, though they were still formidable, they were so interesting that men of science could hardly regret them.
– Bertrand Russell –

This is not the age of pamphleteers. It is the age of engineers. The spark-gap is mightier than the pen. Democracy will not be salvaged by men who talk fluently, debate forcefully and quote aptly.
– Lancelot Hogben –

Very nice sort of place, Oxford, I should think, for people that like that sort of place. They teach you to be a gentleman there. In the Polytechnic they teach you to be an engineer or such like.
– George Bernard Shaw –

We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us.
– Winston Churchill –

We were shepherded in for our first lecture on engineering drawing in a studio on the top floor of a building in Shakespeare Street. There we were confronted by the lecturer, a Mr Rawlinson, an elderly gentleman with a nicotine stained moustache. He looked around the room at us and then said, “I know you lot. Your parents said, ‘Our Jim’s not very bright in the head but he’s good with his hands, so we’ll make him an engineer’.”
– Frank Vann –

Well if you ever plan to motor west
Try take my way on the highway that’s the best
Get your kicks on Route 66
– Bobby Troup –

What need the bridge much broader than the flood?
– William Shakespeare –

When engineers and quantity surveyors discuss aesthetics and architects study what cranes do we are on the right road.
– Ove Arup 1980 —

Whilst surveying what do you think I did? – only what others have done – fell in love!

You have been found guilty of indulging in unnatural practices under one of London’s most beautiful bridges.

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