Canadian Consulting Engineer

What’s the difference between a scientist and an engineer …

June 7, 2010
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

From an article in the Globe and Mail, Saturday, June 5 entitled"Better to try than to simply ask why," by H...

From an article in the Globe and Mail, Saturday, June 5 entitled
“Better to try than to simply ask why,” by Henry Petroski, professor of civil engineering and history at Duke University:
“Scientists may identify a problem and may study it, but they will not solve it unless they act like engineers. After the Apollo 13 astronauts announced to mission control, ‘Houston, we have a problem,’ it was not NASA scientists before whom a box of assorted stuff available on the spacecraft was thrown upon a table. Had it been, the scientists might have first catalogued and classified the contents, perhaps thinking that would make the problem easier to solve. Scientists tend to study what is, whether it be a geological formation suspected of containing natural resources or a collection of moons orbiting a distant planet. They want to understand what they observe, but not necessarily to change it.
“Engineers, in contrast, seek to change the world, or at least the parts of it they and their fellow humans inhabit and exploit with devices of their own making… When engineers are presented with a problem, they welcome all the knowledge about it that scientists or anyone else can provide, but they also want to solve the problem, even with incomplete understanding….”


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