Global Problems Need Engineering Solutions

Article excerpt

To the average person, an engineer might be seen as just another kind of scientist. That may sound logical, but it is not entirely accurate. This assumption blurs the lines between the two approaches to the natural world, and could be counterproductive to solving a number of global problems, such as curtailing greenhouse gases or coming up with new forms of renewable energy. Scientists uncover the secrets underlying many aspects of nature, but it is up to the engineer to take these insights and devise practical solutions to a problem. So argues Henry Petroski, author of The Essential Engineer: Why Science Alone Will Not Solve Our Global Problems.

"The conventional wisdom is that engineers are just another type of scientist, but engineering is quite different. In general, the main objective of scientists is to understand the world as it is, while engineers take this knowledge to design or create new things that solve a particular problem. People need to recognize that science and engineering are distinct but overlapping endeavors. If we're serious about global problems and the major challenges facing society, it basically comes down to engineering solutions."

For this reason, Petroski believes that engineers often receive short shrift, while scientists may be getting too much credit. To be fair, both are needed, but he thinks that the prestige of the engineer should be elevated. …