Memoirs: A Twentieth-Century Journey in Science and Politics

By Edward Teller; Judith L. Shoolery | Go to book overview

37
EDUCATING
INVENTIVE ENGINEERS
1961-1975

DURING THE FIRST half of the 1960s, I spent a great deal of time and effort on issues pertaining to education. My daughter, Wendy, was then in high school, and Paul was entering college, and I was somewhat disturbed by some of the current practices. In addition, I was a teacher, and it was during this period that I apparently caused the University of California to come under investigation by the California legislature. 1

But my primary concern was with a different subject. In early 1963, I described it rather succinctly in a letter I wrote to Henry Kissinger (who was advising Nelson Rockefeller):

In the field of pure science the United States is in a leading position.... In pure engineering we have a considerable number of competent men.... There is, however, an intermediate field on which the demands are the greatest and the supply in the United States is minimal. This is a field which lies between pure science and traditional engineering. You may describe it as inventive engineering or you may instead call it applied science. The two expressions really mean the same thing.

A few institutions like M.I.T. and Cal Tech are doing a good job in this field. Even these are deficient in many respects, and there can be no doubt that our total educational effort in this area is insufficient. As a consequence of this

____________________
1
It seems that 1,000 students were unable to get into my Physics 10 course, and many of them (or their parents) complained to their legislators. The problem could not be resolved easily. The lecture hall held only six hundred seats, and once those were filled, conventional classroom practices, if not the laws of physics, prevented more bodies from occupying the same space.

-476-

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