Some think that engineering and technology can be understood entirely as the application of scientific principles to practical problems in order to yield unique, deterministic solutions. Further, they believe that advances occur first in science and then are applied in engineering and technology. But there are many who object to these notions. First, it is clear that advances in technology have produced new knowledge in science as often as the reverse has been the case. There is a body of information that can be referred to as technological knowledge (Layton 1974, 31–34; Rosenberg 1982, 141–59; Sebestik 1983, 25–43; Ferguson 1992, 155–56). Engineers and historians of technology have demonstrated that many inventions had no preceding scientific or engineering principles that could have led to their creation. The idea to remember is that the historical relationship between art and technology that I discuss in this book continues up to the present. Those who criticize engineering for being “rote” or “mechanical” know nothing about engineering. I will explain why.
In a delightful article, “The Mind's Eye: Nonverbal Thought in Technology,” Eugene Ferguson (1977) argues that “all of our technology has a significant intellectual component that is both nonscientific and nonliterary” (827). Bridges are an example because they “reflect more strongly the conceptualization of their designers and the times of their construction than they do the physical requirements of their respective sites” (827). As in mathematics, there is “elegance” to technological solutions. They are so clear, simple, and obvious that we all recognize the rightness and the solution to a problem (Ferguson 1978, 451; Hindle 1983, 128).
Among the illustrations for Ferguson's thesis is the working or rocking beam on the Newcomen steam engine, in which “the chain attached to the engine piston…andthe chain attached to the water pumps in the mine … are constrained by the … curved ends of the working beam, to move in a vertical line, up and down, as the