PRAISE FOR THE LAST WORD
I would belatedly like to offer great praise for Doran J. Baker's Last Word column "Invoking Edison's Spirit" (February 1997, p. 48). As an engineering educator, I always tried to remind students of the giants in engineering and the lessons to be learned from their examples.
One seldom mentioned aspect of Edison's life can be particularly inspiring to struggling young engineers. Along with his many accomplishments, Edison had some large failures. But he was not daunted by them. Rather, Edison used his own and others' unsuccessful experiments to guide future efforts.
Students need to learn that engineering designs are frequently unsuccessful until they have been iterated and refined. Edison's inventions went through many versions, as he revised and improved their designs. Even he did not create a finished product on the first try.
DAVID W. KNUDSEN
I enjoyed John Krupczak's article "Demystifying Technology" (October 1997, p. 30). However, it might have mentioned other work that has been going on in the same area. The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation recently completed a $20 million program to promote "technological literacy." John Truxal and Marion Visich at the State University of New York at Stony Brook headed this effort. As part of this program, David Billington at Princeton University did some very exciting work with structures aimed at liberal arts students, and I taught courses in electronic circuits and smallscale technology for nonengineering majors. There are other similar initiatives. Outside of the Sloan program, Romon Kac at Yale University has been teaching electronics and communications to nonengineers. As I understand, his is the largest undergraduate class at Yale.
BARRETT HAZELTINE Brown University
The "Negative Response to Affirmative Action" item in the September Briefings column (p. 9) might have been somewhat more illuminating had it noted the ethnicity, gender, and average age of the respondents.
RONNI DEN National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering
The information in the September Briefings article was drawn from an October 1996 survey conducted by the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research. The survey sampled 800 full-time, tenured, or tenure-track faculty members at 40 four-year colleges nationwide. The respondents were 75 percent male and 25 percent female; 26.5 percent of the respondents were assistant professors, 33 percent were associate professors, and 40.5 percent were full professors. No statistics were available on either the respondents' age or ethnicity. …