The Ingenious Mind of Nature: Deciphering the Patterns of Man, Society, and the Universe

By George M. Hall | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 11
Engineering

The mechanic should sit down among the levers, screws, wedges, and wheels, considering them as the exhibition of his thoughts, in which a new arrangement transmits a new idea to the world.

—ROBERT FULTON

The word engine derives from Latin words meaning "talent" and "to beget." Thus, engineering means talented creation of something presumably useful and, as such, is another way of expressing the design of a system. Furthermore, Robert Fulton suggested that mechanics (as engineers were sometimes called) can apply their skill to both physical and abstract systems. In practice, however, the term is limited to physical systems, encountering derision when used elsewhere, for example, so‐ called social engineering.

Until recent times engineering applied only to inanimate systems. The extension to biology arose with "smart" prostheses linked to nerve tissue, earning the moniker biomedical engineering.

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