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Unformatted text preview: 16 FALL 2007 THE BENT OF TAU BETA PI by Samuel C. Florman, P.E., New York Alpha 44 The somewhat unique combination of writing and lectur- ing, while continuing to work as an engineer in industry, brought a growing number of invitations and assignments, culminating in service on numerous commissions, commit- tees, and panels dealing with professional issues. Looking back over the years, I see that some of the assumptions I am now rethinking were ingenuous; others seem reasonable in retrospect but were simply overwhelmed by historical currents that were difficult to predict. As the cold war unfolded, the space race began, the environmental crisis arose, and the computer age came upon us, it appeared certain that the engineering profession would flourish and grow in importance. James Reston, one of the most prominent journalists of the mid- century, observed that the politicians and even the statesmen, are merely scrambling to deal with the revolutions in weapons, agriculture, and industry created by the scientists and engineers. Since this concern was widely shared, I thought it likely that engineers would be called upon to take leadership positions in the government. At the same time, I believed that individual engineers would emerge from the mists of anonymity and become well-known, indeed celebrated, in the public arena. Also, I dared hope that the profession would become enhanced, shedding all vestiges of its hired technician image (to use the terminology of C. Wright Mills in his 1956 book, The Power Elite ) and developing a culture comparable to law and medicine. This would feature extended professional edu- cation, meaningful licensing, binding codes of ethics, and broadly inclusive professional associations. Finally, I was confident that a very large percentage of our most ac- complished young people would choose engineering as a career, attracted not only by its importance and inherent appeal, but also by increased financial compen- sation and job security. Looking out upon the current scene, it appears that none of these prophecies has been realized. Further, it appears that they will not be realized for a long time, if ever. With reluctance and a touch of melancholy, I accept the universe. However, I hasten to add that disappointments have been offset by unforeseen successes, so what follows is not a message of gloom and doom. In fact, quite the contrary. Facing Facts about the Engineering Profession I accept the Universe Margaret Fuller / American Writer i ACCEPT THE UNIVERSE! With this fervent cry, Margaret Fuller, an eminent nineteenth century American writer, startled a group of her literary friends. Upon being told of the ladys pronounce- ment, Thomas Carlyle, the British historian, is reputed to have said: By God! Shed better. Ive been thinking about this anecdote lately as I pon- der developments in the world of engineering. After long and earnest deliberation, I too have decided to accept the...
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