50 Interesting Facts about Engineers

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1Marvin Pipkin

Marvin Pipkin

In the 1920s newly hired engineers at General Electric would be told, as a joke, to develop a frosted lightbulb. The experienced engineers believed this to be impossible. In 1925, newly hired Marvin Pipkin got the assignment not realizing it was a joke and succeeded.

2. In 1891, Chicago issued a challenge to all engineers to build a structure that would surpass the Eiffel Tower. The engineer who won proposed a giant rotating wheel that will lift visitors high above the city. The inventor of this giant wheel's name was George Ferris.

3. When building the Golden Gate Bridge, a lead structural engineer named Joseph Strauss insisted on the installation of a safety net even though its $130,000 cost was deemed exorbitant. Over the four years of its construction, the net saved 19 men, who named themselves the “Halfway to Hell Club.”

4. In 1452, a Hungarian engineer, known as Orban, offered to sell an extremely powerful cannon to the Roman Emperor. He refused, so Orban instead sold the cannon to the Ottoman emperor, who used it to breach the walls of Constantinople in 1453, which brought the end to the Roman Empire.

5. Preventing an abort of the Apollo 11 mission has been attributed to the work of Margaret Hamilton, the lead flight software designer for Project Apollo. She was 31 when the lunar module landed on the moon, running her code, and is credited for coining the term “software engineering.”

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6Canadian engineers

Canadian engineers

Engineers in Canada receive an Iron Ring to remind them to have humility. It is in memory of a bridge that collapsed twice due to incorrect calculations involving iron.

7. Roger Boisjoly was an engineer working at NASA in 1986 who predicted that the O-rings on the Challenger would fail and tried to abort the mission but nobody listened to him.

8. Taiwanese engineers put snacks of the “Kuai Kuai” brand next to or on top of machines and server rooms. They believe that because the name of the snack – “Kuai Kuai” - stands for “obedient” the device will function without errors. They use green bags only, and ensure that the snacks are not expired. This practice is even put in as a contract requirement in their German oversea contract.

9. Yasuteru Yamada is a retired engineer who after watching the news coverage of the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster, organized a group of more than 200 fellow retirees and volunteered to go to the site and assist in the cleanup so that the younger generation didn't have to and risk exposure to radiation.

10. The Voyager engineers calculated over 10,000 launch windows so that encounters between the craft and the planets on its trajectory didn't happen during Thanksgiving or Christmas, allowing them to stay home for the holidays.

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11Liviu Librescu

Liviu Librescu

Liviu Librescu was a Romanian-born Israeli and American engineer, scientist, professor, teacher, and a Holocaust survivor who held the door of his classroom during the Virginia Tech shootings sacrificing his life while the gunman continuously shot through the door saving 22 of his 23 students.

12. NASA engineers had issues with the honeycomb insulation of the Saturn V rocket, so they ended up hiring local surfers, who had experience in working with the material, to apply it to the rocket.

13. By 400 BC, Persian engineers had mastered the technique of using yakhchāls to create ice in the winter and store it in the summer in the desert.

14. Israeli Intelligence assassinated an electrical engineer named Yahya Ayyash, AKA The Engineer, a notorious bombmaker of Hamas in a James-Bond Style. They arranged for his friend to receive a phone from his uncle, who supposedly received a payoff. When Ayyash borrowed it, they remotely detonated it, decapitating him.

15. An engineer named Vic Tandy established a connection between supposed paranormal activity and infrasound frequency (~19Hz), which is below the range of human hearing and also roughly the resonant frequency of our eyeballs, causing some people to 'see' things that aren't there.

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16David Barrett

David Barrett

An aeronautics engineer named David Barrett resigned abruptly after seeing a vision of Jesus, spent 40 years single-handedly compiling the first and only complete list of Earth’s 10,000 existing religions and 33,830 denominations of Christianity. This led him to all 238 countries on Earth.

17. Engineers have created a chemical coating that causes cotton materials to clean themselves of stains and remove odors when exposed to sunlight.

18. The story that the Titanic engineers remained inside the ship till the end to keep the electricity running didn't actually happen.

19. In 1969, an IBM engineer named Forrest Parry had the idea to affix magnetic tape to a plastic card. Every adhesive failed. He went home frustrated. His wife was ironing when he walked in. She suggested he fuse the tape onto the card with the iron. It was a success, and the magstripe card was born.

20. Adam Steltzner, a chief engineer of NASA's Mars 2020 project, was a music college dropout who failed high school geometry. He took his first physics class in a local community college only because it was a prerequisite for another class.

21Bernd Brandes

Bernd Brandes

A German engineer named Bernd Brandes volunteered to be killed and eaten by aspiring cannibal Armin Meiwes, who placed an ad on the internet looking for someone to be killed and eaten. After eating Brandes and going to jail, Meiwes became a vegetarian.

22. A NASA engineer named Clayton Anderson spent 15 years trying to become an astronaut, being rejected 14 times before finally being selected in 1998.

23. In 2003, a New Zealand engineer named Bruce Simpson designed a $5,000 cruise missile using off the shelf parts sourced from the Internet. Despite being entirely legal, his project was shut down by the government.

24. Albert Einstein's son, Hans Albert Einstein, was a famous hydraulic engineering professor who developed important equations for sediment transport in rivers. When reporters asked Albert what he thought of his son's career, he replied, "He is working on a more difficult problem."

25. A British engineer named Steve Whiteley won £1.5 million from a £2 bet. He correctly picked 6 winners in a running jackpot and bet on a horse that had lost 28 races.

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