Exploring the Minds of Engineers: 35 Lesser-Known Facts About These Masterminds

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1Vic Tandy

Vic Tandy

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.

2. 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.

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

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

5. 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.

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6Adam Steltzner

Adam Steltzner

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.

7. 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.

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

9. 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.

10. 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."

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11Steve Whiteley

Steve Whiteley

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.

12. Engineers building a bridge (High Rhine Bridge) between Germany and Switzerland found that when the two halves met their elevations differed by 54 cm. Germany bases sea level on the North Sea, and Switzerland by the Mediterranean; someone messed up the correction, doubling it instead of canceling it out.

13. A retired electrical engineer named Bruce Campbell had an old Boeing 727 delivered to the woods near Portland, Oregon and converted it into his home where he lives full time.

14. In 1969, the Army Corps of Engineers accomplished an awesome feat. They turned off Niagara Falls. They did it to clean up the area and check for structural integrity.

15. In 1953, a 20-year old Royal Air Force engineer named Ronald Maddison died while acting as a guinea pig for sarin gas testing at Porton Down, England. He was offered 15 shillings for the experiment, which he planned on using to buy an engagement ring for his girlfriend.

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16Juan Pedro Baigorri Velar

Juan Pedro Baigorri Velar

An Argentinian engineer named Juan Pedro Baigorri Velar, in the 1930's apparently created a “rainmaking machine”. He made it rain in several places and then disappeared without a trace.

17. A former engineer in Japan claims to be the only heir to authentic ninjutsu. In his 60s, Jinichi Kawakami decided he will not appoint anyone as the next ninja grandmaster, saying: "We now have guns, the internet, and much better medicines, so the art of ninjutsu has no place in the modern age."

18. A Volvo engineer named Niels Bohlin invented the three-point seatbelt, but Volvo gave away the patent to other manufacturers because it had more value as a free life-saving tool.

19. In 1945, a radar engineer named Percy Spencer was working at Raytheon. He stepped in front of a magnetron, a device that powers radars. He noticed a chocolate bar in his pocket had melted. Later that year, he filed a patent for the first microwave oven.

20. A NASA engineer named Jack Garman memorized all the possible error codes of Apollo 11 and saved the mission from being aborted. 

21Jakow Trachtenberg

Jakow Trachtenberg

A Russian Jewish engineer named Jakow Trachtenberg developed a system of rapid mental calculation (The Trachtenberg system) while being held in a Nazi concentration camp in order to keep his mind occupied.

22. A chemical engineer named Dave Whitlock hasn’t bathed in more than 12 years. Instead, the MIT graduate sprays himself with live bacteria and is working with AOBiome, a company that uses naturally occurring bacteria in skin-care products to clean and eliminate odor and sweat.

23. In 1902, a Romanian Engineer named Traian Vuia designed his first flying machine, then presented his plan to the Académie des Sciences in Paris in 1903, but was rejected with the comment: "The problem of flight with a machine which weighs more than air can not be solved and it is only a dream."

24. A group of engineering students from Purdue University reported that its licking machine, modeled after a human tongue, took an average of 364 licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop.

25. An MIT engineer named Dennis Klatt synthesized Stephen Hawking's 'voice'. Hawking subsequently requested to keep that voice throughout every upgrade of his system.

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