Engineering and the Mind's Eye

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Title
Engineering and the Mind\'s Eye
Language English
Time Added 27th March, 2016
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The things that engineers design are everywhere, and the influence that engineershave on daily life is far out of proportion to their numbers. In this expanded version of aremarkable essay published in Science more than a decade ago, Eugene Ferguson takes a probing lookat the process of engineering design, arguing that despite modern technical advances, goodengineering is still as much a matter of intuition and nonverbal thinking as of equations andcomputation.Ferguson, who has been successively a mechanical engineer, a technical museum curator,and a teacher of the history of technology, uses examples ranging from the development of theAmerican axe to the collapse of the Hartford Coliseum and the performance of the Hubble spacetelescope to illustrate the ways in which visual thinking enriches engineering and the ways in whichengineering that relies solely on technical sophistication can go wrong. He argues that a system ofengineering education that ignores this heritage of nonverbal thinking will produce engineers whoare dangerously ignorant of the many ways in which the real world differs from the mathematicalmodels constructed in academic minds.In Engineering and the Mind's Eye, Ferguson discusses thenature of engineering design and traces the development of visual and other nonverbal thinking,offering examples of how engineers and other technologists have used such strategies since theRenaissance. Accompanying these examples, and demonstrating the ways in which engineers have sharedtheir knowledge, is a parallel text of illustrations showing how visual thinking has been expressedover the past five centuries. Ferguson concludes his provocative account by arguing that engineeringeducation since 1945 has been skewed toward analytical techniques - which are easiest to teach andevaluate - and away from the art of engineering design as taught by experienced engineers.EugeneFerguson is Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Delaware.

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