Herbert Hoover’s Engineer

September 9, 2009 at 11:36 pm 8 comments


By Matt Barcus
President, Precision Executive Search, Inc.
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC, home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com

A couple of weeks ago I posed the following question on the Civil Engineering Central Group on Linkedin:

“Why did you become a civil engineer?”

We had a number of great responses, but one gentleman posted the following excerpt that is worth sharing to the masses:

Herbert Hoover Herbert Hoover’s Engineer

It is a great profession. There is the fascination of watching a figment of the imagination emerges through the aid of science to plan on paper. Then it moves to realization in stone or metal or energy. Then it brings jobs and homes to men. Then it elevates the standards of living and adds to the comfort of life. That is the engineer’s high privilege.

The great liability of the engineer compared to men of other professions is that his works are out in the open where all can see them. His acts, step by step, are in hard substance. He cannot like the architect cover his failures with trees and vines. He cannot like the politician screen his shortcomings by blaming his opponents and hope the people will forget. The engineer simply cannot deny he did it. If his works do not work he is dammed.

On the other hand, unlike the doctor his is not a life among the weak. Unlike the soldier, destruction is not his purpose. Unlike the lawyer, quarrels are not his daily bread. To the engineer falls the job of clothing the bare bones of science with life, comfort and hope. No doubt as years go by the people forget which engineer did it, even if they ever knew. Or some politician put his name on it. Or they credit it to some promoter who used other people’s money….

But the engineer himself looks back at the unending stream of goodness which flows from his success with satisfaction that few professions may know. And the verdict of his fellow professionals is all the accolade he wants.


Did Herbert Hoover miss anything here? Do you believe his statement still holds true today?

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Entry filed under: Civil Engineering, Civil Engineering Issues, Fun Stuff, Uncategorized, US Infrastructure. Tags: , , .

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8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. SM Systems  |  March 24, 2010 at 8:18 am

    Without Engineers civilisation will just crumble away. A nobel profession indeed, and this fact just gets put into perspective even more so with this brilliant piece of writing.

    Reply
  • 2. Carl Harkins  |  September 16, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    Only one comment…architects can no more cover their mistakes with vines & trees than an engineer can hide his mistakes behind drywall & masonry. If there is a mistake, all share in the failure. If there is triumph, all share in the accolades. What is truly unfortunate is that we recognize failure more often than we celebrate success. And a truly successful project is one wherein each team member – architect, engineer, constructor, AND owner – have worked together to accomplish something that is bigger than their individual abilities could have created separately.

    Reply
  • 3. Glenn Havinoviski  |  September 12, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    Way back in high school, I wanted to be a urban planner rather than an engineer, but I realized at some point it’s the engineer that brings the vision to life.

    Reply
  • 4. Robert Mote  |  September 12, 2009 at 8:35 am

    The inspirations will stand the test of time regardless of generation theories. We were gen X and Y to some other time. Think of the inspirations of Rome. I think people learn to become inspired by the lagacy of their work.

    I was inspired to be an engineer through the story of the industrial development and the achievements of I K Brunel.

    Reply
  • 5. Pat Gaddy  |  September 11, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    Excellent Quote!

    Mr. Hoover believed in Engineering just as we should. To clothe technology with a life of its own for the betterment of mankind.

    Our work brings jobs, homes and a better standard of living to all people. And yes, we engineers are most often overlooked when it is time for kudos.

    How many of my projects have been named after politicians or uninvolved people I don’t know. I do know that my work has been good for the people affected, and provided a living for my family.

    Here, here for Mr. Hoover! I like his passion for the work!

    Reply
    • 6. aepcentral  |  September 11, 2009 at 3:24 pm

      Thanks for reading Pat…do you believe that this attitude may be changing with those Gen X, Gen Y, and Gen Nexters working their way up the corporate ladders? Is there attitude different then traditional civil engineers of past? Are they looking for the glory?

      Reply
  • 7. Todd D. Wood  |  September 11, 2009 at 10:27 am

    Inspiring….

    Reply
  • 8. Babette Burdick  |  September 10, 2009 at 6:25 am

    These are great words of passion for one’s vocation and acceptance of the responsibility for the outcome of this grand vocation. In this Web 2.0 world of “me, myself and I,” combined with today’s economic challenges, these sentiments still ring true. Monumental structures are testimonials to history and a belief in the local culture which permitted these structures to be created, to be rebuilt after catastrophic events, and to endure.

    Reply

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