Engineering is a serious business. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t got a lighter side. US professor Henry Petroski has tried to prove that by publishing a book that celebrates facts, fables, traditions, jokes and trivia about engineers and the profession at-large. The work is more like a dictionary than an encyclopedia so you can dip in easily here and there.
There’s a section on the letters after an engineer’s name – a subject close to the heart of PE readers. And a section on novels about engineers. Did you know that the 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand, has an engineer hero in one of the central roles?
And there’s a section on jocular terms such as “hairy-eared engineer” which is applied to those who are advanced enough in age to have hirsute ears. It’s often said that “every project needs a hairy-eared engineer”, apparently.
An Engineer’s Alphabet is a rare treat. It’s a book about the profession that might actually make you laugh.
- An Engineer’s Alphabet by Henry Petroski. Cambridge University Press, price £18.99.