What are the lessons learned from these historical examples? Discuss in class or with friends. Below are some answers (which you should not look at until you have as a class (group) discussed what you think are the lessons learned)...this is not all the possible answers. The student is expected to get all the answers.
- ¬ Answer A
- The top answer to the lessons learned in these historical topics is that engineering (and science) is a step-by-step process by many groups and individuals. It is not one massive leap after another; everything is build on another previous result. This is one reason engineers and scientists are always reading journals, books, and other relevant material - they are looking to find something that is close to the answers they are seeking in order to advance one step further. An engineer or scientist can be a success just with a sequence of little improvements and innovations.
- ¬ Answer B
- The other top answer to the lessons learned is that engineering (and science) needs funding.
- ¬ Answer C
- The media prefers a good story over a true or accurate story. The general story of invention is complicated and is perceived to be boring by the media who like to have a singular center around one person or a small group of people. The idea is to entertain. Most news media fits into this entertainment media; there are however a small set of the news organizations that spends the extra time to do a complete story usually in print form with low subscriptions (because they don't entertain).
- ¬ Answer D
- References (papers/books) are always required for human progress. We always build on other's works.
- ¬ Answer E
- Resources are required to do any engineering (or science). Money, as previously stated, but also materials and equipment that usually have a high cost.
- ¬ Answer F
- Engineers/Scientists are well educated either through school or by library learning (which usually requires free time which usually is reserved for the rich).
- ¬ Answer G
- Materials science must be developed enough to be able to innovate. Many inventions and innovations had to wait until our materials science was developed sufficiently, for instance, light weight paper; light weight metals; etc. for air flight. This is a good reason to support scientific research through funding, even for theoretically work.
In science a recent example of the importance of this is the mRNA vaccine (note RNA is a polymer so this loosely falls under the materials science development) that was used on COVID-19. The theoretical work on this type of vaccine started in the 1980s and then in small experimental trails (all in academic settings; 1990 at University of Wisconsin being the most exciting step). Recent increases in funding (from a mixture of government and private investors BEFORE the pandemic) allowed for a very effective vaccine from two different companies. Note to make this vaccine work bioengineering was required to protect against the quick degradation of mRNA. Finally note that to keep the two vaccines stable they needed to be cooled to very cold temperatures. Who designed those refrigerators that go to very cold temperatures? Yes, engineers (with scientists and engineering technicians), of course!
- ¬ Answer H
- There is one engineer/scientist who actually was eventually worshiped as of god (long after is death), Imhopet. Imhopet was the ancient Egyptian equivalent of Leonardo Da Vinci and may have been buried in one of the lesser pyramids (unfortunately the location of his burial place was lost not in modern times but in ancient Egyptian times...so it is going to be a hard mystery to solve). This leads to the conclusion that in great civilizations engineers and scientists are revered to the point of worship. Maybe you will have a different conclusion. What do you think?
- ¬ Answer I
- Given Glenn Curtiss' position (as well as Santos Dumont) that it is better to keep innovating rather than to patent innovations (which he viewed as a waste of time and resources), there is a debate if patents actually stifle progress. It does seem that at least with regard to the history of flight there was considerable stifling of progress which due to the emergency situation of World War I cause the government to step in. Curtiss has hundreds of innovations to his name only a few of which he patented mostly due to others who wanted to charge him for what he felt was his innovations (or his groups innovations). As for business, Curtis though that rather then sitting on your laurels you should constantly innovate to stay on top, people who copy will always be behind you. Santos Dumont did not patent at all as he felt innovations should be free to all - even you. He did not rest on his laurels either. This is a good debate topic. What do you think?
This concludes this lesson of engineering through a historical perspective. Please continue thinking about these issues through out your academic career and your "real world" career.