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Appliance of science

Letters to the editor

I was surprised to read the academics' definition of an engineer as 'someone who translates a conceptual model into a working one by using calculations' (NCE 4 March). Surely it is much more than this?

Fundamentally, engineering is a creative process. It involves assembling and interpreting data, identifying constraints, research and negotiation so that a conceptual model can be formed. Calculations and drawings follow, with computers undertaking the routine work. During implementation, engineers have to consider issues of planning, cost, programme, public presentation and contract administration.

Young engineers spend much of their time at the calculation stage, but it is the other more creative aspects of the work to which many aspire. If we are to attract and retain the best students, we cannot promote the limited view of engineers as analysts.

I suggest an alternative definition: 'An engineer creates solutions to problems using scientific means.' Individuals could add planning, design, management, construction, maintenance, etc before 'solutions' and civil, mechanical, electrical, chemical, etc before 'problems' to suit their particular discipline.

Stephen Beggs (M), 55a Brentry Lane, Bristol BS10 6QQ.

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