Happy Father’s Day, Engineers!


Marc and Isambard Brunel, probably the greatest father-son pair in engineering

I’d like to wish “Happy Father’s Day” to all of my readers who qualify (and if you don’t qualify, please pass these wishes on to your father).  Today presents a great opportunity to think about the many famous father-child combinations throughout history: Philip of Macedon and Alexander the Great; Eric the Red and Leif Ericson; Genghis and Ögedei Khan; Alexandre Dumas, père et fils; Muhammad and Laila Ali, George H. W. and George W. Bush; Billy Ray and Miley Cyrus…


But who would be the greatest father-child pair in the history of engineering?  I would like to nominate Marc and Isambard Kingdom Brunel!  If you are unaware of the accomplishments of this father-son combination, read on.  (Or, if you would like to read about another famous father-son – and daughter-in-law – combination in engineering, I invite you to check out “The Roeblings:  An Engineering Family, and the Cable that Connected America”.)

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Saint Patrick, Structural Engineer


Saint Patrick, holding his second favorite book

This week, on March 17, there will be millions of revelers worldwide, dressed in green and drinking Guinness.  What could they be celebrating?  The conversion of Ireland to Christianity?  If so, they would be 1500 years too late.  The ridding of a distant island of snakes?  That couldn’t be of interest to anyone (other than an ophidiophobe).  A heritage that is claimed by as many as 80,000,000 people throughout the globe?  Maybe, but remember – there are over six billion who do not claim that heritage.  But if we approach a crowd of celebrants at random, it’s possible that we just might overhear them singing:

“Saint Patrick was an engineer – he was, he was.
Saint Patrick was an engineer – he was, he was,
For he invented calculus and handed it down for us to cuss;
Erin Go Bragh – Rah! For the engineers!”

Yes – just as we suspected, all of those partiers will be toasting Saint Patrick, the patron saint of engineers!

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Here Comes Santa Claus: The Ultimate Gift List for Structural Engineers


Up on the housetop, click, click, click…

Well readers, it’s that time of year again – the annual wracking of the brain for Christmas/Hanukkah gift ideas for family, friends, and the co-worker whose name you drew in the office gift exchange.  Every year the decision gets more difficult.  A chia pet?  A fruit cake?  A calendar with pictures of cute cats/dogs/ducks?  A zucchini spiralizer?  An ice scraper?


But I bring good news: this year shopping will be a breeze, if you have a structural engineer on your list.  Why?  Because in my role as a full service blogger I have done all your work for you, assembling the Ultimate Gift List for Structural Engineers.  No more wondering, no more worry, no more brain-wracking, just perfect gifts for any structural engineer!  (But before proceeding, I recommend that anyone shopping for an  engineer first review the professional ethics guidelines regarding what types of gifts that engineer may accept.)
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The Statue of Liberty: the World’s First Skyscraper?

The Statue of Liberty, once the tallest structure in New York City,
surrounded by its taller descendants

Happy July 4, everybody!  In the United States, this is a day to celebrate our nation’s independence, and give thanks for the centuries of freedom that we have enjoyed since our founding on July 4, 1776.  There is no greater symbol of that freedom, than the Statue of Liberty (official title: “Liberty Enlightening the World”) – the glorious structure that since 1886 has welcomed millions of immigrants, many of whom were fleeing repression in their native lands.

Growing up in New Jersey, I saw the Statue of Liberty often.  Catching that first glimpse of it while driving down the New Jersey Turnpike or while heading into New York to witness yet another Mets’ baseball loss was always an exciting moment, and today when I fly into New York it still is.  To me (and many others) the statue is both beautiful art and one of the greatest symbols of all that is right with this country.  But as a structural engineer I have another reason to get a lump in my throat when I see it — did you know that the Statue of Liberty may well have been the world’s first skyscraper? Continue reading

Move over Snoopy and SpongeBob, Future Engineers Join the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade

Th-1Can’t make it as an engineer?  Then maybe consider football player…

I’ve never been able to come up with any association between Thanksgiving and engineering (Tension on a wishbone?  Buckling of pumpkin pie crust?), so I figured I had a good excuse to take this week off from the blog.  But then I read some engineering-flavored Thanksgiving news and decided that when offered inspiration I have to grab it. Continue reading

“Construimus Batuimus” — Engineers in War Time: From Masada to John Wayne

Who Says Engineers aren’t Tough?

Today is Veterans Day in the United States and many other countries, a day for all to thank those who have served their countries during times of war.  Veterans can be found in every walk of life, every profession – but there are a few professions that are a little different, in that they are professions born of war.  One of those professions is engineering.
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It’s Election Day: Where are the Engineers?

It’s Election Day – Get out and Vote!
Even if you Can’t Find an Engineer

Today is Election Day in the United States, time for all of us to do our civic duty and get out and vote.

Unfortunately, this poses a real challenge to my mission of bringing an engineering slant to all of my blog posts — because even though engineers have a major impact on modern societies, Election Day seems to be the one day of the year when we disappear.  Looking over my ballot in Texas, searching for engineers, I found umpteen lawyers, the requisite number of ranchers (it is Texas after all), a sports talk show host, a pharmacist, an insurance salesman, a dentist…
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Happy Halloween: Nature’s Greatest Structural Engineer

Is it Real, or is it CloudCalc?  Only the Spider Knows for Sure

Well it’s Halloween (and how appropriate — this is my 13th blog post!), so I’ve been trying to think of a seasonally appropriate structural engineering topic for this week’s CloudCalc blog.  In order to get inspiration, I walked down my street looking at the decorations on the neighborhood houses.  A Jack o’ Lantern?  No, that’s not a good representative, since after a few days they typically become so mushy that they can’t even support themselves.  There’s a ghost – or actually a sheet of white plastic hanging from a tree.  The best engineering analogy that brought to mind was Tyvek wrap covering a half-built structure.  Over there, a couple of witches…probably not, a blog on aerospace engineering might be a better place to discuss women who manage to get broomsticks to fly.
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