The Great Engineering Implosion
- Douglas Ragland
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- December 1962
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 1,311 - 1,318
- 1962. Original copyright American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, Inc. Copyright has expired.
- 7.5.1 Ethics, 4.1.5 Processing Equipment, 4.1.2 Separation and Treating, 6.1.5 Human Resources, Competence and Training, 4.3.4 Scale
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RAGLAND, DOUGLAS, MEMBER AIME, HUMBLE OIL and REFINING CO., HOUSTON, TEX.
The current decline in engineering enrollments is a result to be expected from the sharp upgrading in quality of engineering education witnessed during the past decade. Because of far-reaching engineering and scientific developments, the engineering technology and the professional caliber of the engineer have been elevated so that, in the future, the fewer engineers graduated will accomplish relatively more engineering work than has ever before been possible. Rather than fearing a future shortage of engineers, therefore, the profession must recognize the call for swift changes in educational patterns so as to realize more of the potential of the newer engineering technology. Members of the engineering profession should advocate the establishment of "Schools of Engineering" which offer coordinated programs of undergraduate and graduate education. These schools should offer a five-year "Master of Engineering degree (with designation)" as the first accredited engineering degree, and the dean and faculty of engineering should be responsible for both the graduate and undergraduate programs. Both programs should include comprehensive instruction in engineering as a profession. A subprofessional degree could be awarded at the completion of the first four years for the benefit of those deciding to terminate their formal education at that stage.
Two subjects sure to incite interest among a few practicing engineers and almost all engineering educators are "professional recognition" and "decline in engineering enrollments". I is not surprising that this interest on the part of the educators is universal; it is only regrettable that such interest on the part of the practitioners is not more widespread. In fact, it is probably the hope of the engineering profession that some of the more penetrating searches now being made into the nature of engineering will generate sufficient cause for perplexity that members of the profession will assume a significant degree of personal concern toward purely professional matters. The purpose of this paper is twofold: (1) to examine some of the essential characteristics of the engineering profession and its problems of recognition; and (2) to recommend definite steps which may be considered by the profession to strengthen its foundations and, thereby, its image in the fundamental engineering attributes of high and unique learning, high standards of practice, a dedication to service and a maximum respect for professional ethics. Since the approaches to be suggested are derived not only from an attempt to judge the status of engineering and where it is headed but also from an analysis of its history, a more-than-usual delving into the inception and development of engineering education and engineering society is warranted.
Origins of Engineering
The art of engineering has been practiced for the entire period of the recorded history of man. Therefore, it can be assumed that engineering is more than, perhaps, 10,000 years old, its earliest development certainly having preceded the engineering planning which went into the irrigation projects operated by the ancient Sumerians and the predynastic Egyptians. But engineering as a learned profession is a product of the past 200 years, and engineering education at the college level is a child of the 20th Century whether you look for it in the New World or the Old.
Birth of Polytechnic Education
Although the world's first technical school, "The School of Bridges and Highways", was founded in Paris in 1747, engineering continued as an art for another three-quarters of a century unencumbered by science and handed down from practitioner to apprentice. While the mining academy of Freiburg, Saxony, was established in 1776, the world's first true engineering school, the Paris Polytechnic School, appeared at the beginning of the French Revolution in 1794. Studies of the methods of science and engineering were not undertaken on a large scale until 1803, when the Germans were aroused by their humiliating defeats at the hands of Napoleon, whose armies included the world's first college-trained military engineers. The new knowledge which flowed from these studies furnished the first significant basis for establishing engineering as a branch of higher learning. Furthermore, the organization of the German and, particularly, the French technical schools established the polytechnic or unified pattern of engineering education, wherein a certain amount of professional training in engineering is blended with a general education in the arts and sciences.
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