River Wissey Lovell Fuller

The Village Pump Soapbox

April 2003


A very personal hobby horse this one. Why is it that when the media talk about the space programme in the USA, as, for instance, in the case of the recent catastrophic failure of the Shuttle, they refer to 'Rocket Scientists' or 'NASA Scientists' when talking about those who will be investigating the problem? The truth is that the design, development and production of the rocket launchers and the space vehicles, along with the ground control systems is the province of engineers. The large majority of the so-called 'Rocket Scientists' are engineers. They almost certainly will have university first degrees and many will have higher degrees, including PhD's, but they will be engineers nonetheless.

As an engineer that worked in rocketry at one time I resent this failure to give engineers recognition for their part. It is a sad fact that the status of the engineer in this country is not comparable with that which exists in Europe or the USA, in many of those countries the term 'engineer' is restricted to those suitably qualified, whereas in this country everyone with any connection with engineering, down to the guy who sharpens your mower blade, call themselves engineers.. I suppose anyone in this country with a university degree in science can call themselves a scientist, but to become a 'professional' or 'chartered' engineer in this country it is necessary to have an honours degree in engineering, a recognised and approved training programme and experience working under the direction of a chartered engineer. The study and the length of time involved in the formation of a chartered engineer is comparable with that of a GP but, unfortunately, it does not have a comparable status in society. The net result is that fewer young people of ability are attracted to the profession, which might explain why the engineering industry in this country has been in decline in recent years compared with countries like Germany, France, Japan and the USA.

Ron Watts

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