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Cultural presence of engineering

Historically, engineering has been seen as a somewhat dry, uninteresting field in popular culture, and has also been thought to be the domain of nerds (with little of the romance that attaches to hacker culture). For example, the cartoon character Dilbert is an engineer.

This has not always been so - most British school children in the 1950s were brought up with stirring tales of 'the Victorian Engineers', chief amongst whom where the Brunels, the Stephensons, Telford and their contemporaries.

In science fiction engineers are often portrayed as highly knowledgeable and respectable individuals who understand the overwhelming future technologies often portrayed in the genre. The Star Trek characters Montgomery Scott and Geordi La Forge are famous examples.

Engineers are often respected and ridiculed for their intense beliefs and interests. Perhaps because of their deep understanding of the interconnectedness of many things, engineers such as Governor John H. Sununu are often driven into politics to "fix things" for the public good.

Occasionally, engineers may be recognized by the "Iron Ring" - a stainless steel or iron ring worn on the little (fifth) finger of the working hand. This tradition was originally developed in Canada in the Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer as a symbol of pride and obligation for the engineering profession. Some years later this practice was adopted by the United States. Members of the US Order of the Engineer accept this ring as a pledge to uphold the proud history of engineering. A Professional Engineer's name often has the post-nominal letters PE or P.Eng.