Engineering heroes come in all shapes and sizes, from famous names to family members. Engineers Australia National President Trish White and CEO Bronwyn Evans asked engineers around Australia to share theirs.
General John Monash, who we pay tribute to in this edition, was one of the most popular choices, in recognition of his many achievements as an engineer, electrical industry pioneer and captain of industry — as well as his remarkable record as a military commander.
Several members also nominated one of our personal engineering heroes, Edith Clarke, who 100 years ago became the first woman to earn her master’s in electrical engineering at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology!
Despite the qualification, Clarke initially struggled to get a job in her field and took a position at General Electric (GE) for which she was vastly overqualified: supervising human “computers”.
Undeterred, she used her spare time to invent and patent a graphical calculator that could solve equations relating to electrical transmission lines 10 times faster than previous methods.
GE later relented, appointing her to an engineering role in 1922. Clarke went on to enjoy a long and successful career at GE, before “retiring” in 1945 to become America’s first female professor of electrical engineering.
Members also nominated a diverse array of prominent individuals — past and present — as engineering heroes.
These included pioneering 19th century English engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, American Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, fictional TV character MacGyver; company founder Sir John Holland, C.Y. O’Connor of Western Australian goldfields pipeline fame, the Snowy Mountains Scheme’s William Hudson, Tesla’s Elon Musk, and Margaret Hamilton, who developed the onboard software for NASA’s Apollo space program.
However, many of our members also celebrated more everyday engineers as heroes: parents, grandparents and family friends who introduced them to the profession; schoolteachers and university lecturers; colleagues and peers; mentors and managers.
As our Centenary year draws to a close, we’d like to call on all of you to do everything you can to be one of these engineering heroes.
By mentoring others, talking about the amazing things we do in our profession, volunteering, sharing knowledge and ideas, and supporting colleagues, we can all change the world for the people around us!
We have used our Centenary year as a platform to highlight the value of the engineering community of today and our proud engineering heritage under the theme “Anything Is Possible”.
If you’re on the lookout for a Christmas gift for an engineer or aspiring engineer, please consider our Centenary coffee table book, Wonders Never Cease, which tells the story of 100 Australian engineering achievements and is available from eabooks.com.au.
Finally, we’d like to thank all members and volunteers for their support in 2019 and wish you a wonderful 2020!