Innovation and the Changing Role of the Engineer

by W. James King, Assoc. Prof. of History; Texas A&M Univ., College Station, Tex.,
Donald McDonald, (F.ASCE), Prof. of Civ. Engrg.; Texas A&M Univ., College Station, Tex.,

Serial Information: Transportation Engineering Journal of ASCE, 1977, Vol. 103, Issue 3, Pg. 409-419

Document Type: Journal Paper


Innovation has two aspects: (1)Material, which results in the introduction of new products or processes; and (2)theoretical, which results in new methodology. Both aspects of innovation are examined with reference to civil engineers in the aerospace industry, and the design of aircraft. It is shown, by referring to a number of econometric analyses, that material innovation obtained through research and development has contributed greatly to American economic growth. Historical examination of the finite element method of structural engineering, which arose in the aerospace industry, raises some important questions about the future role of engineers. In particular, whether or not the engineer, through his use of the computer, may indeed be moving into some of the traditional fields of activity of the scientist, as the preceding historical analysis would seem to indicate, and if such forecasting should prove to be valid, whether this will influence the future education of the engineer.

Subject Headings: Innovation | Finite element method | Industries | Aircraft and spacecraft | Research and development | Economic factors | Engineering history | Industrial facilities

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