How Creative Engineers Think

by Tom F. Peters, (M.ASCE), Dir. of Build.and Arch. Technol. Inst.; Lehigh Univ., Bethlehem, PA,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1998, Vol. 68, Issue 3, Pg. 48-51

Document Type: Feature article


Engineering giants think in a non-traditional way, combining scientific thinking with creative thinking, which results in technological thought. The author gives examples of how Gustave Eiffel, Marc Brunel, Charles Fox, Richard Turner and Squire Whipple combined different ways of thinking to solve problems and change the way engineers today work. Scientific thought is linear and hierarchical, and is free from personal and cultural value systems. Matrix thinking is subjective and always depends on the thinker's value system; it moves from level to level through associative leaps in logic. Technologists are border-crossers, and they bridge all these ways of thinking. Examples such as Brunel's early tunnel boring machine, Fox's spatial thinking that resulted in the modular structure of the 19th century Crystal Palace, and Richard Turner's ingenious tubular purlins at the 19th century Kew Palm Gardens that share loads for the building in then-unique ways.

Subject Headings: Tunnels | Modular structures | Matrix (mathematics) | Load factors | Linear functions | Light rail transit | Equipment and machinery

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