Today’s factismal: The word engineer comes from the Latin word ingenium which means “cleverness”.
If you want to start an argument at a science conference, as the folks there who the first scientist was. They’ll argue all day and night, complete with glossy photos covered with circles and arrows and with references on the back of each one, trying to decide if Pythagoras was a scientist or just a guy with a bean fetish. But if you ask a group of engineers who the first engineer was, you won’t get an argument. That’s because nobody knows; ever since there have been people, there have been engineers that built things to make the people more comfortable.
Engineers built the hanging gardens of Babylon. Engineers built the pyramids of Egypt. And engineers built the marvel that was Rome, from her majestic aqueducts to her ubiquitous roads to her incredible coliseums. And, in return for all that the engineers gave Rome, the Romans gave engineers a name: ingenium or “clever folks”. And those clever folks have kept giving us marvel after marvel.
Today is International Engineer Day. So be sure to look at the freeway you drive on or the house you live in or the plane flying overhead and give thanks that those clever folks are still at it. Of course, if you’d like to help create the next generation of clever folks, then there’s a citizen science program for that: Free Geek. These engineers are determined to help make certain that every aspiring engineer has the tools that she or he needs by refurbishing used computer equipment and donating it to low-income families. They started in Portland, Oregon, but have since spread to several other states. To donate or take part, head over to: