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the size of a water pipe by substituting in simple algebraic formulæ?
It is not only the uneducated engineer who makes this remark. It is heard as well from men who have had the best scientific education. And there is of course some truth in it. This basis of truth blinds many professional men and unfortunately some professional schools. They cry out: We are after the practical; we do not want theorists; we teach our young men the practical part of the profession and do not cram them with useless formulæ which they will never use.
The advocates of this method of education draw too fine a line between the suryeyor or the mechanic and the engineer. They forget the difference in the strength of the man who does a thing because some one tells him it is right and he who does it because he knows it is right. Even they would hardly say that the computer who knew only enough to take the size of a beam from a handbook was on the same plane with one who was familiar with the theory of flexure. And leaving this phase of the question out of consideration, although it is a fact that the ordinary routine work of the engineer depends largely on judgment and experience and involves simple mathematical operations, the time comes not infrequently when he should know how to attain results or make investigations which require an accurate knowledge of the higher mathematics, pure and applied. As a general statement, if he fails here he does not represent the highest type of the engineer. But it is the business of an engineering school to graduate young men so equipped that they shall in time, with experience, represent this highest type. It should, therefore, be the first aim of every such institution to ground well its students, not only in the fundamental principles of pure mathematics, but in those of rational and technical mechanics.
Few men of high grade in the profession look upon the higher text-books and treatises as “heaps of mathematical rubbish.” They cannot be so regarded in the professional schools of to-day. The use of them gives a solid mental equipment and grasp not easily attained otherwise. So equipped, the problems which bother the surveyor and the mechanic become child's play to the engineer. So trained, the forgetfulness of special methods of analysis which time perforce brings does not include that of fundamental principles necessary in his daily work. A smattering of so-called practical knowledge will never replace such a foundation as this.
It is the experience of the great majority of engineers--of almost all of them—that the exactions of professional work prevent them from giving much time to study and original investigation. In fact, the general statement may be made that if an engineer has not received in his youth a solid mathematical and, so to speak, theoretical foundation he will seldom acquire it afterwards. Furthermore, the early acquirement of such knowledge gives its possessor an added advantage. Acquirement becomes easy. All the more easy because the ordinary daily routine does not call into play his highest intellectual efforts. He enters the race not handicapped by a deficiency which would compel him to put forth his best efforts to understand the simpler problems of his profession, but his familiarity with these principles gives him time for that which is most valuable in all professions—a general consideration of the work in hand. Practical knowledge will reach him in due time. Whatever the course may be there must be few instructors indeed who think they are sending forth practical engineers. There is one way, and one only, to make a practical engineer. You cannot make one in the schools.
It is not intended to convey the idea that pure theory only should be given. Designs, experiments, tests, and surveys are valuable and necessary adjuncts. But they should not be allowed to overshadow courses in which fundamental theoretic principles are taught. They are adjuncts only and cannot replace these courses. For instance, the student of civil engineering should receive instruction in the design of bridges with estimates of cost, but only after he has been well grounded in the theory of stresses. If the time be too short too give both, all should be spent on the stresses. If he does not know the difference between a batten plate and a pilot nut it will not take him long to place them in practice. It is of more importance to him to learn in the schools the principles of the stability of masonry constructions than to be taught practically how to make concrete or lay masonry. Accurate knowledge of the strength of materials and of the properties of steam will give him a better foundation as an engineer than familiarity with the details of special engines.
This subject has been dwelt upon at some length because the writer believes that the attempt sometimes made to so educate a young man that he will step from school a practical engineer is abortive. If the custom were universal, the tone and value of the profession as a whole would be lowered. Its tendency in schools of civil engineering is to produce surveyors, and in those of mechanical engineering, mechanics, rather than engineers. It is perhaps more pronounced in schools of mechanical engineering than elsewhere, the tendency being to devote a large part of the time to pattern work, molding, and the machine shop. These render the student skilled of hand. May not too much of the time be given to hand work and too little to head work? The amount to be allowed for the shops and for testing is of course a matter of opinion, but it should always be remembered that there is a fundamental difference between the objects of a trade school and a school of engineering, and the difference between the curriculums should be not less great.
A few words at this point upon the proper use of models and apparatus may not be out of place. This would hardly seem to be necessary, but there is a growing tendency on the part of some schools to depend too largely upon their use. Valuable as they are for purposes of instruction, it must be remembered that it should be the object of an institution to send forth young men so equipped mentally that they will be able to take up and solve the difficult problems and questions constantly met with in professional life on their own responsibility. They can depend then upon no adventitious aid. If their reasoning powers have been developed by passing from the absract to the concrete, they will be more self-reliant and their judgment will be more liable to be sound than if they have been trained by the continued use of models and other similar aids. It is the quality of the training rather than the amount of knowledge acquired which should determine the value of a school. The use of acquired principles as instruments, not as collections of facts, is the desideratum.
In the academic schools of the country an interesting question has been considered during the last two or three decades. Difference of opinion still exist upon it and customs vary greatly. To what extent optional studies should be allowed in such courses has been a mooted point. To what extent specialization should be permitted in early training for professional life should likewise be carefully considered. Although the field of the engineer has become so broadened that specialists are required as in other professions, it is not considered wise to begin such differentiation at too early a period in the education of a young man. No one in practice can confine himself to one branch of professional work without continually making use of principles found in the others. Not only should the education in the schools be not too special but the engineer who has had a certain amount of practice in various branches of the profession is more likely to