Updated: Jun 3, 2019
Wisdom alone is the science of all sciences.
The School of Athens By Raphael
Those words were spoken by Plato in the 4th century BCE. They are as relevant today as they were then only I would add the following: Engineering alone is the science of all sciences and humanities.
It’s 36⁰C outside, I’m leading one of the most complex engineering projects of our time, I’m surrounded by some of the most astute scientific minds on the planet, and there is one universal common factor that remains unchanged: this project is being run by PEOPLE.
People have the same hopes, desires, aspirations, fears, joys today as they did three thousand years ago. And that goes for engineers and scientists too. Of all sciences, engineering is the most human.
People working on the biggest (or smallest) engineering projects today – putting a human on Mars, or building a new railway that will help advance a developing country – experience the same pressures and tensions, fulfilment and elation as they did when building the Parthenon in Athens, defending the city of Troy, or going in search of the Golden Fleece. The most successful projects always put the human factor front and centre.
The latter half of the 20th Century saw a widening separation of the sciences from the humanities. Those close to the leadership of the biggest engineering projects know that projects fail, or overrun, not because the science is lacking, not for want of effort, but for the most basic reason of all: the human factor. If the engineering profession is to come of age in the 21st Century it must embrace the humanities as much as the sciences and blend the two into one holistic, enlightened entity.
The wisest leaders today are addressing the need for mental health as showcased by the Heads Together initiative. Quintus of Cambridge goes one step further by incorporating consideration for the humanities in all aspects of work. That is why Quintus of Cambridge actively encourages students of non-sciences backgrounds, such as Classics, to join an engineering consultancy.
The shape of things to come may be found best by careful study of our own past.
'There's nothing old fashioned other than performers.' Maria Callas