Tuesday, November 27, 2012
A degree in engineering equips its owner with far more than just the ability to perform complex calculations and construct advanced machinery. It also shapes critical thinking and problem-solving skills, making engineers a valuable commodity in many different fields. Many end up in careers completely unrelated to their original area of study. There are several well-known engineers living today, including a few that may surprise you. These are five of the most famous individuals who either hold a degree or work in engineering, based on lifetime achievements and name recognition.
Better known for his persona as "The Science Guy," Bill Nye had a long history in the private sector before switching to educational television. As a child, his fascination with flight led him to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering at Cornell University. After graduation, he worked at Boeing in Seattle and began cultivating his comedy routines on the side. His love for the natural world and the subtle workings of science combined with his acting talent, and soon he was making physics and chemistry exciting for children across the nation. His show is now a common memory for young engineers earning their degrees.
Lee Iacocca is one of the most successful men in business and credited with turning around two major car companies during his career. A Pennsylvania native, he attended Lehigh University to study industrial engineering during the 1940s. He then earned his master's degree at Princeton. He was hired on in an entry-level position at Ford and, within 14 years, worked his way up to vice president of the company. Iacocca was the mastermind behind the Ford Mustang and many other notable cars. Although he rose to president of the company, disagreements with the owner caused him to be fired in 1978. Undeterred, he turned a nearly bankrupt Chrysler into a profitable manufacturer once more until his retirement in 1992. Today he remains an avid philanthropist.
Steve Jobs was always the more recognized face of Apple, but the company would never have reached its current position without the help of Steve Wozniak. Wozniak was a computing prodigy, building his first computer at 13. Wozniak and Jobs were friends in high school, and when Wozniak dropped out of college they went their separate ways for several years. It wasn't until 1975 that they began collaborating again. Wozniak modified and built computers, while Jobs handled the marketing. From there, Apple exploded into popularity, making Wozniak one of the wealthiest men in the world.
Rowan Atkinson will forever be associated with his silly, awkward character Mr. Bean, but before his expressive face became a global phenomenon it was bent over mathematics textbooks. He earned several degrees in electrical engineering at Newcastle and Oxford University while establishing himself in comedy. His is the rare case where show-business proved to be far more lucrative than engineering, and today he is valued at over $130 million.
Jimmy Carter served as the 39th president of the United States from 1977 to 1981. He spent one year studying nuclear engineering at Georgia Southwestern University before enrolling in the Naval Academy instead. He graduated with a scientific degree and began working on nuclear submarines until a large, disastrous leak left him reconsidering his support for nuclear power. When he left the Navy, he used his experience as a military commander to enter politics, becoming the governor of Georgia and eventually president. Although his presidency is sometimes viewed as a disappointment, Carter remains a popular figure thanks to his later work in philanthropy and foreign relations.
Author and engineer Robert Wallace recommends checking out the Top 10 Online MEM Degree Programs if you're interested in a career in engineering.