The Revolt of the Engineers DEG 2-04

The Revolt of the Engineers
Summary by David E. Goldberg
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Urbana, IL 61801
• Layton, Jr., E. T. (1986). The revolt of the
engineers: Social responsibility and the
American engineering profession.
Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University
Engineer and business.
Evolution of a profession.
Ideology of engineering.
Revolt of the civil engineers.
Scientific management and reform.
Morris Cooke
Return to Normalcy
Depression and New Deal
Engineer: Scientist & Businessman
• Veblen: Assumed conflict would force
engineers to become social
• 1816: 30 engineers
• 1850: 2000 engineers
• 1880-1920: 7000 to 136,000 engineers
Key Conflict
• Bureaucratic loyalty vs. Independence of
• Professional values:
– Autonomy
– Colleagual control of professional work
– Social responsibility
• Professionalism vs. egalitarianism.
Business Influence on Engineering
• Educationally: Board of Trustees,
• Hierarchically: in Companies; price of
• Rise results in loss of ID as engineers.
• Censorship of engineering publication.
• Companies supporting travel to
engineering society meetings.
Evolution of a Profession
• Professionally oriented: Single society
represents all.
• Industry oriented: Societies that serve
needs of specific industries.
• Scientifically oriented: Require individuals
with creative ability to do original work.
Origins Follow Scientific Society
• 1829: Franklin Institute.
• 1839: First effort to form engineering
society on top of Franklin Institute.
• 1848: Boston Society of Civil Engineers
• 1852: American Society of Civil Engineers.
• Two early majors: AIME and ASCE (biz vs.
• Elitist tendencies alienate
– Local engineers
– Engineers in industry
– Young engineers
• Maintain autonomy rather than expand
• American Institute of Mining Engineers
• Those “practically engaged in mining,
metallurgy, or metallurgical engineering.”
• One-man band: Rossiter W. Raymond.
• Engineer as a kind of businessman.
• Resisted code of ethics.
• 3 Founders
– Sweet: artisan
– Holly: businessman
– Thurston: educator
• Inclusive membership, but elite
governance of the society.
• Formed to compete with British society.
• First president was president of Western
• But scientific advance in electricity brought
rapid professionalism of AIEE.
Proliferation of Societies
• Unhappiness with business v.
professionalism calibration.
• Business toward proliferation,
professionalism toward unification.
• Engineers not philosophers.
• No coherent metaphysical system.
• Many assumptions about the world taken
as self-evident.
• System
– Materialistic: physics and material
– Idealistic: Ethical imperatives and moralism.
• Biz v. Science again!!
Herbert Spencer
• Social darwinism.
• Laissez faire.
• Highly influential in
late 1800s.
• Spencer an engineer.
• Could not reconcile
with idealism.
Engineers: Priests of Social Good
• ASCE’s Morrison: “We are the priests of
material development, of the work which
enables other men to enjoy the fruits of the
great sources of power in Nature, and of
the power of mind over matter. We are
priests of the new epoch, without
Self Image
Important social role.
Logical thinkers.
Concerned over status of engineers.
Seek scientific solutions to all things.
Similarity with reformers
– Middle ground between labor and capital.
– Nostalgia for individualism of the frontier.
– Not the same faith in democracy.
Struggle for Status
AIEE took lead.
Code of Ethics: 1906-1912.
Public policy forays: largely unsuccessful.
Local vs. Center: Locals were fairly strong.
1912 rule limits local power.
• New grade of member: allowed
businessmen in.
• Shift from professionalism to biz: mid
teens to 20s.
Revolt of the Civils
Overproduction of Civil degrees.
Complancy of ASCE.
No interest in unification.
Newell Reclamation Service head,
Orwellian designs. Committee on
Engineering Cooperation.
• American Association of Engineers: Grew
to 20,000 in just under 2 years.
Engineering Council
• Answer to AAE, 1917.
• Served government.
• Didn’t unify engineers, but neither did
Frederick Taylor
• Scientific management.
• Early engineers approach to management.
• Time and motion study of industrial
• All task, no relationship.
• Threatened both labor and management.
• Efficiency methods used in education!!
• Morris Cooke: efficiency and democracy.
Herbert Hoover
• Engineering method personified.
• Progressive but not radical.
• Efficiency will eliminate waste.
Engineering write large.
• But had constrained view of what
engineers could do.
• President of Federated American
Engineering Societies 1920.
Planning vs. the Individual
• Scientific management and technocracy
led to planning at the center.
• Other engineers emphasized the individual
and enterprise.
• Depression look inward:
– ECPD 1932: licensure as way of controlling
– Unions