Ferguson’s Argument and Evidence

In Eugene Ferguson Engineering and the Mind’s Eye, he makes the case that the existing privileging of science and math over the nonverbal and visual in engineering education is mutually a dangerous practice and a historical abnormality. By applying a well-demonstrated chronicle of engineering strategy, Ferguson claims that not all engineering complications can be resolved by analysis in mathematical; short of the ability to envisage machines, environment, and the structures. He goes on to explain the fact that engineers, a lot of the time, make poor judgment calls. These weak calls lead to crushing disappointments in nuclear power plants, bridges, refrigerators, and other machinery. The book holds a generous variety of old drawings and sketches and presents well-chosen themes, as well as a foretaste into the history of engineering, from its earlier stages to its status, scattered with the essential part played by the mind’s eye. Ferguson highlights the exclusive nature of engineering design, specifically that it is not a science, nevertheless instead of art that produces many helpful items. Ferguson stressed that the ancients, regardless of having neither computers nor calculus, often carried out extraordinary complexity in their designs. We, with our display of current logical tools, quite often attain remarkable foolishness in ours.

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Ferguson made the point that design as “invention instigates things to come into being from thoughts, makes the world follow to view; while science, by springing ideas from watching, makes the statement “form follows function” false. He also argued that design has two main principal purposes. One of those purposes is to show the designers how the concepts look on paper. Ferguson debates that they display to the workers was important because it was visual. He believed that the designs were are all founded on reasonable judgments.

Furthermore, Ferguson concludes that this has always been and will always be the case that the privileging of science and math over the nonverbal and visual in engineering education would become more and more. The design aspect of engineering, however, receives less recognition than does its scientific nature. The design is a process that necessarily is infested with uncertainties because one can never fully predict its outcomes. However, the path taken by the design process is predictable even though modern tools like computer-aided design programs are used. This is the way Ferguson thought.

Ferguson’s stresses on the visual. He believes that it is linked to a greater worry with engineering’s loss of that holistic, experiential real-world experience on which the field was initially founded. Therefore, his history of engineering highlights its subjective character before the clear focus. He also uses history to make his point. Ferguson talks about how engineers in the Renaissance, applied drawing techniques that were effective. Again, this showed how the visual was important. He also used drawing methods to visualize and therefore think through Scientific Revolution breakthroughs such as human anatomy and planetary motion. Also, other things like perspective drawing procedures (developed by Renaissance statisticians) facilitated project by making representations more exact. During the 18th and 19th centuries, drawing techniques that were formalized like the application of models, and the creation of visual systems for engineering computation — descriptive statistics, nomography, slide rules, and indicator diagrams — reserved visual thinking at the lead of engineering practice and design.

When WWII ended, engineering education moved away from what was an open-ended art and in the direction of sound, natural science. Suddenly shop courses were swapped with theories of mechanics, heat transfer, thermodynamics; students have slight collaboration with the real world; those that are graduating engineers have a tough time designing answers for real-world difficulties.

Eugene Ferguson proves that engineering that is good is as much a subject of nonverbal thinking and intuition as of computation and equations. He contends that a structure of engineering education that disregards nonverbal thinking will create engineers who are seriously ignorant of the many behaviors in which the real world fluctuates from the exact replicas constructed in the minds of those in the academic.

Eugene Ferguson also looks at the course of engineering design. Ferguson, who has been successively a professional museum curator, a mechanical engineer, and an instructor of the history of technology, utilizes instances fluctuating from the progress of the American ax to the downfall of the Hartford Coliseum. Also, the functioning of the Hubble space telescope to show the customs where visual thinking enhances engineering and the traditions in which engineering that depends on exclusively on technical cleverness can go amiss. Ferguson finishes his account by debating that engineering instruction since 1945 has been distorted in the direction of analytical methods. By the way, are recognized as being the simplest to appraise and teach as mentioned earlier in the essay.

All over, Ferguson’s core argument is that the personal, connection to real-world problems through representation and visual thinking, is extremely significant to engineers’ capability to design solutions that are effective. Also, that engineering’s systematic turn to theoretical objectivity has had terrible effects on the utility and safety of engineering projects. Even though his stress is more on the visual side, it naturally leads Ferguson to abandon larger systems of power in some of his illustrations. I suppose that what he’s getting at is nurturing creativity instead of the visual as such. His argument for creative and subjectivity, real-world thinking in engineering inevitably sound incredibly logical to me.

Part II: Assess and Explore the Applicability of Ferguson’s ideas to other Engineering Realms.

Corporations are turning out to be more and more analytical of new graduate engineers. The criticism is not that the new graduates are not smart students. It is not even that their scientific training is not satisfactory; but that these graduates are not aware how to use this exercise. They lack the wisdom when it comes down to them applying it to real engineering complications. Eugene Ferguson in the Mind’s Eye agrees on Engineering. He believes that university programs are not getting what they need. He stresses that they are missing the real core of engineering. Programs highlight the technical features of the discipline — analysis, analysis, computer simulation, and mathematical description. However, ignore a myriad of other characteristics that are vital for effective engineering projects.

Ferguson argued that elite engineering schools are more and more turning out students more acquainted with arithmetic than machinery: graduates, mentioned to me a decade ago, we can’t, make anything that anyone needs anymore.’ Ferguson goes on to mention that this is about as harsh as you can be in talking about an engineer.”

Ferguson would agree with R. A. Buchanan article, The Diaspora of British Engineering, who explores how engineering was at the top of its game during the imperialism era. The fact that the separation of British engineering in the era before 1830 was merely comparative should serve to prompt us that there were allowances, and some of these were imperative to be worth citing as signs of the directions that British engineering infiltration would embark on. In the first place, the worldwide in British steam technology led to a small but significant movement of engineers and their machinery starting quite before time in the 18th century (Buchanan 1986).

Ferguson would agree that the dominant form of this movement had already been set up by the reply of the railway pioneers to inducements to build railways out of the country. From the beginning of the railway boom, British engineers had been going to other nations to supervise railroad construction, most of the time taking squads of British assistant engineers with them in addition to British laborers and artisans and producing instructions for British iron machine workshops and foundries.

According to Burke (1966), the first major boiler disasters took place on steamboats, and, in fact, the mainstream of explosions through the first half of the nineteenth century occurred on board ship.7 Ferguson argument was that the technology in engineering right after 1945. However, Burke would disagree with that argument because there were flaws in engineering way before that. It appears that by mid-1817, there were four explosions had taken five lives in the eastern waters. During this explosion twenty-five, people had been slain in three disasters on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers (Burke 1966). The city assembly of Philadelphia seems to have been the first lawmaking body in the United States to take knowledge of the disasters and challenge an investigation.

In spite of Evans’ prudence, retrospection makes it sure that the rash of boiler flare-ups from 1816 forward was almost unavoidable. Evans’ de sign directions were not observed. Shell width and diameter rest on upon available material, which was often of standard class (Burke 1966). In untruth, no establishment was made for the waning of the shell caused by the nail holes.

In this argument, it shows that there were flaws in the engineering before 1945. Burke makes the point that there is danger inherent in the engagement of twisted-iron shells with cast-iron heads attached since the different coefficients of expansion was not recognized, and the design of internal stays was often insufficient. The openings in the safety regulators were not appropriately in support of portioned to offer adequate relieving volume. Gauge floats and cocks intended to make sure satisfactory water levels were imprecise and subject to breakdown by entangling with sediment.

During that time, the law raises several questions, since the elimination of review measures and the qualification of engineers gave the measure incompetent. Why was this completed? Did Legislature show limitation since it had information that was insufficient? Did it produce to the stress of Steamboat welfares who feared government intrusion? Such questions cannot be answered, but there are clues for some uncertain conclusions.

Ferguson argument was that there were not good instructors that were teaching the proper engineering tools needed. However, according to Brown (1999) in the 1850s, the Sellers draftsmen exercised scientific information in the form of trigonometry and algebraic equations to work up new designs for machine implements. This report agrees with Ferguson because it is saying that engineering during this era was done right. Ferguson believes that after 1945 that all of this changed. A proficient working understanding of algebra was vital in planning the gear trains that fueled the cutting instruments on lathes (Brown 1999). That was child’s play associated to the trigonometry concerned in inventing a mechanism that is complicated, such as the spiral-pinion motion of Sellers’ and diagonal drive shaft “Patent Self-Acting Planning Machine.” Numerous of the equations essential to define design elements for instance gears were discovered in engineering “pocket books,” another form of rationalized design that was reliable during that time (Brown 1999).

Even the patents proved much technical uniqueness, and there was a systemic engineering vision in produce lines that presented strategic advantages to the corporation. Ferguson completely agrees with this argument because it falls in line with his points. For example, he mentioned that engineering design begins with the visualization of an impression that the creator then “operates” with his “mind’s eye.” It is interesting that Ferguson defines the steps from first imagining to thinking sketches, models, engineering drawings, and, lastly, to the many complete working drawings that lead original structure. Historians who have measured Sellers’ ground-breaking record find three general principles replicated in his projects: parts designed proportionately and without any exaggeration, usage of specific standards and fixed tolerances in manufacture – all to create machines that in the process would replace or curtail expensive and expert hands (Brown 1999).

According to Sinclair (1969), engineering had turned to be somewhat amusing during the industrial revolution. At an era when the superb drama of manipulating a new continent occupied the thoughts of most Americans, nineteenth-century technical opinions in regards to the shape and amount of threads on a screw repeatedly have a remote, comic value-a tad like Jonathan Swift’s pretend epic fight among the Big Enders and the Little Enders. Then the matter was not a matter of mocking trivia. Industrial expansion on a national scale needed that nuts and bolts of the same diameter be compatible. Ferguson would argue that the visual was slowly starting to lose its place. Ferguson was all about the visual. This is supported by the fact that he stated that the tools of visual analysis were that “visual graphics were essential in the presentation of any blueprint in engineering. Also, that showing the calculations gave off a sense of “what’s going on” a sensation and allowing the engineer to construct in the mind’s eye an idea of forces in a structure that is complex.” Sinclair is telling that they lost this perception of visual and Ferguson says that it is important that there are solid answers to questions such as “Does it look correct” and “Are the arithmetical answers sensible.” However, he feels that these issues can only be answered if the visual is applied.

But discussion and controversy did not end in regards to arithmetic being used over machinery. General American acceptance of the system of math brought up the debate to a global level, where it became tangled in the metric system disagreement and engineering competition among countries (Sinclair 1969). For instance, when German engineers proposed the acceptance of the Sellers thread form for use in a metric system to substitute the Whitworth criterion, there was an uproar among engineers that did not support math over machinery.

In conclusion, it was inquisitive that Ferguson was upset about the privileging of science and math over the nonverbal and visual in engineering education. However, it appears that Ferguson was born in the year of 1916. In 1992, in the Mind’s Eye was in print. It’s likely that the computer aided drafting upheaval, which goes on to this day, had not nonetheless completely changed the engineering business when Ferguson was improving his theory that show partiality towards science and math over visual in engineering education was ineffective and the cause of building to be flawed. .


Brown, John K. 1999. “When Machines Became Gray and Drawings Black and White: William Sellers and the Rationalization of Mechanical Engineering.” IA. The Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology 25 (2): 29-54.

Buchanan, R. A. 1986. “The Diaspora of British Engineering.” Technology and Culture 27 (3): 501-524.

Burke, John G. 1966. “Bursting Boilers and the Federal Power.” Technology and Culture 7 (1): 1-23.

Hounshell, David A. 1980. “Edison and the Pure Science Ideal in 19th-Century America.” Science 207 (4431): 612-617.

Rae, John B. 1975. “Engineers Are People.” Technology and Culture 16 (3): 404-418.

Sinclair, Bruce. 1969. “At the Turn of a Screw: William Sellers, the Franklin Institute, and a Standard American Thread. ” Technology and Culture 10 (1): 20-34.