Engineers and Anniversaries

Every day in history is the anniversary of something. (For grins, check out today’s Google doodle. No engineering involved, but there is fun little video game, which, of course, you will play only during your lunch hour.)

I missed one last Thursday. For those of you keeping score, April 9 was the 150th anniversary of Robert E. Lee’s surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House, pretty much ending the Civil War—a good lee grant 1024x801idea all around. Not much relationship to control engineering either, but we history majors tend of obsess about things like that. On the other hand, there is this bit of history/engineering trivia. After graduating No 2 in his class at West Point (Class of 1829), Lee served for 26 years in the Army Corps of Engineers.

Tomorrow is another anniversary that has captured public imagination. Tax day is not the only disaster associated with April 15. It’s also the day RMS Titanic sank in the North Atlantic, taking close to 1500 lives.  This one’s links to engineering are much tighter. A case can be made that engineering screw-ups of one kind or another haunted that ship from the time the ink was dry on the first blueprints.

The accident itself could also be a manual in how not to plan a safety system. The folks at Graphic Products in Beaverton, Oregon, have done us a favor and drawn up five safety lessons from the Titanic disaster. And just Stoewer Titanicbecause you don’t work on a floating operation doesn’t mean the general principles don’t apply.