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Engineer and scientist.

The paper "Engineering Is Not Science " by Steven H. VanderLeest (PSCF 64, no.1 [2012]: 20-30) deserves comment that illuminates the role of "engineering" within ASA.

History yields some interesting anecdotes on the shifting boundary between science and engineering and associated terminology. In World War II, many scientists (mostly physicists) were recruited to help develop radar (an engineering function) at "radiation labs" at MIT and Harvard that helped win World War II. (1) After the war, these scientists went back to their scientific pursuits.

At Harvard at that time, there was a small engineering department, but in the post-war period there was a great expansion, focusing on the boundary between engineering and science somewhat in response to a large bequest from Gordon McKay in support of "applied science." Flexibility of language was illustrated by the breadth of departments claiming to be part of "applied science" including "social relations." Since then the new department was renamed eight times, including Department of Engineering Sciences and Applied Physics, Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and currently, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (2008).

In my own career, I have played various roles including "engineer" and "scientist." I was in the Raytheon Research Division that applied "scientist" jargon to job titles, but in 1971 I made an important invention (engineering) after a colleague and I did some science on the subject (which would not have been permitted in an operating division). For the next 16 years, I was involved in extensive patent litigation (with many tests, depositions, affidavits, etc.) that ultimately yielded to Raytheon/ Amana ~$31 M in royalties. Was I an engineer or scientist in that effort?

In 1968, I was assigned to help Amana deal with the safety of microwave ovens regarding potential microwave radiation effects. This was extended to defense of other technology, including radar and VDTs (video display tubes). I was searching for the truth about the effects of electromagnetic energy and I believe I was a scientist in that work. It prompted the paper "Is the ASA Seeking the Truth in Environmental Matters?" which was presented at the 1986 ASA annual meeting.

I was concerned about the "environmentalist" bias within the ASA and the lack of sentiment that matched my thoughts, for example, in thanking God for modern sanitary engineering that obviated the need for the daily wagon that picked up human waste in nineteenth-century England--or thanking God for automobiles which freed us from the routine of picking our way among horse manure on streets, and above all, as the grateful recipient of two cataract operations in the last five years, thanking God for modern medical technology that transformed what used to be (sixty years ago) major surgery with a hospital stay into a two-hour appointment, less traumatic than a visit to the dentist.

In the 1990s, Don Munro, executive director of ASA, asked me to chair an Industrial Commission (IC) to welcome more members to ASA and also to present within ASA views of industry on controversial matters. I have occasionally commented on anti-industry bias in ASA publications (e.g., my letter in PSCF 54, no. 4 (2002): 285-6), but it has become clear to me that the tension is not between "engineering" and "science" but between environmentalism and pro-technology. Hence, when the IC was replaced by a new ASA affiliation, I successfully lobbied for the name Christian Engineers and Scientists in Technology (CEST) for members who are engineers or scientists involved in the development of technology and who find the results compatible with a Christian worldview. CEST continues today with Bill Yoder as president. He issues periodically an informative newsletter to CEST members. It is unfortunate that only one CEST member placed an article with the technology issue and that CEST was not mentioned directly.


(1) Robert Buderi, The Invention That Changed the World: How a Small Group of Radar Pioneers Won the Second World War and Launched a Technological Revolution (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996).

John M. Osepchuk

ASA Fellow

Full Spectrum Consulting

Concord, MA
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Title Annotation:Letters
Author:Osepchuk, John M.
Publication:Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2012
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