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Engineering acronyms.

A long time ago I asked a gentleman about his professional qualifications. His reply was 'Dipl.-Ing.' After a long pause, he added, casting a meaningful glance at me: ETH! Dipl.-Ing, is the abbreviation of 'Diplom-Ingenieur', meaning roughly 'graduate engineer' or 'professional engineer' holding a diploma.

Adding the acronym ETH greatly improves the status of the Diplom-Ingenieur, because Eidgenossische Techniche Hochschule (ETH), the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich--together with its Lausanne branch Ecole Polytechnique Federale (EPFL)--enjoys an excellent international reputation. It can be likened to the American Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Counting Albert Einstein among its graduates, ETH now celebrates its 150th anniversary. In Zurich the ETH community numbers about 18,000 people from 80 nations, who are taught by 360 professors, chiefly in the technical, mathematical and natural sciences. Founded under the name of "Eidgenossisches Polytechnikum" (Swiss Federal Polytechnic Institute), the 'Poly' was then practically the first national university in Switzerland.

In this country, there are also numerous engineering colleges known as Hohere Technische Lehranstalten (HTL), in French: Ecoles techniques superieures (ETS). The 'Dipl.-Ing. HTL' usually ranks far lower than 'Dipl.-Ing. ETH', because ETH can also confer the title of doctor and thus is on equal footing with other top-level universities.

The most widely known HTL institute in Switzerland is probably the Technikum in Winterthur. Its permanent exhibition explaining physical phenomena (often with spectacular experiments) such as electricity, magnetism or gravity could warrant a visit to Winterthur, especially with the children.

Empa is another important acronym within the ETH domain, designating the Swiss Federal laboratories for Materials Testing and Research. Just now, the ETH giant can boast of another acronym: ISREC, the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research in Epalinges near Lausanne, which recently merged with the ETH 'family'.

ISREC is also connected with computer-aided genetic research. -In English, the word 'engineer' is less prestigious than in German, where a Herr Ingenieur (or Diplom-Ingenieur) enjoys similar respect as a doctor or Ph.D. By contrast, 'engineer' sometimes merely designates a machine operator (German: Maschinist), mechanic (Mechaniker) or engine driver (Lokomotivfuhrer). The words engine, engineer and ingeniousness as well as their counterparts in other European languages are derived from Latin 'ingenium' used for mental power or a clever invention. A good engineer's best asset is certainly his ingenuity!
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Title Annotation:Language Corner
Publication:Swiss News
Date:Apr 1, 2005
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