Make Your Nominations Here for Water and Waste Water's Engineering Rock Stars
August 13, 2009
Last night I saw Ajay Bhatt on TV for the first time. He's Intel's latest "rock star" in their "Sponsors of Tomorrow" marketing campaign.
Bhatt is a good sport in playing what must have been an uncomfortable video role. But this send up of modern fan adulation does more than bring attention to one of Intel's many stellar engineers.
Intel's rock star video serves as a reminder that real people make the things that make the world a little better. And while we can't elevate every engineer--or engineering team--to the star status they deserve for their innovations, we can at least share the names of the ones we know of.
Announcing the Water and Waste Water Engineering Star Quest
So here's your chance to join in the nomination of our own process industry rock stars. You can nominate historical figures or contemporaries. To help get you started, here are some individuals who might qualify for star status:
Joseph Priestly (1733 – 1804): Water and Wastewater dot com publisher Joe Taylor nominated Joseph Priestly because "he's the guy who figured out oxygen and gases."
Priestly actually received a rock star's welcome when he emigrated from England to the United States in 1794. But the adulation was more for his outspoken support of the new republic than his discovery of oxygen.
According to the Chemical Heritage website, Priestly had been encouraged by Benjamin Franklin, when the later was in London, to complete his first scientific work, The History of Electricity (1767). Priestly went on to publish more than 150 works. In addition to his scientific research he was a noted English theologian, natural philosopher, educator, and political theorist.
While Priestly is credited with the discovery of oxygen (he called it "dephlogisticated air"), Carl Wilhelm Scheele and Antoine Lavoisier also hold claim to the discovery. Priestly wrote six volumes on Experiments and Observations on Different Kinds of Air.
In Birmingham, England Priestly joined the Lunar Society, a group of manufacturers, inventors, and natural philosophers who met monthly to discuss their work. The group included manufacturer Matthew Boulton, chemist and geologist James Keir, inventor and engineer James Watt, and botanist, chemist, and geologist William Withering.
Archimedes of Syracuse (c. 287 BC – c. 212 BC): Going even further back in history, my top choice for engineering rock star is Archimedes whose breakthrough screw design is still used for pumping water and in bulk material handling. It's the basis for the screw feeder, by far the most commonly used volumetric or gravimetric feeder found today. You can find the Archimedes screw pumping and metering liquids and bulk solids in virtually every industry.
Archimedes wrote the earliest known explanation of the principle involved in the lever. He is said to have remarked, "Give me a place to stand, and I will move the Earth."
Archimedes designed block-and-tackle pulley systems, allowing sailors to use the principle of leverage to lift objects that would otherwise have been too heavy to move. He is also credited with improving the power and accuracy of the catapult. During the First Punic War he invented the first odometer. As a cart outfitted with the odometer moved forward, a gear mechanism dropped a ball into a container upon each mile traveled.
Archimedes was born, lived and died in the Greek city-state of Syracuse, in Sicily. Like all the early innovators, he was a generalist and is known as a Greek mathematician, physicist, inventor, and astronomer. And he was most definitely an engineer. "His name is inextricably associated with the genesis of engineering in ancient Greece," according to this profile on the website of the Technology Museum & Science Center in Thessaloniki, Greece.
Gordon E. Moore (1929 - ): Gordon E. Moore didn't invent the computer, and he can't take full credit for the microprocessor, though he and Intel co-founder Robert Noyce certainly gave it a hand. Over the years, his Intel engineers have taken a commanding lead in development of the computer chip that has become the backbone of countless products and the transformer of nearly every business and industry.
The thing that makes Moore stand out from all the others is his early recognition of just how big this chip revolution would be. In 1965, his Moore's Law predicted the trajectory of how many transistors could be placed on a computer chip. The time frame has stretched from a year, to 18 months to two years as the size and complexity of the chips have grown, but the law has held for more than 40 years. Each new generation of chips has doubled the computing power of the previous chips. As a result computing costs have been cut in half every one to two years, while speed and computational capacity have grown exponentially.
The impact of the microprocessor on every industry cannot be overstated. Many modern processes simply would not be possible without today's digital controls and sensors. Just to take one example, highly accurate loss-in-weight and weigh belt feeders wouldn't be so accurate without their microprocessor controls. Digital weighing technology simply isn't possible without their onboard microprocessors.
Moore earned a bachelor's in chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley in 1950 and a Ph.D. in chemistry and physics from the California Institute of Technology in 1954. For those who might say he's a chemist or a business manager, not an engineer, it should be noted that Moore is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Engineers. He serves on the board of trustees of the California Institute of Technology and received the National Medal of Technology in 1990 and the Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, in 2002.
Who Are Your Engineering Stars?
So now it's your chance to nominate our own engineering rock stars. They may be historical figures whose work we continue to build upon today. Or you may want to nominate a contemporary like Ajay Bhatt whose work is moving us toward tomorrow. Post your comment here, or send an email to email@example.com with the subject line Engineering Stars.