I’ve said for years that engineers are the smartest people. That’s not meant to minimize the intelligence and gifts given to the rest of us. The genius of the world’s great musicians, artists, mathematicians, etc. are undeniable. However, the best engineers combine many of these products of intelligence to solve problems and design and fabricate solutions which are both functional and beautiful. The best engineers can diagnose problems and fix them with whatever he or she has at hand, exhibiting the ability to reimagine, repurpose and improvise. The best engineers combine the skills of the artist, the craftsman, the mathematician and any other number of creative talents to not only solve problems but do it with style.
My opinion is biased by the fact that some of the best engineers I’ve ever met never set foot in an institution of higher learning. More specifically, many of the best engineers I’ve ever met were farmers, or those who grew up in rural or isolated situations. When you have a physical problem that needs repair and you’re 25-100 miles away from the nearest hardware store, the creative cream which rises to the top might be covered in Key Brand bib overalls. And if you are lucky enough to get a farm kid who also has the benefit of a quality formal engineering education, you’re living life in the express lane.
If you’re not following me, there’s no better exhibition of engineering form and function than the output of the golden age of farm machinery. I attended the 2016 Granite Iowa Threshing Bee on Friday, July 15 and took the following photos. It isa in many of these machines, most 50-100 years old, where practical problem-solving, craftsmanship and physical beauty and style came together. I thing vintage farm machinery is every bit as beautiful as a great painting or sculpture while also performing back-breaking work which before invention left them less time for appreciation of the other artistic creations of human beings.
I am biased of course, and you could make solid arguments for those in other disciplines being smarter. In any case , enjoy these works of both art and engineering from farming’s golden age.