It's not only in life that engineers avoid the limelight
12 Aug 2019
Engineers’ long acknowledged habit of being overly modest about their achievements appears to stay with them beyond the grave.
A correspondent to the Times has pointed out that the publication dubbed ‘the top people’s paper’ has shown a marked preference for subjects from the arts and showbusiness over those with a STEM or manufacturing background.
Sevenoaks based engineer Hugh Williams has backed up his assertion with rigorous proof – collating 400 obits published in the paper during the first half of 2019.
Writing to the paper's Feedback section he points out that, among the three quarters of the subjects who are male, one third are comprised of people from the entertainment industry, followed by writers on 13%. Among women the respective scores are 28% and 17%.
Otherwise, reports Williams, academia, business, the armed services and sport all achieve 9% while politicians are slightly behind on 7%. Lagging far behind are business and science.
Williams’ theory appeared to be confirmed by the Times obituary team who identified just four, admittedly high profile, scientists’ obituaries during the period researched.
These included David Pratt (a member of explorer Sir Vivian Fuchs’ Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1957), the marine engineer and businessman Robert Braithwaite, Sydney Opera House designer Jack Zunz and the materials chemist and nanoscientist Paul O’Brien, the former head of Manchester University School of Materials.
Speaking in the Times, Williams commented: “[We] engineers have a bit of a chip on our shoulders about engineering being poorly understood and respected, and engineers are seldom mentioned in obituaries, even in the technical press.”