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Four engineers, past or present, who would you invite to a dinner party?
Lisa Miles
1249 Posts
If there’s one thing I’ve missed during the pandemic lockdown it’s having friends over (or going over to friends’ houses) for dinner. I’m not a particularly brilliant cook but I do like to experiment and as the sign on my kitchen wall says… Many people have eaten here and survived… 😉

We always like to play the ‘Dinner Party’ game where everyone chooses four people from a specific profession (Actors, Musicians, Politicians, Cartoon Characters, which of the James Bonds etc) that they would invite to a dinner party and explain why they've chosen that person. 

So it got me thinking…

Which four engineers from both past and present (and maybe even from this community) would you choose to invite to your dinner party?

In the spirit of sharing, here’s my four:

Nikola Tesla – I’d like to know if the rivalry between him and Edison was really as bitter as they say.
Elon Musk -  Anyone who can make a rocket take off and then land perfectly again is worth having an interesting chat with in my book!
Andy Millar‍  – I’ve never actually met Andy but we’ve had quite a few conversations online. It would be great to finally sit and have a chat in person. 
OMS‍  – I think we have a very similar taste in music so no complaints about the Dinner Party playlist there. 😉

So... who’s coming to dinner at your house and why? 
 
19 Replies
Interesting - far too many to choose from of course, but how about:-
Eric Laithwaite - inspiring lectures (that I first saw in the 70s) and blunt speaking. Sparks would fly.
Barnes Wallis - legend, what other ideas have we not seen?
Grace Hopper - sure she would have some tales to tell
Margaret Hamilton - would like to know more of her story
Lisa Miles
1249 Posts
Excellent choices rogerg‍! Although for just one minute there I thought you were talking about Margaret Hamilton the actress aka the Wicked Witch of the West! 😂

Deborah-Claire McKenzie‍ I'm sure you have a potential guest list already penned...? 😉
Evanna Gale
70 Posts
Tough to choose, especially if some of your favorite people are engineers :) My list is: 

Mary Jackson - I'd love to hear about the early days of NASA. I expect she had great social skills too as she made a career of inserting herself where she shouldn't have been.
Jon A McBride - I've met him already but who can resist an astronaut at the dinner table? And all of his work promoting STEM to kids means he's great at conversation.
Rod Willis‍ from the Anglia LN because I really enjoyed his talk on psychological safety in teams. 
Nicole Saunders‍ because it's been far too long and I think she'd enjoy the conversation too :)
Evanna Gale‍,

That is very kind of you. 
You hopefully received the follow-on communications regards to access to the presentation, but what I really wanted to do was make sure you had access to the Q&A report that was created post the session. 
Here is the Q&A pdf: Topic- Psychological safety in teams Q&A 29th June 2020.pdf

The Webinar recording is also available

Have a great weekend.

My guest would have to be
  • Isambard Kingdom Brunel: because of the reasoning he had, to complete the Western Railway, working against many political opponents.
  • Chris Argyris: because in his last book 2004 where he shares his wisdom and understanding of how Engineering and Social Psychology worked so well together.  That's why he was at MIT Boston for so many years
  • Edward Deming: because he explicitly understood the need to have at least four lenses on any endeavour, understanding of variation (Special Cause & Common Cause), Systems Thinking, the theory of knowledge and Psychology. His gift was to state, if you ignore any one of these four domains, you probably will not achieve what you might.
  • Gregory Bateson: because he used his multidisciplinary research and knowledge base with an amazing insight into Systems Thinking.  I realize I'm stretching the definition of an Engineer here, but he would be on the guest list regardless.
The evening would be heavy, but so enjoyable as well.


 
Interesting Question:
I would choose:
Nikola Tesla - I Would like to hear his suggestion on De-carbonization 
Leonardo Da Vinci - Ask him about his favorite creation.
Archimedes - I am not sure on what I would speak to him. But would like to know his though process.
Elon Musk -  I want to ask him why he doesn't prefer Hydrogen based vehicles 
 
Andy Millar
1780 Posts
Oh dear, just read this, I'm terrified of meeting Lisa now 😉 😁

Having a go with my wife and son, so far we've got to
Nikola Tesla yet again (fascinating visit to the Tesla museum in Croatia a year or two back)
Charles Babbage AND
Ada Lovelace
Still discussing the fourth...Charles Wheatstone? Richard Trevithick (local hero!)? Bob Moog? Bob Pease? (Judging by the famous state of Bob Pease's desk I think we'd have get on well...)

Actually, in a fantasy universe there's another engineer I'd really like to have dinner with again, who I very much count myself lucky enough to have had dinner (and indeed a food fight) with a few times in the past, my old boss Colin Sanders CBE. Huge influence on late 20th century music recording technology, and I particularly associate him with dinner parties after the first time I went to his house for a meal and Rosie introduced me to wonderful brown bread ice cream!  https://www.solidstatelogic.com/our-history  RIP. 

Cheers,

Andy
 
Andy Millar
1780 Posts
Ok, got it, cheating a bit by holding two dinner parties:

One where I'll just watch the conversation with great interest:
  • Richard Trevithick
  • James Watt
  • Thomas Newcomen (about whom we sadly know practically nothing, apart from actually apparently inventing the steam engine, even if his didn't work terribly well)
  • William Murdoch (who being dead can now say whatever he likes about his ex-employer Mr Watt)
The police will be pre-warned to attend when the inevitable fist fight starts between the first two. My money's on Cap'n Dick to win it...

And the other which I'll definitely take part in (and my wife will run a million miles from, she's heard all this before...)
  • Bob Moog
  • Leo Fender
  • Ned Steinberger (possibly the most successfully innovative guitar designer since Fender, with apologies to my old mate Bill Aitkin of SynthAxe...)
  • Douglas Adams (ok, cheating as he's definitely not an engineer but he'd throw in some great ideas and would be in his element!)
This one is likely to end up in a drunken night in the workshop and a whole new musical experience, which will probably sound wonderful at the time 😁

Cheers,

Andy
Lisa Miles‍ My dinner list would be:

Valentina Tereshkova –Would love to hear more about her experience of being the first women in space on the Vostok 6 mission.

Amy Johnson – first British women to get her ground engineer’s ‘C’ licence. Although I’d want to hear all about her flight to Australia in 1930.

Professor R V Jones, physicist and scientific adviser to Churchill during WWII.  I met him at an IET Manchester Network (Branch) lecture and he was a fascinating speaker.  

Barnes Wallis -  I’d like to know about all the other engineering ideas he had spinning away in his mind that didn’t make it onto the drawing board and production.    
 
I think I would avoid having engineers from too similar fields and so would avoid Andy's first choice (especially Watt and Trevithick together - I believe that Trevithick used to go into hiding when Watt was around, though that was more to do with avoiding being served with a subpoena, or the 18th Century equivalent, than  cowardice). With similar backgrounds the conversation would be focussed on one subject and I would want to hear from engineers with multiple interests.

I think my current choice (and it changes from hour to hour, never mind day to day) would be:
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Michael Faraday
Nikola Tesla
Barnes Wallis

I would be particularly interested in the less well known aspects of their lives, such as Barnes Wallis's work on airships, or Michael Faraday's three weeks of intense work in October 1815 with Humphrey Davy inventing the miner's safety lamp.

Alasdair
John Beirne
25 Posts

My four dinner guest would be:

Dick Strawbridge.  Highly motivational, not risk adverse engineer.  We met at the Issac Newton Lecture and I spent several hours in a bar with him - not adviced!

Isambard Kingdom Brunel.  What an engineer: ships, railways, trains, bridges; was there no end to this man’s talent.

James Dyson.  I would like to ask him, that if he used TRIZ whilst developing the cyclone cleaner, would he have come up with the solution quicker than he had?

Claudia Parson.  A lady who would have got on well with the above fore-mentioned people.  What an inspirational woman. I would love to understand what it was like to circumnavigate the world in a car and what problems she encountered and how she resolved them.

Kathryn Bain
370 Posts
Some great choices - For me (because I think they'd be interesting to meet, if nothing else):

Sir Tim Berners-Lee
Trevor Bayliss
Nikola Tesla
Ada Lovelace

Would love to see what Ada thought about modern computing and the role of women in STEM!
Lisa Miles
1249 Posts
Some interesting choices everyone! I'm making a note to read up more on Claudia Parson John Beirne‍ as she sounds like an interesting lady... 😉

Wondering who Roy Bowdler‍ and Jeremy Watson‍ would invite to dinner too?
Evanna Gale
70 Posts
If I could include a fifth guest I'd also love to chat with Vinton Cerf.
Andy Millar
1780 Posts
Alasdair Anderson:
I think I would avoid having engineers from too similar fields and so would avoid Andy's first choice (especially Watt and Trevithick together - I believe that Trevithick used to go into hiding when Watt was around, though that was more to do with avoiding being served with a subpoena, or the 18th Century equivalent, than  cowardice).

Hi Alasdair,
That's why I thought it would be rather fun! All four were essential to the development of steam technology, yet all four appear to be very different characters with very different approaches - very much the Belbin team model, except that they were never able to shine as a group. So it would be fascinating to see how they interact. And so would shed some real light on their characters.
Cheers,
Andy

Andy Millar
1780 Posts
No-one's mentioned Alexander Graham Bell, I get the impression he was a very interesting and thoughtful person (it was Vinton Cerf's deafness that reminded me).

Cheers,

Andy

Well where do you start, with only four places? 

 

I would have to have more than one dinner party. 

 

Tommy Flowers would by my first choice, just to find out how he started with a box of GPO relays and ended where he did. Also to see his reaction to where technology has moved to, today. 

 

Sir Frank Whittle would be next, I can only imagine the tails to be told on the development of in essence a controllable bomb, in a shed, without computer modelling and all the other modern design aides. 

 

John Bartlett would be number 3, to be able to ask what was going through his mind when he agreed to the idea that digging a 21 mile tunnel under a body of water was not only feasible but very possible and just to make it interesting they would start at both sides to meet somewhere in the middle. 

 

Elon Musk makes it to fourth place. Well this guy has seen more of his money blow up on a launch pad than most people will see in a lifetime, he’s taken the space program to another level, that has only been seen done by state funded organisations up to now.

Maybe next time there will be a bigger table. 

Matt Whitehall:

Maybe next time there will be a bigger table. 

A bigger table would help in one way, but too many people and the conversation splits into groups making it impossible to follow everyone. I think four is a good number as even with seven guests (plus the host) there can be problems with several simultaneous conversations.
The more I think about this, the more I realise that having engineers with little commonality is not going to work as you would need a monologue from individuals. I might revise my earlier comment about not having engineers from the same field as Andy is right - with Watt and Trevithick at the table the problem would not be keeping the conversation going but rather keeping it to just conversation without any physical blows being struck.

Kathryn Bain
370 Posts
This thread is making me want a series of dinner parties :)
OMS
694 Posts
Lisa Miles:
In the spirit of sharing, here’s my four:

Nikola Tesla – I’d like to know if the rivalry between him and Edison was really as bitter as they say.
Elon Musk -  Anyone who can make a rocket take off and then land perfectly again is worth having an interesting chat with in my book!
Andy Millar‍  – I’ve never actually met Andy but we’ve had quite a few conversations online. It would be great to finally sit and have a chat in person. 
OMS‍  – I think we have a very similar taste in music so no complaints about the Dinner Party playlist there. 😉

 

Can I bring Hedy Lamarr as my +1 ?

OMS

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