Engineering students have ranked Isambard Kingdom Brunel as the number one engineer who has inspired them.
GE’s survey of nearly 900 UK engineering undergraduates showed that iconic figures – both historic and modern – continued to inspire a new generation of engineers, Mark Elborne, President and CEO of GE UK said.
The students were asked who they considered to be their hero/icon in the engineering field. Brunel, a leading 19th century civil engineer claimed the number one spot; followed by industrial designer, James Dyson; and in third place, Apple CEO Steve Jobs.
The survey was conducted as part of the GE’s Young Minds Monitor – a report on the future of UK engineering as perceived by the undergraduates.
Students were also asked what innovations they thought were the most world-changing over the past century. Computers and electronics were ranked number one, followed by communications technology, transportation technology, power and energy technology, and manufacturing and materials.
Energy was seen by the students as the biggest challenge that engineering technology should look to address. The environment; food, water and natural resources; societal issues; and the quality of education were also ranked in the top five.
Ninety-two per cent of the students said engineering technology had a “positive image” and said they were confident or very confident about their career prospects on graduation.
Elborne said that in today’s celebrity obsessed culture there was a risk that engineering would not be seen as “particularly trendy”.
“However it is crucial to our economic growth and prosperity; to our international competitiveness as well as to our future. It is refreshing to see that a new generation is turning to engineering - not just because of the career or salary prospects, but because engineering gives them the skills and tools to address some of the world’s biggest challenges. This in itself is inspiring and very encouraging,” he said.
The Top 10 Engineering Heroes ranked by engineering undergraduates:
1. Isambard Kingdom Brunel – leading civil engineer of 19th Century, built bridges, dockyards and railways.
2. James Dyson – industrial designer who developed a new generation of vacuum cleaners and actively supports engineering projects in the UK.
3. Steve Jobs – co-founder and CEO of Apple, which developed some of the most iconic personal technology products including the Mark II computer and iPod.
4. Nikola Tesla – inventor and engineer whose work formed the basis of modern alternating current electric power systems.
5. Bill Gates – co-founder and chairman of Microsoft, who developed the industry standard operating system for personal computers.
6. Frank Whittle – RAF engineer who is credited with inventing the first jet propulsion engine.
7. Isaac Newton – physicist and theoretician who developed the concepts of mechanics, gravity and the laws of motion and invented the reflecting telescope.
8. Albert Einstein – theoretical physicist who developed the theory of general relativity and is considered the founder of modern physics.
9. Charles Rolls & Henry Royce – developed early engine technology and luxury motor vehicles.
10. Thomas Edison – inventor of the first commercially viable light bulb, motion picture camera and phonograph who revolutionised electrics and communications.