Summary of "An Historical Preface to Engineering Ethics"

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Summary of “An Historical Preface to Engineering Ethics”

Michael Davis, in his article “An Historical Preface to Engineering Ethics” clarifies some misconceptions about engineering and distinguishes the differences between science and engineering by showing progressions through history. He makes a point to disprove engineer turned historian, Eugene Ferguson on his criticism that engineers have no consideration for human welfare by proving that not only do engineers have a deep consideration for human welfare, but that all of Ferguson’s criticisms of engineering are actually compliments given engineers’ military origin. Davis first depicts the progression of the definition of technology from ancient Greece to modern times, showing how the reverence of technology and thus engineering has grown over time. The modern day definition being the study of how to make manual labor easier, and the ancient Greece definition being the study of manual labor, and since mental labor is more respected than manual labor, engineering has become better respected over time. He disqualifies the misconception that science preceded technology and is therefore older and better than engineering by showing how some inventions predated the science that explains them. He even argues that engineering is better than science because it applies scientific knowledge to make things useful.

Davis clarifies that engineering is not the same as technology. Technology being the creation of tools, and engineering being the planning and instruction for others to implement that creation. He shows the history of engineering and how it started in the military, branching out from France to other countries, progressively sophisticating over time. Beginning with engineers in the infantry, creating weapons such as catapults and artillery, France eventually found need of a congregation of the engineers. They founded an organization called the corps du ge’nie, which proved very useful in increasing the...
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