scientist vs. engineer

Philip Greenspun's Homepage : Philip Greenspun's Homepage Discussion Forums : Ask Philip : One Thread
Notify me of new responses
What do you think is fundamental difference between a scientist and an engineer?

-- Akhil Agrawal, May 14, 2003

Answers

I have a feeling that I've said this somewhere else before... but to my mind a scientist has more freedom to follow her curiosity and still call herself a scientist. An engineer must work on a problem that society perceives as a problem. (e.g., because hardly anyone cares about software anymore it is very difficult to do good work as a software engineer.)

Another big difference is that engineering is all about cost. A few people ask how much it cost to solve the Human Genome problem and the answer does not affect their opinion of the quality of the scientific result. By contrast if it costs $100 billion to build a bridge across a river almost everyone would agree that this is a case of bad engineering. It would be much better for society to drive around to the next bridge or to take a ferry boat across rather than build such an expensive design.

A practical example of this is nuclear fusion power. The scientists had a scientific success, proving that they could generate electricity by getting hydrogen to turn into helium (just like inside the Sun). But we aren't using fusion power because it turns out to be an engineering nightmare: you have the hottest thing in the world (the fusing elements) right next to the coldest thing in the world (the superconducting magnets generating the containing electro-magnetic field).

-- Philip Greenspun, June 15, 2003


scientist is someone who specialises with scientific information and make use of it to solve some problems,such as how the sun originated,how there is day and night,what makes flight to fly,what makes a computer to communicate with one another etc.Engineer-someone who uses to fix some damaged things,to plan how to build/create a machine and how to make an aeroplane,train,ships etc.

-- Motswetla Klaas, May 13, 2006

1.Engineers are married whereas scientists are rarely married. 2.scientists propose theories whereas engineers use their theories to do something in the welfare of the generation.

-- GAURAV PURAIYA, August 1, 2006

scientist are real persons that make concepts theory. they are not fond of money where as engineers are theft which uses this principles. they don't use own concepts . just apply other's concept. they are more anxious about money become scientist is more better than become engineer. scientist are intelligent people where as engineers are dull people

-- omkaret omslker, September 7, 2006

Omkaret, lamentably, from your contribution it seems you're not really qualified to discuss scientists, engineers, or anything really related to intelligence.

Akhil, the focus of the engineer is the application of scientific insight to solve a real-world problem. The focus of the scientist is understanding the world (in theory) and writing journal articles and getting tenure (in practice). Fortunately, often these disciplines cross- fertilize each other. For example, I think it is not an exaggeration to say that a lot of recent progress in the understanding of stochastic partial differential equations has been driven by financial engineering.

To let a computer scientist implement a large software system is like letting a chemist build a house.

-- Fabian Lischka, September 11, 2006


There is not a hard and fast wall between scientist and engineer. These are overlapping professions. For example, the scientists that postulated an A-bomb could be built actually did some of the hands-on building with aid from purely engineering types.

-- stanley frohlich, November 23, 2006

Scientist is someone who discover new, unknown, theoretical things. However, engineers convert these things into useful things that benefits mankind. Something that a scientist discover is useless to human beings if there's no engineer that can convert this 'something' into something of practical use. On the other hand, there will be nothing for engineers to build upon if there's no scientist to discover things.

-- Arisa Karin, July 11, 2007

I believe that the difference between a scientist and engineers is vast. A scientist seems to have a strange connection to the abstract and obscure nature of the universe, whereas an engineer has a direct connection to the practical nature of making things work for mankind. The scientist takes dreams and ideas and through experimental discoveries correlates them with things in the real world, whereas engineers borrow these ideas and attempt to translate them into something practical that solve real world problems. The scientist is creative and original, the engineer innovative and knowledgeable.

-- Raymond Shope, February 17, 2008

lol.. Actually, most of you who have posted above are are wrong on one key point. Engineers' also research and come up with theories and formulas. We Engineers take an idea and bring it to life!

-- mshauri moore, May 11, 2008

I agree being an engineer myself. We generate/prove mathematical/scientific theories (industry R&D projects, patents, engineering professorships, academic work in general, etc.), as well as put existing scientific ideas/phenomena to practical use (engines, aircraft, spacecraft, biomedical engineering, structures, etc.) We do it all!!

Engineers are very creative and innovative people. Engineering is in many ways an art as well as a science. No two engineers will design a mechanical/electrical/chemical/structural/industrial/computer system the same!!

-- jlk jlk, May 12, 2008


i am training to be a scientist but i wont be false with my own opinion.i think there is no really much differences between scientist and engineers,these two are really hardworking set of people we need in this world,so i will like the criticism to stop,lets encourage them so that we can have a better world.our life on earth depends on both scientist and engineers

-- kadir haliru, June 12, 2008

i feel science come first then comes engeneering scientist is one who generate new ideas so geneous(genesis=generate). while engeneer can mould that ideas in many fold for human benefit so he is talented.

-- mahendra gupta, June 19, 2008

The scientist is creative and original, the engineer innovative and knowledgeable.

-- Raymond Shope,

I believe you got that in reverse. Engineers are creatively intellegent and innovative, scientist are original and intellegent, engineers are more like "artistic science" as Scientist is more "theory-related". Not everything is black and white with both. Scientists and Engineers are broke down into different wide fields, I believe the one engineering skill thats gains more money are professional civil engineers, building bridges that are unnecessary, houses with weak wood and terrible mathematics that are way off. The same goes for scientist who create far'fetched stories and theories about african-americans have facial structure similar to apes. Which is highly ridiculous. But there's good things about those fields, engineers work with scientist who wish to benefit for the world to help utilize and create something out of nothing.

The topic of this forum is really depending on the fields scientist and engineers work on. I'm studying to be a engineer, I want to work in robotics and aerospace or nautics. I'm working my best to learn. Hoping to make my art skills with science.

-- Douglas Schroeter, September 27, 2008


Scientists are poets, Engineer's are prosers.

That was not a case of bad spelling really.

-- Sid H, November 5, 2008


Scientists discover while Engineers invent.

-- Narmatha Anandavel, December 12, 2008

Scientists are creative, innovative and original. If it wasnt for us scientists you guys will be stuck with making microchip controllers forever. It was us who introduced the information theory, and made these electronic pieces come alive. It was us who invented information theories to make databases complex enough FOR you to book a plane ticket for your dad online or for your mother. Otherwise its just a piece of machinery like a dog trying to fetch a mathematical equation.

Scientists are curious by nature, they will stop at nothing that is ambiguous and repetitive. As an IT graduate, I am just proud a scientist myself. Dr Codd is my idol (Relational DB).

-- Rick nolands, January 8, 2009


A man and women are sitting on a couch. They move closer to each other by half the distance apart. (eg, 1/2 x 1/2 x 1/2 etc.) A scientist says they will never meet. An engineer says they will get close enough for all pratical purposes.

Jim - an engineer.

-- Jim H., February 12, 2009


a scientist analysis all the laws of nature & makes the theories governing the laws of nature, And on the other hand, an ENGINEER applies these theories to practical practice for the welfare of humanity.

-- love preet, February 22, 2009

A scientist and an engineer works together. In a design for example, an engineer might want to determine the total loss on a cable span. He needs to know the resistivity of the cable material in order for him to calculate the loss. Material resistivities are researched by scientists. Scientists will determine the actual resistivity constant of a material through careful measurement in a controlled environment and with the use of specialized equipment. The scientist's equipment on the otherhand are designed and built by engineers. So it is a continuous exchange of knowledge from both of them for the benefit of who else, everyone.

-- JC Tupaz, February 24, 2009

An engineer and a scientist were placed at one end of a large room with a beautiful woman at the other end. They were told that for each step they made toward the woman, each subsequent step would cover only half the distance of the previous one. The scientist turned and left the room in acknowledgment that he would never reach the woman. The engineer saw the scientist's action, shrugged and took a very large step toward her. When asked (on his journey), why he took the large step when it was clear he would never reach the woman he replied, "Yes, but I will get close enough to get the job done!".

-- Bradley Baker, September 21, 2009

they say that the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.and both these occupations are interesting in their own sense, the scientist is about the the why and engineer about the how of things

-- Turentine Mathonsi, September 23, 2009

Scientist: He is the one who gives the Scientific principles. Engineer : He is the one who make use of the principles to implement/maintain or support systems which are used by/assist human.

Example: ---------- Scientist: Every Action has an equal and opposite reaction Engineer: I invented a Rocket using your principle.

-- Thangavel S, January 19, 2010


1. Scientist employ the scientific method: hypothesize, experiment, analyze results, whereas Engineers employ the engineering method: formulate problem, find solution using any and all tools/knowledge available (science, computers, trial/error), stay under budget.

2. Scientist: If its not broke, fix it anyway! Engineer: If its not broke, it doesn't have enough features yet!

source: Georgia Tech Mechanical Engineering Undergrad

-- Caleb Piercy, February 14, 2010


Once upon a time,

It was a hot day. Everyone complains. An sweating scientist asks why water freezes while engineer asks how to freeze water . The scientist through the scientific method discovers a formula, and the engineer invents an innovative freezer with the scientist's discovery.

Everyone is happy.

The end.

-- tom c, June 8, 2010


I am a Senior Scientist but my job is 70% engineering and 30% science. And by the way my background by education is engineering, from degree to PhD.

Scientists create tool/concept and engineer use and improvise the tools. Scientists look to solve problem from the root cause (i.e. once and for all), while enginners usually do not have this luxury and need to provide fast solution for immediate problem.

-- Andy Lew, June 16, 2010


Guys i wanna tell you, engineers are there because of scientist, since they discovered the science without which engineers can not do engineering..........so we can say engineers are child guided by scientist(their parents), and this is the only fact..... let it or not.

-- mac D, October 12, 2010

Scientists discover the world that exists; engineers create the world that never was

-- Zafir Spirovski, February 18, 2011

Engineers are trained in the scientific method and stick to the same rules. Science is geared on learning more and are free to discover. Whereas engineers are stuck within the rules or laws that scientists dictate. Engineering is the application of sciences discoveries.

-- Matthew Hornsby, May 7, 2011