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Who has more prestige, a physicist or an engineer?

  1. Oct 16, 2016 #1
    To the common citizen, what profession is more estimated, physicist or engineering.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 16, 2016 #2

    lewando

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    Depends on who that "common citizen" is. I am an engineer who happens to hold Richard P Feynman in high esteem.
     
  4. Oct 16, 2016 #3
    Good question, its difficult to split up a symbiotic relationship.
     
  5. Oct 16, 2016 #4

    berkeman

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    +1.0

    I'm an accomplished EE, but I hold physicists in high regard. In undergrad, physics was my first love, but I ended up choosing EE for my final degree.
     
  6. Oct 16, 2016 #5

    Vanadium 50

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    I hope this doesn't turn into engineers are the oompa-loompas of science!

     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2016
  7. Oct 17, 2016 #6

    billy_joule

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    It also depends on the country. In some countries 'engineer' is a protected term, or at least has some status attached. The most common response when I say I'm a mechanical engineer is 'so you fix cars?' or maybe 'so you're a welder?'.
    I'd hold physicists in higher regard than an engineer, without any other information, as I've never met a dim person with a PhD (yet) but have met a few dim engineers.
     
  8. Oct 17, 2016 #7

    Ibix

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    I'm not sure that a forum full of physicists and/or engineers is going to give an unbiased view of "common citizens'" opinions on this particular topic. All "oompa-loompa" friendly (?) rivalry aside, we most definitely don't represent typical people on this topic, and likely anyone who's opinions we know on the topic will be polarised by the fact that we're physicists/engineers.
     
  9. Oct 17, 2016 #8
    Mathematicians
     
  10. Oct 17, 2016 #9

    Krylov

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    As a common citizen, I agree.
     
  11. Oct 17, 2016 #10
    Seconded.
     
  12. Oct 17, 2016 #11
    I remember a thread years ago about having to develop a modern civilization from scratch where we retained all our 21st century knowledge and skills, and the raw materials were available. To me it was obvious that many kinds of engineers would be required. Physicists would play no significant role except teaching physics to prepare for the time when that profession could be supported. In the present circumstances, major breakthroughs on the frontiers of science and technology will be made (not exclusively) by physicists and biologists. but we will still need engineers of all kinds. For the common citizen, top theoretical physicists have always had the most prestige even though few common citizens have the slightest idea what they are doing or why they're doing it.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2016
  13. Oct 17, 2016 #12

    Krylov

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    I don't understand the second part. Did you have particular examples in mind of prominent theorists that were oblivious to what they were doing or why they were doing it?
     
  14. Oct 17, 2016 #13
    I edited it to make the meaning more clear. I was talking about the common citizen, not the physicist. That's not to say common citizens can't read a recent theoretical physics paper with full comprehension, but as a fraction of all citizens (at least in the US), it would be small.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2016
  15. Oct 17, 2016 #14
    As a student I studied math and electrical engineering. If I told someone I was a math major they typically didn't find it very interesting or have anything further to say about that. If I told someone I was an engineering major they often seemed to think it was more interesting and some immediately associated it with money.

    I think very few people have a real sense of what physicists do while most can at least identify things that engineers are responsible for. This might lead people to more often hold engineers in higher regard, simply out of familiarity.
     
  16. Oct 17, 2016 #15
    Well how many great physicists can you name off the top of your head? How many great engineers can you name?

    That might help answer your question.
     
  17. Oct 18, 2016 #16

    Vanadium 50

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    Neil Armstrong. Gustave Eiffel. Rudolf Diesel. Clarence Birdseye. Wernher von Braun. Jack Kilby. Igor Sikorsky. Amar Bose. Need more?
     
  18. Oct 18, 2016 #17

    Ben Niehoff

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  19. Oct 18, 2016 #18
    Edison, Tesla, Siemens, Wright brothers, Watt, von Braun, Goddard, Kalashnikov, Marconi?
     
  20. Oct 19, 2016 #19
    Well it seems like the Engineers are winning so far.
     
  21. Oct 19, 2016 #20
    In which direction? I can name more pro football players than either, but I certainly don't hold them in the same regard.

    I'd think to the lay person, - tenured researcher is more prestigious than an engineer. But an engineer at JPL / SpaceX is more prestigious than a physics professor at a community college.

    You could make a case for only those people at the top of either field: Einstein, Feynman, newton vs achemedis, von Braun, and von Neumann.
     
  22. Oct 19, 2016 #21

    Evo

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    To the common citizen, do you think it matters or that they could name one? How many common people know Einstein was a physicist? A scientist, but not specifically a physicist. To most "common" people there is a "scientist" and "not a scientist". Ask "common" people to list the different fields of engineering. They might be able to list 2-3.

    My dad was an electrical engineer. Neighbors were always asking, "so you're dad is an electrician, can he check out the wiring on such and such in our house?"
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2016
  23. Oct 20, 2016 #22

    StatGuy2000

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    Makes me wonder the level of ignorance that exists among "common citizens". :rolleyes:
     
  24. Oct 20, 2016 #23

    Bandersnatch

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    There's also the 'mad scientists', who is actually a mad engineer, or a mad medical professional.
     
  25. Oct 20, 2016 #24
    Electrical engineers can check the wiring.
     
  26. Oct 20, 2016 #25

    Evo

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    But that's not the point, an electrical engineer is not an electrician. A mechanical engineer is not a mechanic.
     
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