10 of the Best Engineering Quotes Ever

Here are 10 quotes regarding engineering principles that may motivate you today.
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Why do we love quoting people? If the quote comes from a knowledgeable or experienced individual, it’s inspiring. If they could learn life lessons from a certain situation, you can too.

So here are a few quotes regarding engineering principles that may motivate you today. Or perhaps you need to be reminded how unique your field of expertise is. While most people won’t understand your challenges, these experts do.

“Failure is central to engineering. Every single calculation that an engineer makes is a failure calculation. Successful engineering is all about understanding how things break or fail.”

― Henry Petroski

Let’s kick off with some motivation.


You can take Henry Petroski’s word any time of the day. This professor in civil engineering is an expert in failure analysis and a popular author. His quote reminds you that engineering isn’t about making perfect decisions all the time. Each time something fails you have the opportunity to understand something more. You won’t make the same mistake again, so you’re one step closer to finding the answer.

“My brother is an electrical engineer and went to computer science grad school at Stanford, and he'd tell me stories about the happy hours he'd organize.”

― Alec Berg

First off, Alec Berg isn’t an engineer. He’s a comedian who witnesses how his brother does life. And engineers mostly want order. If you’re an engineer and you feel different from people around you, it’s because you are. Be proud of it. People need your organizing talents.

“I was Google's first woman engineer.”

― Marissa Mayer

Here’s some good news. Engineering opens the door for so many people’s talents to come to the fore. This goes not only for a woman like Marissa, but anyone who loves planning and creating. It’s a stimulating field where you’re encouraged to think outside of the box.

With a focus on information technology, Marissa’s career peaked when she became president and CEO of Yahoo! You can see the possibilities are endless.

“One man’s “magic” is another man’s engineering. “Supernatural” is a null word.”

― Robert A. Heinlein

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Here’s another individual who was not an engineer himself, but grasped the value of the roles these innovators play. Robert was a science fiction writer but did have experience with radio communications, so he had some technical background.

His words remind us that engineers have made reality what most people think will only stay a fantasy. Simply think of placing a man on the moon or improving cities through building infrastructures. Engineers are central to these processes. What else will they bring into society in years to come?

“What we usually consider as impossible are simply engineering problems… there’s no law of physics preventing them.”

― Michio Kaku

And the words of another brilliant professor remind us how engineers should be respected. This time the compliment comes from a true engineer. As a theoretical physicist teaching others at colleges, Michio has seen how engineers make things come true that the rest of the world only dream of.

“The problem in this business isn’t to keep people from stealing your ideas; it's making them steal your ideas!”

― Howard Aiken

Yes, engineers are at the forefront of inventing things people don’t even know they need yet.

Howard Aiken is a physicist by profession who led the way in the development of computing and helped create IBM’s Harvard Mark computer. At that stage, people didn’t use them. Yet. They became popular and—luckily—many more companies ‘stole’ the idea. Today we can’t live without them.

“The fewer moving parts, the better." "Exactly. No truer words were ever spoken in the context of engineering.”

― Christian Cantrell

Here we see a goal for your future engineering projects. Innovation is about finding simpler solutions. As a software developer, Christian knew the importance of finding the shortest, most user-friendly route to make his creations work for a man.

“There’s nothing I believe in more strongly than getting young people interested in science and engineering, for a better tomorrow, for all humankind.”

― Bill Nye

Who doesn’t know Bill Nye the Science Guy? Yes, he teaches kids on TV mostly, but he’s a mechanical engineer who knows his field well. And his statement is true. Engineers work for the better of society. Each person making a career of it adds value to this world, benefiting civilization.

 “The trick to having good ideas is not to sit around in glorious isolation and try to think big thoughts. The trick is to get more parts on the table.”

― Steven Johnson

This quote touches an important aspect of being an engineer: The power of having people skills. It’s an essential skill you need, to work in a team with others. You may have to lead them or know the art of communication to ensure a project runs smoothly.

“Architects and engineers are among the most fortunate of men since they build their own monuments with public consent, public approval and often public money.”

― John Prebble

A word from a great academic who has studied much about society’s history. Use the quote as an inspiration of what your career can bring you. But also realize the privilege of having what you design, seen and used by all in society. 

A central theme running through these top quotes is the value we should place on engineers and their innovations. I hope you feel inspired as an engineer in 2018 or humbled if you simply enjoy their many innovations.

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