Book review: Think Like An Engineer

WE remember the name of penicillin-discoverer Alexander Fleming. But who now recalls Margaret Hutchinson? 

Guru Madhavan

Oneworld Publications, €19.50; ebook, €16.72

It was she who combined her knowledge of fermentation research and petrochemical process engineering to mass produce the contents of Fleming’s tiny petri dish. 

Thanks to her ingenuity, substantial quantities of antibiotics were available in 1944 to treat the wounded from the Normandy Landings.

Biomedical engineer Guru Madhavan’s book has many more fascinating illustrations of how engineers have enhanced our lives — from John Shepherd-Barron’s invention of the ATM machine, to David Koon who campaigned successfully to have GPS phone-tracking capability as part of the US emergency services’ response to calls.

Yet Madhavan also hints that terrorists and fundamentalists may be drawn disproportionately from the ranks of engineers. Ironic then, that this section of the book, about engineering’s downside, is the part that lacks rigour.


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