Which US President trained as an engineer?

If history is anything to go by, then if you want to be a President you should first train as a lawyer or in the military or as a farmer (in that order). In fact of the former professions of US Presidents there have only been four that didn’t come from any of those backgrounds.

Warren Harding was a newspaper editor, Lyndon B Johnson was a teacher and Ronald Reagan was an Actor and then one of them was an engineer! But which one was it?

Well it isn’t Obama, although he’s very keen to inspire more engineers. The Bush’s had both been pilots, Clinton a lawyer, Carter a peanut farmer, Kennedy had been in the navy. So maybe things associated with them might provide a clue? Theodore Roosevelt famously had a stuffed toy named after him. Richard Nixon had a Simpson’s character named after him (his middle was Milhous). And then there was the President who’s name was given to a dam.

That’s right it’s Herbert Hoover! Who went from a career as a mining engineer before he entered politics and went on to be the 31st President of the United States, the most powerful person in the world. And this is what he had to say when he was reminiscing about his former career*:

“It is a great profession. There is the fascination of watching a figment of the imagination emerge through the aid of science to a plan on paper. Then it moves to realisation in stone or metal or energy. Then it brings jobs and homes to people. Then it elevates the standards of living and adds to the comforts of life. That is the engineer’s high privilege.

The great liability of the engineer compared to those of other professions is that his works are out in the open where all can see them. His acts, step by step, are in hard substance. He cannot bury his mistakes in the grave like doctors. He cannot argue them into thin air or blame the judge like the lawyers. He cannot, like the architects, cover his failures with trees and vines. He cannot, like the politicians, screen his shortcomings by blaming his opponents and hope that people will forget. The engineer simply cannot deny that he did it. If his works do not work, he is damned. That is the phantasmagoria that haunts his nights and dogs his days. He comes from the job at the end of the day resolved to calculate it again. He wakes in the night in a cold sweat and puts something on paper that looks silly in the morning. All day he shivers at the thought of the bugs which will inevitable appear to jolt its smooth consummation.”


*Thanks to Henry Petroski for the quote!