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LETTERS TO THE EDITORS

Scientists vs. Engineers

To the Editors:

The interesting and insightful essay by Henry Petroski on "A Great Profession" (Engineering, July-August) repeats a common misconception—that Herbert Hoover graduated with a degree in mining engineering. In fact, when Stanford University opened its doors in 1891, it did not offer a wide curriculum. Hoover wished to study mining engineering, but insufficient courses were offered initially for a major, so he studied geology instead. While at Stanford, he met a female geology student, Lou Henry, whom he later married. Herbert Hoover’s 1895 A.B. diploma in geology is often on display at the Hoover Institution of War, Revolution and Peace on the Stanford campus.

Young Hoover's first job after graduation was as field assistant to the famed minerals geologist Waldemar Lingren of the U.S. Geological Survey, carrying out geologic mapping in California's Sierra Nevada. His official field notebooks are in the possession of the USGS. Prior to 1900 he published several brief geology articles in industry publications. 

The line between mining geology and mining engineering was diaphanous in those days. In spite of his degree in the science of geology, Hoover yearned to apply mechanics and economics to mining. Less than a year after graduation, he entered the employment of a San Francisco mining engineer—as a mining engineer. The rest is history.

Fred Barnard
Golden, CO


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