Franklin D. Roosevelt photo

Letter to the Engineering Schools of the Nation.

October 22, 1936

Events of recent years have brought into clearer perspective the social responsibility of engineering.

In respect of wise use of natural resources such reports as those of the Mississippi Valley Committee, the National Resources Committee and the Great Plains Drought Area Committee have brought out the facts impressively. The enclosed report, "Little Waters," presents in miniature many of the social-engineering problems of soil and water conservation.

In respect of the impact of science and engineering upon human life- social and economic dislocations as well as advance in productive power—the facts are revealed with distressing clearness in public records of unemployment, bankruptcies and relief. The responsibility of scientists has been analyzed in noteworthy addresses such as, among the most recent, those presented at the Tercentenary Celebration of Harvard University and the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

The design and construction of specific civil engineering works or of instruments for production represent only one part of the responsibility of engineering. It must also consider social processes and problems, and modes of more perfect adjustment to environment. Engineering must cooperate in designing accommodating mechanisms to absorb the shocks of the impact of science.

This raises the question whether the curricula of engineering schools are so balanced as to give coming generations of engineers the vision and flexible technical capacity necessary to meet the full range of engineering responsibility.

I am calling this matter to the attention of educators of high administrative authority in the hope that it may be thoroughly explored in faculty discussions and in meetings of engineering, educational and other pertinent professional associations.

Yours sincerely,

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Letter to the Engineering Schools of the Nation. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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