Welcome & Recent Updates

This is a compilation site for theories about engineering. It also highlights individual engineer theorists.

The latest addition is Joel Mokyr's The Lever of Riches: Technological Creativity and Economic Progress . All additions are listed in the update history.

Theories about Engineering

All engineers know of iconic figures in their own fields who have advanced knowledge in major steps. Less well know are Engineer Theorists. These are people who seek to thoughtfully describe the interplay of factors in engineering practice.

"Theories provide structure and order for guiding and improving professional practice, teaching ... and research." As well, frameworks can be studied, evaluated and evolved to makes better sense of new situations.

The approach taken here for the engineering field generally follows that in Kathleen Sitzman and Lisa Wright Eichelberger's book "Understanding the Work of Nurse Theorists" from which the quote above is taken. Theories are divided into a number of categories starting at the highest level with ones which describe the nature of engineering (overarching theories or philosophies).  The next category deals with the significant themes in engineering practice (major theories). Following this is the category dealing with specific engineering practices and concepts (mid-range theories). Some theories may not fit neatly into this plan but still make insightful statements about engineering so a category is reserved for these as well (alternate theories).

The selections below are not written in stone. It is anticipated that these will be added to, discussed and perhaps reordered over time. Comments and suggestions are welcome.

Defining Philosophies

Major Theories

Mid-Range Theories

Alternate Theories

Open Issues

Engineering Practices

Engineering History