Engineering -- an endless frontier
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Engineering the information age

Research and development boomed in all fields of science and technology after World War II, partly because of the Cold War and the Sputnik effect.  The explosion of engineering research, which used to lagged behind natural science, was especially impressive, as can be seen from the relative expansion of graduate education.  Engineering was also stimulated by new technologies, notably aerospace, microelectronics, computers, novel means of telecommunications from the Internet to cell phones.  Turbojet and rocket engines propelled aeronautic engineering into unprecedented height and spawned astronautic engineering.  Utilization of atomic and nuclear power brought nuclear engineering.  Advanced materials with performance hitherto undreamed of poured out from the laboratories of materials science and engineering.  Above all, microelectronics, telecommunications, and computer engineering joined force to precipitate the information revolution in which intellectual chores are increasingly alleviated by machines.

To lead the progress of these sophisticated technologies, engineers have remade themselves by reforming educational programs and expanding research efforts.  Intensive engineering research produced not only new technologies but also bodies of powerful systematic knowledge: the engineering sciences and systems theories in information, computer, control, and communications.  Engineering developed extensive theories of  its own and firmly established itself as a science of creating, explaining, and utilizing manmade systems.  This period also saw the maturation of graduate engineering education and the rise of large-scale research and development organized on the national level.

So far the physical sciences – physics and chemistry – have contributed most to technology.  They will continue to contribute, for instance in the emerging nanotechnology that will take over the torch of the microelectronics revolution.  Increasingly, they are joined by biology, which has been transformed by the spectacular success of molecular and genetic biology.  Biotechnology is a multidisciplinary field, drawing knowledge from biology, biochemistry, physics, information processing and various engineering expertise.  The cooperation and convergence of traditional intellectual disciplines in the development of new technology is the trend of the future.



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