“To most of us, life is to some extent a quest, whether we acknowledge it, or even know it, or not,” wrote SWE honorary member Lillian Moller Gilbreth in the introduction to The Quest of the One Best Way: A Sketch of the Life of Frank Bunker Gilbreth, a 1926 biography about the man who opened her heart to love and her future to industrial engineering. The expressive, literary flourish of Gilbreth’s recounting of her husband’s quest for industrial efficiency was not a stretch; she did, after all, have a master’s degree in literature.
Other SWE members turned to the written word to balance their scientific selves with their literary lives. Some wrote biographies of the women who inspired them, as did 1953 Achievement Award recipient Elsie MacGill in My Mother the Judge, about the first female judge in Canada. Emily Crawford-Taylor contemplated the world in lyrical form in her 1958 poetry anthology, Beyond These Shores of Time and Space. While their daily work lives sought to understand and apply the scientific, their evenings were spent composing history, philosophy, and literature. “Such are the philosophers, searching out ultimate truths,” Gilbreth continued in Quest. “Such are the astronomers, scanning the heavens for records of the universe. These are the seekers!”
“Engineer, Author” was written by Troy Eller English, SWE Archivist. This article appears in the 2019 Conference issue of SWE Magazine.