“Engineers are titans of real-world problem-solving. . . . In this riveting study of how they think, [Guru Madhavan] puts behind-the-scenes geniuses . . . center stage.”—Nature
In this engaging account of innovative triumphs, Guru Madhavan examines the ways in which engineers throughout history created world-changing tools, from ATMs and ZIP codes to the digital camera and the disposable diaper. Equal parts personal, practical, and profound, Applied Minds charts a path to a future where we borrow strategies from engineering to find inspired solutions to our most pressing challenges.
Biomedical engineer Madhavan (Practicing Sustainability) sets out to "reverse-engineer the engineering mind-set" to show lay readers the versatility of engineering techniques in everyday life. He considers different engineers or individuals who have solved engineering problems as exemplars of aspects of this mind-set, such as modular systems thinking or working on functional prototyping. His wide-ranging examples include Jean-Baptiste Vaquette de Gribeauval's redesign of French cannons and Alfred Hitchcock's approach to filmmaking, and demonstrate that engineering methods can be applied to every walk of life. While Madhavan does use some jargon, his problem-solving vignettes are accessible to non-engineers, particularly as he uses examples of familiar problems or inventions such as traffic congestion, sewage treatment, or the coordination of GPS and 911 services. Madhavan's work will help readers move from the common understanding of engineering as a set of technical skills for building objects to the realization that engineering is a way of looking at and solving problems, and is not limited to situations involving science and math.