UpFront: Let's Acknowledge Significant Lives
By Brian J. Hogan
Quite some time ago, I was doing some writing on a topic of interest to the late theoretical physicist Edward Teller, an early member of the Manhattan Project who is often called the father of the hydrogen bomb. He agreed to talk to me, and invited me to have breakfast with him.
We met at a hotel in Boston, and the conversation was wide-ranging and interesting. During our breakfast, Teller asked a waiter for a half-cup of coffee. The waiter promptly provided a generous pour of coffee that filled Teller's cup and much of the cup's saucer. Teller courteously, but firmly, asked for a half-cup of coffee and a clean saucer. The waiter left, rather ticked, with the over-full cup, and returned with the specified half-filled cup.
It became very evident to me that morning that neither the waiter nor anyone else in sight knew who was at the table—Edward Teller was anonymous in that building.
Now, whatever one might think of Teller's work, he was a man who lived a life of consequence. He mattered.
I am quite certain that if a member of a Boston athletic team such as the Red Sox or Celtics had strolled through the hotel lobby, there would have been quite a buzz. Yet such persons represent nothing more than a bit of entertainment—foam on the waves, so to speak.
As a nation, we need to appreciate the difference between the truly consequential and the trivial. Teller's life work was, and is, genuinely significant; the career of a Red Sox outfielder is not.
Patrick Hanratty, whose career is presented in this issue, has also lived a significant life. He is recognized as the father of CAD/CAM software and did early work in NC programming. Program a part, and you are employing technology pioneered by Hanratty.
We honor him as the subject of this year's Masters of Manufacturing profile. Like previous Masters, among them John Parsons (father of NC), Richard Morley (the PLC), Joseph Engelberger (industrial robotics), and Joseph Juran (quality), Hanratty has made major contributions to the creation of the modern manufacturing enterprise, and his work in manufacturing will touch the lives of generations yet to be born.
Manufacturing is often presented to the public view as a backwater inhabited by trolls. It's nothing of the sort. Manufacturing is a vital field of applied science where the ideas of designers and design engineers are given material form, using scientific principles, to make products that satisfy human needs. The careers of our Masters of Manufacturing demonstrate that it is possible to live a life of consequence in this field, a life that can influence the futures of literally billions of people.
This article was first published in the July 2010 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine.