You can always spot engineers on vacation. They’re the ones with the optimized itineraries, expertly packed luggage, and updated virtual documentation for the entire trip. The rest of us look like traveling yard sales.
If you’re an engineer, or enjoy vacationing with one, what destinations and points of interest would suit you best? After carefully combing the Internet and discussing the question at length with our collection of technically inclined friends, we believe we have found four sites of singular interest. Expect to return home informed, happy, and maybe with a new idea or two.
The ‘e’ in engineer stands for ‘efficient’. Benjamin Franklin set a high standard to which we should all aspire. When not conducting major diplomacy, he found time to buy scientific instruments from Europe’s premier instrument makers. Only some are on display because this museum-inside-a-science-center owns more than 20,000 objects. If you’re interested in physics, chemistry, and, especially, clocks and telescopes, you’ll enjoy touring one of the country’s best collections.
Historical scientific instruments on display in the Putnam Gallery of the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments at Harvard University.
This museum was described by one of our experts in the history of science as “an unusual little museum” (reason enough to visit). The Bakken Museum seeks to galvanize interest in electricity and magnetism. Its founder, Earl Bakken, invented the first external, portable pacemaker and co-founded Medtronic, a medical device company.
One of the Bakken’s most popular attractions is Frankenstein’s Laboratory as well as the hands-on Science studio and Inventors Club for older children. The museum also houses 2,500 artifacts dating from the 18th century onwards, accessible via the online catalog. Start with the electric belt, a device for the credulous which promised to cure more than 20 illnesses. You’ll find this product listed under the satisfyingly-named “quack devices” category.
Frankenstein’s Laboratory, Bakken Museum, Minneapolis, Minnesota
The essential fact about New Orleans is that it already sits several feet below the water table. 19th-century inhabitants dreaded the heavy rains because they flooded the city, bringing malaria and yellow fever. It got so bad that outside investors skipped New Orleans: they feared for their lives.
In 1913 A.B. Wood, an employee of the Sewerage and Water Board, designed a 12-foot screw pump with exceptional pumping capacity. Initial tests indicated that 11 pumps could drain a whopping 213 million gallons of water per hour. They did. A.B. Wood’s designs made him such an international engineering celebrity that even the Dutch consulted him.
In almost a century, only Hurricane Katrina, one of the worst storms in American history, proved too much for Wood’s pumps. After repair, the pumps continue to drain the city. (Not a regular museum, contact the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans at least 30 days in advance to arrange an inside tour of the facility.)
Catch basin and pipes, Melpomene Street Pumping Station, aka Pumping Station 1, of New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board
It’s like The Great Gatsby (1925) come alive, only without all the confusing symbolism or moral corruption. An ideal destination for engineers, the Queen Mary has a remarkable engine room and outstanding propellers, which you can see on a tour. Send your companions to visit the top-quality period works of art or the displays about shipboard life. You can join them for lunch.
[Ed. Inspired? Download a free 30-day trial of PTC Creo Parametric CAD software, and start designing your own amazing instruments and machines! Who knows? Maybe someday engineers will line up to tour your laboratory.]