Honoring Pioneers in Engineering

In 2023, the engineering community lost a host of notable pioneers in engineering, from Gordon Moore, co-founder and emeritus chairman of Intel Corporation who developed Moore’s law, to William A. Wulf, a computer innovator who paved the way for the internet that we know today, to Henry Petroski, whose prolific writing career presented the human side of engineering.

Most recently, John Brooks Slaughter, a visionary leader in engineering and engineering education, passed away on December 6. John was an electrical engineer who worked at General Dynamics in 1956 and later developed military computer systems during his 15 years at the Navy Electronics Laboratory in San Diego. He quickly rose to prominence and used this spotlight to champion diversity and inclusion, working to improve educational opportunities for women and students of color and advocating for education in science and the humanities to complement the engineering curriculum.

In August 2023, I was fortunate to sit down with John, in what was to become one of his last personal appearances, to discuss his long and distinguished career—one in which he accomplished many “firsts,” including being the first Black director of the National Science Foundation, the first Black chancellor of the University of Maryland, and the first Black president of Occidental College in Los Angeles. John also became one of the first three African Americans inducted into the National Academy of Engineering when he was elected in 1982 for “contributions to the design of digital, sampled-data control systems, and leadership in shaping national engineering science policy and in fostering increased participation of minorities in engineering.” John’s passion for people, opportunities, education, and engineering is evident in our discussion, which can be viewed on the NAE YouTube channel.

These pioneers—and so many others past and present—show the world the far-reaching impacts engineers and engineering have in shaping our world.

2024 marks the 60th anniversary of the NAE. Over the past 60 years, engineering—and the face of engineers—has changed. From computers to smartphones, electric cars to space rockets, and MRIs to prosthetics, engineering has changed the very way in which we live our lives and connect with others, both locally and globally. This connectedness enables our world to practice, not just preach, diversity, equity, and inclusion, thereby ensuring a safe and successful environment in which all people can flourish personally and professionally.

I hope you engage with the NAE throughout 2024 as we commemorate 60 years of “Leadership in a World of Accelerating Change” via LinkedIn, YouTube, X, and the NAE website. Join us in celebrating the engineers who are working to create a safe, secure, and more sustainable world.