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Wanted: 50,000 Engineers
January 1953 Popular Mechanics

January 1953 Popular Mechanics
January 1953 Popular Mechanics - RF Cafe[Table of Contents]

Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early mechanics and electronics. See articles from Popular Mechanics, published continuously since 1902. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.

Draw Me advertisement - RF Cafe"Right now America is crying for engineers - 50,000 of them." That is the tag line from the "Wanted: 50,000 Engineers" article in the January 1953 issue of Popular Mechanics magazine. The Korean War was winding down (ended in July), inflation was low (0.7%, compared to 6-7% the last couple years, and 13% in Carter years) and many technological breakthroughs generated a huge demand for engineers to design products and systems to exploit and improve upon the knowledge. Here is an apt statement from the article: "Just what is engineering? It has been called the art that makes pure science useful." Magazines of the era were chock full of features like this as well as advertisements attracting men - and sometimes women - to tech schools, universities, industry, military, and government through promises of great pay and prestige. Tests in physics, aviation, and geology are included here to help the reader determine whether he is engineer material. In truth, they are about as useful as the "Draw Me" type ads for artist schools.

Wanted: 50,000 Engineers

Wanted: 50,000 Engineers, January 1953 Popular Mechanics - RF Cafe

Wanted: 50,000 Engineers, January 1953 Popular Mechanics.

Here's a profession that's exciting, constructive and well-paid, yet authorities see no end to the shortage of trained men. Readers of this magazine may have particular abilities needed in this profession. Sample aptitude tests with this article help indicate such abilities

By Carey H. Brown

Chairman, Engineering Manpower Commission

If you've ever dreamed of designing or building great bridges, huge monuments to civilization in the far corners of the world, electronic wonders or rockets to probe outer space, your chances of making those dreams come true were never better. Provided, of course, that you have the basic qualities it takes to make an engineer. And provided, too, you have the time for four to six years of essential college work before you can create and build your first dream.

Right now America is crying for engineers - 50,000 of them. Worried men with slide rules have figured that, with the rapid advance of scientific development in every field, an additional 30,000 engineers will be needed every year in industry alone. We're not even close to meeting that figure. By 1954, only 17,000 engineering students will graduate. There are many reasons for this sad state of affairs. Unlike our wartime allies, we drafted into military service thousands of engineering students, many of whom never returned to the field. The low birth rate of the 1930s is now aggravating the engineering-manpower shortage.

Electrical Engineers - RF CafeBut the important fact is that any young person today who has an aptitude for engineering and is willing to work hard to develop it is virtually assured of a fascinating job, a sound future, prestige and a salary few fields can match.

How good is it? The engineering students who graduated last June could pretty well pick their jobs from a variety of offers with starting salaries of $300 to $375 a month. In 10 years the good ones will be making two or three times that much. Many of today's student engineers will have branched into scores of specialty fields and spread to the four corners of the world-from the pipe lines of Saudi Arabia to new mining developments under the rim of the Arctic Circle.

Chart of engineers vs. year - RF CafeJust what is engineering? It has been called the art that makes pure science useful. The engineer takes the formulas of the scientist and puts them to work for mankind. He is far from an impromptu builder who goes to work willy-nilly with sketchy plans and reliance on his handy ingenuity. Engineers analyze, design and then supervise the building of nearly anything you can name - railroads, radios, bridges, rockets, dams, power plants, radar and television devices, engines, machines, industrial plants, pipe and transmission lines and thousands of other things too numerous to mention. Their work carries them over deserts, mountains, seas and snowbound wastes.

Here's how it works. If you were a civil engineer hired to build a bridge across the Amazon River, you would first learn exactly the functions your customer wanted that bridge to perform. You'd plan in general how it could be done. You would visit the site with a crew of surveyors. You would determine all the forces, in their maximum degree, that would be brought to bear on the structure - like floods, earthquakes, wind and the loads it should be designed to carry.

Several materials might do the job. Should it be steel or masonry? For each you'd consider several possible arrangements. Should it be an arch bridge, suspension, truss or cantilever? After reconnaissance and selection of the site, followed by necessary investigations to acquire information on which to base the final design, you and your associates would spend weeks or months designing each separate part and making dozens of scale drawings. Then you'd draw up minute specifications and descriptions for the entire project as it would be in final form on the Amazon site. Nothing can be taken for granted. Every detail must be allowed for.

Chemical Engineers - RF CafeFinally, you might have to supervise the construction of your bridge, watch it grow through proper stages and satisfy yourself and your client that everything you put into it would do the job it was supposed to do.

From all this, you might gather that unless you were a big, tweedy, six-foot giant with a mathematical trap of a mind and a penchant for monstrous things and wide-open spaces, you couldn't be an engineer. This is not so. Engineering encompasses dozens of fields and myriad personalities. You can be fat, thin, tall, short, introvert or extrovert. And no matter what your particular bent, if you have an engineering-type mind, there's a niche you'll fit. You don't have to build a bridge or railroad; it may be a power plant, an oil refinery, a chemical plant, a steel mill or a mining project.

Physics Test - RF CafeThe profession breaks down into five big fields. There are electrical engineers who work in electronic devices, communications and electric-power generation, transmission and application. The mechanical engineer, alone or in cooperation with other engineers, designs and builds anything that can move or be moved - from monkey wrenches to steam engines. He produces airplanes, rockets, jet power plants, turbines. It is the civil engineer who turns his talent to the massive stationary monuments that decorate our modern landscapes - bridges, dams, superhighways, railroads, underwater tunnels, water systems and other structures. The chemical engineer takes what the chemist does in his laboratory and turns it to industrial use. He creates the plastic objects you use today, synthetic fibers and fabrics and a host of chemicals used in industry. Mining and metallurgical engineers find ways to get minerals from the earth and, combine them to produce useful products like stainless steel and many other alloys that make the things you use every day. Others who have adopted a specialty may call themselves industrial engineers, manufacturing engineers, aeronautical engineers, petroleum engineers or other designations indicating their particular line of activity.

Closely related to the engineer, and working hand in hand with him, are the designers, draftsmen, detailers and surveyors. The surveyor is the chap you see on the site of a big construction project, peering through his tripod-mounted transit. This with his level, plane table, tape and photographic equipment are his principal tools. He's an outdoor-type fellow, usually. He maps the site terrain, lays out the site for the engineer, locates boundaries, sees that structures are at proper elevation and grade, searches deeds and records. Though it helps, an engineering degree is not a "must" for him.

Mechanical Engineers - RF CafeEngineering aides are highly respected men, essential to the successful execution of engineering projects, whose principal training in most cases has been on the job. Though sometimes applied to junior graduate engineers, this term usually signifies a man whose technical training or experience falls short of qualifying him as an engineer. Many of them have one to three years' training in a technical school plus a vocational-high-school diploma. They might be called the "top sergeants" of the profession and often command handsome salaries, but few go on to executive positions because most companies now prefer graduate engineers in those spots.

Aviation Test - RF CafeAnother fellow who mayor may not have a degree is the draftsman. This highly skilled craftsman makes finished drawings from designs the engineer has roughed out. Some specialize in cartography, or map making. In other specialties, such as machine design, the engineer and the draftsman work side by side or their activities may merge. Unless the engineer's idea or design is translated into proper drawings and specifications and thence into an adequate structure or piece of equipment it's of little practical value. This illustrates the importance of the engineering aide, the technician and the draftsman to the engineering profession.

All this is fine, but how can you tell if you have the qualifications to be an engineer? There are a number of specific things that help make a good engineer. Ask yourself these questions, posed by Dr. A. Pemberton Johnson, project director of the Educational Testing Service. Try to answer them honestly.

1. Were your high-school-mathematics grades in the top third of your class?

2. Were your grades in physics, chemistry and other science courses in the top third of the class?

3. Were your high-school English grades in the top half of your class?

4. Did you have sound habits of work and study?

5. Does your curiosity about things run high? (Do you wonder why radio signals are weaker in daytime than at night? Why fluorescent bulbs are tube-shaped instead of bulbous like standard lamps? Why aluminum is soft? Why concrete highways are made of slabs instead of in a continuous strip ?)

6. Are you interested in improving things? If so, have you ever done something about making an improvement?

7. Are you honest with yourself and other people?

Metallurgical Engineers - RF CafeIf you can answer "yes" to all these questions, you have some of the faculties it takes. But there are many more. Though a four or five-year undergraduate course in a good engineering school will give a man his necessary degree, many engineers go on to graduate work and all must be prepared for continual study to keep up with the rapidly advancing developments in the fields of science. Many use night schools and correspondence courses.

The tests on these pages are samples of the type that help show your ability to acquire and retain knowledge in fields that should interest a potential engineer. Designed by Mr. Johnson O'Connor, director of the Human Engineering Laboratory, Inc., and the Johnson O'Connor Research Foundation, Inc., they are parts of tests now in actual use. They are helping to screen future engineers for large concerns. If you do well on the samples shown here, it does not necessarily mean you should plunge into engineering but indicates an interest in that direction, and you may want to investigate further.

The best way to learn whether or not you have the basic engineering aptitudes is to take aptitude tests. These are designed to indicate your ability to visualize things in three dimensions; to determine the degree of your intellectual curiosity and creative imagination, and to determine your personality type. The answers are important for the prospective engineer to know. A quiet man with subjective personality and high creative ability does best in design. A hail-fellow-well-met, with low creative ability but objective personality will do better in construction.

Geology Test - RF CafeRobust health is essential for the engineer whose work takes him into the field, where he must get around without handicaps on dangerous construction jobs. Long hours of work call for reserves of stamina. The engineer should be alert, persevering, reliable, willing to face staggering problems without quailing. He must get along with people, since his work will ordinarily require it. He must be forever curious about "things" and must have the ability to visualize the objects which he thinks of.

In answer to a request from the government two years ago, the Engineers Joint Council, which is made up of five major engineering societies, formed the Engineering Manpower Commission located beside The Engineers' Club in New York City. The job of this commission is to work toward the alleviation of the engineering-manpower shortage. One way it is going about this is by interesting qualified young people in the engineering profession. Advice, encouragement and help to young people from all over is a part of the commission's function, and its New York office and its local delegates throughout the country follow through on hundreds of inquiries that come to their attention.

Our civilization today is permeated with engineering. A man with a recognized engineering degree can find his place almost anywhere, in scores of seemingly unrelated fields. Some engineers manage big businesses, like the presidents of many well-known companies. City managers and public-works directors in many cities are engineers. Government calls for more and more of them. Businessmen use engineers to survey and analyze markets or even to formulate plans for advertising and sales campaigns. Investment concerns turn to engineering advisors to evaluate the practical side of new manufacturing proposals. Industry is dependent upon the continued supply of qualified engineers.

Without proper preparation in high school - mainly in science and mathematics - entrance into an engineering college or a technical school is difficult. So if you think you want to be an engineer and set your sights on anyone of these goals, start early and' you'll get there if you have what it takes.

Civil Engineers - RF CafePhysics Test

1. This machine, which creates power at Niagara Falls, is called:

(eliminator) (antenna) (generator) (turbine) (spark-coil)

2. In this diagram, showing lines of light from a distant object to a camera film, the distance from the lens to the image being photographed is known as:

(axis) (foot-candle) (penumbra) (incidence) (focal length)

3. This instrument compares the candle power of two light sources. It is called:

(camera) (photometer) (electric eye) (electrophorus) (stereoscope)

4. You'll find this device in most radios. It allows the flow of current in one direction only. Its name is:

(switch) (audio) (rectifier) (fuse) (transmitter)

5. The temperature above which it is impossible to liquefy a gas, no matter how great the pressure, is called:

(recalescence) (fusion) (critical) (boiling) (freezing)

6. The spoon in the beaker containing fluid is about to be electroplated. It is called the:

(cathode) (ion) (electrolyte) (anode) (positive electrode)

7. The particle with the smallest known mass is the:

(electron) (atom) (ion) (proton) (alpha particle)

9. The instrument at right measures the sugar content of a solution. Its name is:

(comparator) (polariscope) (spectroscope) (analyzer) (heliostat)

8. A famous pendulum is arranged to swing in the pattern indicated by the diagram, due to the earth's rotation. Such a pendulum is called:

(compound) (simple) (ballistic) (Foucault) (Kator)

10. One ten-millionth of a millimeter is called:

(Angstrom unit) (micron) (micrometer) (megohm) (millimicron)

Aviation Test

The airplane shown at right can land on water or land. This type aircraft is called a:

(monoplane) (biplane) (amphibian) (seaplane) (flying boat)

2. The angle indicated by the curved arrow is the one between the direction in which the plane is pointed and the direction in which it is moving. It is the:

(angle of pitch) (trim angle) (drift angle) (flight-path angle) (wind-correction angle)

3. The current of air driven astern over the aircraft (shown by arrows at right) by the propeller is termed:

(blade element) (downwash) (sweepback) (slipstream) (tail plane)

4. The diagrams right are cross sections of surfaces designed to obtain reaction from the air through which they move. Such a surface is called:

(flap) (rib) (aileron) (airfoil) (strut)

5. The long steel tubes indicated by arrows at right form the framework of a plane's body and are called:

(spacers) (flanges) (spars) (longerons) (gussets)

6. The group of parts forming the aircraft assembly at right is known as:

(rudder) (empennage) (stabilizer) (fin) (elevator)

7. The instrument shown at right measures the force or speed of the wind. Its name is:

(nephoscope) (anemometer) (psychrometer) (computer) (air-speed indicator)

8. The climbing term diagrammed at right, in which the momentum of the craft is used to obtain a higher rate of climb, is called a:

(chandelle) (wingover) (zoom) (Immelman) (pull-up)

9. The fore and aft compression members of the internal bracing system of the aircraft shown at right are called: (stringers) (spats) (tabs) (compression ribs) (drag struts)

10. The point in the atmosphere at which the fall of temperature with increasing height abruptly ceases is the:

(ionosphere) (stratosphere) (tropopause) (troposphere) (pressure altitude)

Geology Test

Check one answer in each row that best illustrates the term

1. Topography

___ Physical Characteristics ___ Head ___ Industry ___ Minerals ___ Typesetting

2. Small Estuary

___ Inlet ___ Lake ___ Promontory ___ Peninsula ___ Island

3. Moraine

___ Marsh ___ Forest ___ Glacial Deposit ___ Low Ground ___ Narrow Gorge

4. Fluvial Deposit

___ River ___ Volcanic ___ Dust ___ Glacial ___ Coral

5. Alluvial Soil

___ Rocky Formation ___ Mineral ___ Fertile ___ Overworked ___ Flood Deposit

6. Neolithic Age

___ Preflood ___ Primitive Man ___ Glacial ___ Later Stone ___ Caveman


Quizzes from vintage electronics magazines such as Popular Electronics, Electronics-World, QST, and Radio News were published over the years - some really simple and others not so simple. Robert P. Balin created most of the quizzes for Popular Electronics. This is a listing of all I have posted thus far.

RF Cafe Quizzes

Vintage Electronics Magazine Quizzes

Vintage Electronics Magazine Quizzes



     Answers to Physics Test



1.   generator

2.   focal length

3.   photometer

4.   rectifier

5.   critical

6.   cathode

7.   electron

8.   Foucault

9.   polariscope

10. Angstrom unit

Percentage of Engineering Students With Correct Answer











     Answers to Aviation Test


1.   amphibian

2.   drift angle

3.   slipstream

4.   airfoil

5.   longerons

6.   empennage

7.   anemometer

8.   chandelle

9.   drag strut

10. tropopause

Percentage of Engineering Students With Correct Answer











     Answers to Geology Test


1. physical characteristics

2. inlet

3. glacial deposit

4. river

5. flood deposit

6. later stone

 Percentage of Engineering Students With Correct Answer









Posted December 1, 2023

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