The Scientist and the Engineer

by Scott Truesdell

end o’ year, 2012

Science and Engineering are both rigorous disciplines in which the practitioner is held responsible for the products of their efforts. They are empirical and quantifiable.

The Scientist uses research to establish and prove theories which can be used to explain the physical world. The quantification of those theories into hard data can be used by engineers to build practical applications without having to “reinvent the wheel.”

The Engineer uses the data established by scientists to specify

Design is not rigorous, nor empirical.


Merriam-Webster defines science as [a:] knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific method.
and [b:] such knowledge or such a system of knowledge concerned with the physical world and its phenomena : natural science.

Wikipedia defines science as a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe. In an older and closely related meaning (found, for example, in Aristotle), “science” refers to the body of reliable knowledge itself, of the type that can be logically and rationally explained.

In modern use, “science” more often refers to a way of pursuing knowledge, not only the knowledge itself.

A Scientist, in a broad sense, is one engaging in a systematic activity to acquire knowledge. In a more restricted sense, a scientist is an individual who uses the scientific method.

The “scientific method” is a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the “scientific method” as a method or procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.


Merriam-Webster defines engineering as [2 a:] the application of science and mathematics by which the properties of matter and the sources of energy in nature are made useful to people
and [b:] the design and manufacture of complex products <software engineering>.

Wikipedia defines engineering as the science, skill, and profession of acquiring and applying scientific, economic, social, and practical knowledge, in order to design, build, and maintain structures, machines, devices, systems, materials and processes.

American Engineers' Council for Professional Development: The creative application of scientific principles to design or develop structures, machines, apparatus, or manufacturing processes, or works utilizing them singly or in combination; or to construct or operate the same with full cognizance of their design; or to forecast their behavior under specific operating conditions; all as respects an intended function, economics of operation or safety to life and property.


Merriam-Webster: defines architecture as the art or science of building; specifically: the art or practice of designing and building structures and especially habitable ones [2 a:] formation or construction resulting from or as if from a conscious act <the architecture of the garden> [b:] a unifying or coherent form or structure <the novel lacks architecture>

Wikipedia: An architect is a person trained to plan and design buildings, and oversee their construction. To practice architecture means to provide services in connection with the design and construction of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the buildings, that have as their principal purpose human occupancy or use. Etymologically, architect derives from the Latin architectus, which derives from the Greek arkhitekton (arkhi-, chief + tekton, builder), i.e., chief builder.

Professionally, an architect's decisions affect public safety, and thus an architect must undergo specialized training consisting of advanced education and a practicum (or internship) for practical experience to earn a license to practice architecture. Practical, technical, and academic requirements for becoming an architect vary by jurisdiction.

The terms architect and architecture are also used in the disciplines of landscape architecture, naval architecture and often information technology (software architect). In most jurisdictions, the professional and commercial uses of the terms “architect” and “landscape architect” are legally protected.

Computer Scientist

Merriam-Webster: Computer Science is a branch of science that deals with the theory of computation or the design of computers.

Wikipedia: a scientist who has acquired knowledge of computer science, the study of the theoretical foundations of information and computation.

Computer scientists typically work on the software side of computer systems, as opposed to the hardware side that computer engineers mainly focus on (although there is overlap). Although computer scientists can also focus their work and research on specific areas (such as algorithm and data structure development and design, software engineering, information theory, database theory, computational complexity theory, human-computer interaction, numerical analysis, programming language theory, computer graphics, and computer vision), their foundation is the theoretical study of computing from which these other fields derive.

Computer scientists are often hired by software publishing firms, scientific research and development organizations where they develop the theories that allow new technologies to be developed.

Computer scientists can follow more practical applications of their knowledge, doing things such as software engineering. Computer scientists can also be found in the field of information technology consulting. Computer scientists can also be seen as a type of mathematician, seeing as how much of the field is dependent on mathematics itself.

Software Engineering

Merriam-Webster: a branch of computer science that deals with the design, implementation, and maintenance of complex computer programs.

Wikipedia: the application of a systematic, disciplined, quantifiable approach to the design, development, operation, and maintenance of software, and the study of these approaches; that is, the application of engineering to software.

PC Magazine's Encyclopedia: A person who designs and programs system-level software, such as operating systems, database management systems (DBMSs) and embedded systems. The title is often used for programmers in the software industry who create commercial software packages, whether they be system level or application level. "Software engineer," "systems programmer" and "systems engineer" titles are often synonymous.


Merriam-Webster: [a:] one who creates and often executes plans for a project or structure <urban designers> <a theater set designer>
[b:] one that creates and manufactures a new product style or design; especially: one who designs and manufactures high-fashion clothing. <the designer's new fall line>

Wikipedia: A designer is a person who designs. More formally, a designer is an agent that “specifies the structural properties of a design object”. In practice, anyone who creates tangible or intangible objects, such as consumer products, processes, laws, games and graphics, is referred to as a designer.