After many years of pressure and encouragement from friends, I decided to write up the graduate course in engineering I teach at the U.S.Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. At first I concentrated on all the details I thought should be tightened up, rather than leave the material as a series of somewhat disconnected lectures. In class the lectures often followed the interests of the students, and many of the later lectures were suggested topics in which they expressed an interest Also, the lectures changed from year to year as various areas developed. Since engineering depends so heavily these days on the corresponding sciences, I often use the terms interchangeably.
After more thought I decided that since I was trying to teach “style” of thinking in science and engineering, and “style” is an art, I should therefore copy the methods of teaching used for the other arts— once the fundamentals have been learned. How to be a great painter cannot be taught in words; one learns by trying many different approaches that seem to surround the subject. Art teachers usually let the advanced student paint, and then make suggestions on how they would have done it, or what might also be tried, more or less as the points arise in the student’s head—which is where the learning is supposed to occur! In this series of lectures I try to communicate to students what cannot be said in words—the essence of style in science and engineering. I have adopted a loose organization with some repetition since this often occurs in the lectures. There are, therefore, digressions and stories—with some told in two different places—all in the somewhat rambling, informal style typical of lectures.
I have used the “story” approach, often emphasizing the initial part of the discovery, because I firmly believe in Pasteur’s remark, “Luck favors the prepared mind.” In this way I can illustrate how the individual’s preparation before encountering the problem can often lead to recognition, formulation, and solution. Great results in science and engineering are “bunched” in the same person too often for success to be a matter of random luck.