The Engines of Ingenuity

Every once in a while, we stumble on an amazing resource that’s not exactly new, but it’s new to us. This is the case, in spades, with The Engines of Our Ingenuity, a radio show that’s been running since 1988!

Each episode covers an invention or engineering marvel, and tells the story of how it came to be, and puts each device into its historical and cultural context. Want to get the lowdown on how we safely bring fire into the kitchen? Or the largest land transport vehicle, NASA’s crawler? And what’s up with lobsters anyway?

Even their logo is historical!
Even their logo is historical!

We haven’t had a chance to work through each of the 3,097 episodes (!) that they’ve produced so far, but now we know where to go when we’re out of ideas for a Retrotechtacular post, or to make sure that we’re not reinventing the wheel.

If we can complain, “The Engines of Our Ingenuity” is a little light on the technical details and heavy on the inspiration, but that’s radio. For deeper engineering insight, we’ve always got The Engineer Guy. On the other hand: 3,097 episodes. Whoah.

Let us know in the comments if you have a favorite episode!

Headline image courtesy Dr. Andrew Boyd, a regular contributor to the series.  Dank u wel [Simon Claessen] for the tip!

10 thoughts on “The Engines of Ingenuity

  1. From the University of Houston, my alma mater. I remember my wife and me listening to him on the car radio while we were commuting in Houston traffic. He reminded me a lot of James Burke’s stores in Connections and The Day The Universe Changed (both books and BBC TV series).

  2. The path I took to find him is even stranger: A friend showed me a book he had called “De Natuur” it was a series of monthly published articles concerning nature, technique, inventions and buildings, starting in 1880. In fact, a paper version of hackaday, but from that era: invention of the telephone, phonograph, electric lighting, dynamite, and on one page, a article about paper train wheels. that got my attention and searching on the web I found an article of John Lienhard in this series, and it has me hooked ever since…

    unfortunately the english “nature” is different: more scientific and no images. The dutch version is full of line art drawings, as rasterized image printing was not invented yet. It seems that it was a sister to a french magazine “La nature” as most of the images are drawn by french people. Really funny to read about a stupid french engineer who wants to build a 300 meter steel tower in paris…

  3. “The University of Houston’s College of Engineering presents this series about the machines that make our civilization run, and the people whose ingenuity created them.”

    I used to love catching this bit on my drive home. Really a great series that condenses a fantastic bit of information into a bite-sized chunk.

    “We’re interested in the way inventive minds work.”

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