ASHRAE Journal - March 2021 - 100

REFRIGERATION APPLICATIONS
COLUMN

Andy Pearson

Engineering Economics
BY ANDY PEARSON, PH.D., C.ENG., FELLOW ASHRAE

I grew up in an engineering family and, having no imagination, followed in the footsteps of my father and grandfather into the refrigeration business. I have therefore
always been familiar with the aphorism that an engineer is someone who can do for
ten shillings what any fool can do for a pound.
That version of the saying is often attributed to Arthur
book was published in 1887, twenty five years after the
Wellesley, better known as the first Duke of Wellington-
death of the Duke. The full version of the saying is right
victor over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo and twice
there on page one of the introduction: " It would be well
prime minister of Great Britain (although the second
if engineering were less generally thought of, and even
time was only for a month). This struck me as odd,
defined, as the art of constructing. In a certain imporsince Wellington wasn't well known for his enthusiasm
tant sense it is rather the art of not constructing; or, to
for engineering. So I set myself the task of finding out
define it rudely but not inaptly, it is the art of doing that
when, where and why the Duke uttered these
well with one dollar, which any bungler can
famous words. It turns out he didn't. The true
do with two after a fashion...but to such engisaying is actually subtly much more powerful
neering as is needed for laying out railways,
and even more relevant to the challenges facat least, the definition given is literally appliing us in 2021.
cable, for the economic problem is all there is
As I scoured the far reaches of the internet
to it. "
it became clear that there were two known
I love the idea of " the art of not constructing "
versions of the saying. The second version
as the goal of the engineer. I also love the fact
" Don't believe everything you that whereas the common version only seeks
was " Engineering is the art of doing that well
read on the internet. "
with one dollar what any bungler can do
to half the cost of doing a job, Wellington's
-Abraham Lincoln
with two, after a fashion. " This was also often
original text requires the engineer to do the
attributed to " Arthur Wellesley " and sometimes to the
thing " well " whereas the bungler only does it " after a
Duke of Wellington, or occasionally just " Wellington. "
fashion " for twice the price. His point was really that the
However, this seemed unlikely. The use of " dollar " and
cost of poor engineering is more than just the original
" bungler " didn't sound like the Duke so I assumed that
expense, which is a one-time hit. The operating costs
the original British version had been hijacked and taken
will be with the owner forever and can easily be several
across the Atlantic. I also found some attributions to
orders of magnitude greater than the original cost.
" Arthur Wellington " and scoffed at the sloppiness of
Over the years the ratio between the costs has also
internet meme writers who didn't know who the Duke
varied from Wellington's original 50% target. In Britain
of Wellington was.
it became " do for a shilling what any
Sorry, internet, I was wrong. I take it all back. It turns
fool can do for a pound, " a 5% ratio, and
out that the full version of the saying was written by an
then more recently " do for a penny, "
American civil engineer, author of a groundbreaking
which in old money was a 1:240 ratio.
https://bit.ly/3o6Pw0R
treatise on the economics of railroad development and
That's a pretty ambitious value engiRate this Column
editor of the New York publication Engineering News.
neering target.
Andy Pearson, Ph.D., C.Eng., is group managing director at Star Refrigeration in Glasgow, UK.
His name was Arthur M. Wellington and his famous
10 0

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ASHRAE Journal - March 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of ASHRAE Journal - March 2021

Contents
ASHRAE Journal - March 2021 - Intro
ASHRAE Journal - March 2021 - Cover1
ASHRAE Journal - March 2021 - Cover2
ASHRAE Journal - March 2021 - 1
ASHRAE Journal - March 2021 - Contents
ASHRAE Journal - March 2021 - 3
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