I think the general public would think of someone like Isambard Kingdom Brunel when asked “what is an engineer?”, I admire the man too (perhaps also, excuse my name-dropping(!), because he married a second cousin four times removed of mine!).
In my field, it is Dennis Ritchie – he engineered UNIX and the C programming language, which still influences so many sides of software 40 years on!
My favourite engineer is a man called Patrick Head. He was a co-founder of the Williams F1 team and the technical director when Williams were doing really well in the mid-90s – which is when I started getting interested in F1. I loved his attitude and was the only engineer I knew of in motorsport when I started to think of engineering as a career, so he was a big inspiration to me.
The guy I work with at Oxford. He’s called Jon Temple and he’s been working on space instruments since he was 16. As a student, I really wanted his job – now I get to work with him. That’s even better…