A Tribute to David Bernard Steinman, Founder of the National Society of Professional Engineers

David Steinman, PE“A bridge is a poem stretched across a river, a symphony of stone and steel” – David B. Steinman, P.E.

David Bernard Steinman, P.E. (1886-1960) founded the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) in May of 1934 when he called a meeting with four engineering organizations to discuss the formation of the new national engineering society. In attendance to support the formation of the NSPE were representatives of the New Jersey Association of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors, the Pennsylvania Society of Professional Engineers, the Connecticut Society of Professional Engineers, and yours truly, the New York State Society of Professional Engineers.

Growing up in lower Manhattan under the Brooklyn Bridge, David’s love and passion for the engineering profession was self-instilled from his childhood. He attended the City College of New York at the age of 13, and through the aid of scholarships and part-time jobs, he was able to complete his bachelor’s degree from City College in 1909. Next, David completed 3 more degrees from Columbia University, all culminating in a PhD.  

David’s career started relatively slowly, with only being able to secure a teaching job in Idaho upon graduating from Columbia University in New York. However, after contacting Gustav Lindenthal about collaborating on the work for the Hell’s Gate Bridge, David soon became Lindenthal’s special assistant, from which his career and road to expertise as a bridge engineer took off. Over the next few decades, David traveled the world, building bridges on 5 different continents and various countries including the United States, England, Italy, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Canada, Korea, Pakistan, among others. Some of his most notable bridge building contributions include work on the Henry Hudson and Triborough Bridges in New York, the Mount Hope Bridge linking Providence and Newport, Rhode Island, and perhaps his most notable bridge contribution, the Mackinac Bridge, or “Mighty Mac”, which links the two peninsulas of Michigan State.

“The public judges a profession by the example it meets.” – David B Steinman

David was determined to strengthen and protect the profession of engineering. He wanted to protect the qualified and true engineers from dangerous unqualified engineers who falsely identified themselves as so. He stood for recognizing the profession of engineering as a whole, and standing against both unethical practices by engineers and inadequate compensations for engineers. He believed that “Through membership and active participation in NSPE, the individual engineer renders his contribution toward making engineering a better and more satisfying profession than he found it.”

David took a particular interest in poetry in his later years. His true love and passion for engineering and bridge building in particular is exemplified in his poems, notably “The Bride” and “I Built a Bridge”.  

Poetry by David B. Steinman. 

Writings of David B. Steinman (NSPE)

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 Photo reference – Wikipedia

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