Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Light Dawns

I had always heard that Jimmy Carter was the smartest recent president IQ-wise. It never made much sense to me, but heck, you can't always tell from afar. His intelligence was even put forward as part of the reason he was ineffective as a president - a lack of trust of others, and unwillingness to delegate, because he worried they wouldn't do it as well as he would.

He had been a nuclear engineer on a submarine in the navy, they said. Well, that certainly sounds like someone with more than an average number of gray cells. So I guess that's it then. All that nuclear stuff is complicated, and engineering is a difficult field. Case closed, right?

I always thought it unusual that he wasn't more pro-nuclear power, being in the field and all, but I figured maybe he knew something I should be aware of. Or something.

Last week I learned what Paul Harvey would say is "The rest. Of the story." It's that nuclear engineer part. The word engineer is kinda funny in English. A train has an engineer, and it's a decent job, but no one thinks of them as - snicker - real engineers.

Jimmy Carter was that kind of engineer. He was in charge of driving the submarine. After being the engineer of a non-nuclear submarine, he took a course so he could drive nuclear subs.

Choo. Choo.


karrde said...

That's one of the quirks of English.

Originally, the Engineer was the man in charge of the Engines--typically a large engine on a railroad line or a steam-ship.

Somehow, it also became attached to the brains that did R&D work for all kinds of mechanical/electrical projects, materials science work.

There are also the Engineering-related experts who do field testing, oversee maintenance, and manage Quality Assurance on the assembly line.

So, there are the officers who oversee the plant during operation.
And then there are the officers/men who oversee repairs and upgrades of the hardware.
Also the officers and men who train anyone who touches a nuclear power plant.
And the geniuses who design/build better nuclear plants.

Carter was training to stand among the first set, not the latter two.

CBI said...

A comment from a submarine officer (retired).

1. Jimmy Carter was a qualified submarine officer, and served on Diesel-electric submarines. I do not know if his assignment included being "Engineer" (the officer with overall charge of the machinery onboard), but he definitely would have had to qualify as "Engineering Officer of the Watch" (the officer on shift duty supervising the engineroom and machinery).

2. Jimmy Carter began training in nuclear power, which would have qualified him to serve onboard nuclear powered submarines. However, he did not finish the course (upon his dad's death, he resigned from the navy and took over the family business).

3. Please note that both of these are different than being able to "drive" (i.e., supervise or command) submarines, either Diesel-electric or nuclear. They are, however, prerequisite to command.

4. I'm no Jimmy Carter fan---I consider him easily the worst president of my lifetime (which begins with Eisenhower)---but I must give appropriate credit where it is due. He accomplished a heck of a lot more than is involved in running a train engine.

Anonymous said...

The only other thing I would add to the discussion is I remember his rank in class at Annapolis was cited as supporting his intellect. According to a quick search, he ranked 59th in a class of 820. But as we both know, AVI, ability to book learn and IQ are not necessarily synonymous. BTW, the best info on the internet say McCain ranked 895 out of 899, just for comparison purposes.

Don't forget that we have had Yale grads (Clinton, Bushes) and Harvard (Kennedy) Whittier (Nixon) and West Point (Eisenhower). I guess Ford was Michigan. That about covers the academics of the presidents in our lifetime. Oh, sorry, Reagan - I can't remember, but it was more on a par with Whittier than the Ivy League or Military Academies.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

CBI - good to know. Thanks for the correction.