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From Engineering to Peanuts to the Presidency

From Engineering to Peanuts to the Presidency

Each day this week, we are observing National Engineers Week – an enthusiastic celebration of the contributions millions of engineers have made, and continue to make, to society as a whole – and extending a heartfelt welcome to the next generation of engineers.

For the last three days, we have highlighted a president who was an engineer or used engineering during his career.  Our fourth in this series requires some mythbusting.

Many Americans know that Jimmy Carter was America’s 39th president, and many know he served aboard Seawolf-class submarines in the U.S. Navy. Some believe he was a nuclear engineer, due to the Navy’s reliance on nuclear-powered submarines. 

He was not.

True, President Carter was a submarine officer while in the Navy and, true, he took numerous engineering courses while a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA). However, it is not correct to say he was a “nuclear engineer,” since he graduated in 1946 with a general Bachelor of Science degree. In those days, the USNA did not offer any specialized engineering degrees. They were all undesignated. 

Lt. Jimmy Carter (standing, center) on a U.S. Navy submarine.

Lt. Carter graduated in 1946 and was honorably discharged from the Navy on Oct. 8, 1953, so he could return to his Georgia home and take over his family’s peanut farm. He had only started his nuclear power training the previous March. Such specialized training was done at civilian colleges. His was at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y.

Engineering degree or not, President Jimmy Carter remains one of a very few commanders in chief to have an engineering background. Also, his service to the U.S. Navy was honored on May 13, 2004, with the launch of the 12,150-ton U.S.S. Jimmy Carter, a 453-foot-long Seawolf-class nuclear-powered submarine (one of only three such boats ever built).

For more information on the other three engineering Presidents, read here: 

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