This section is from "Scientific American Supplement Volumes 275, 286, 288, 299, 303, 312, 315, 324, 344 and 358". Also available from Amazon: Scientific American Reference Book.
Impressed with the very great step in advance which has been inaugurated here this evening, I feel crowding upon me so many thoughts that I cannot make sure that, in selecting from them, I may not leave unsaid much that I should say, and say some things that I had better omit. Some years ago, when asked by a wealthy gentleman to what machine-shop he had best send his son, who was to become a mechanical engineer, I advised him not to send him to any, but to fit up a shop for him where he could go and work at what he pleased without the drudgery of apprenticeship, to put him in the way of receiving such information as he needed, and especially to let him go where he could see things break. Great, indeed, are the advantages of those who have the opportunity of seeing things break, of witnessing failures and profiting by them. When men have enumerated the achievements of those most eminent in our profession the thought has often struck me, "Ah! if we could only see that man's scrap heap."
There are many who are able to construct a machine for a given purpose so that it will work, but to do this so that it will not cost too much is an entirely different problem. To know what to omit is a rare talent. I once found a young man who could tell students what to store up in their minds for immediate use, and what to skim over or omit; but I could not keep him long, for more lucrative positions are always waiting for such men.
The advice I gave my wealthy friend was given before the Stevens Institute had developed in the direction it has now. The foundation of this advice, namely, to combine a certain amount of judicious practice with theory, is now in a fair way to be carried out, and although things will probably not be permitted to break here, the students will doubtless have opportunities for looking around them and supplementing their systematic instruction here by observation abroad.