While not necessarily said by engineers, these certainly can be enjoyed by such.
“The first instance of novel principle is invariably defeated by the developed example of established practice.” -Lawrence Pomeroy
Ever have a great idea materialize in your head that is just too good to NOT think about? You churn the idea over and over… developing it further. You spend hours thinking the idea through, and you start to feel a little pride in your ability of creating such a novel idea: conjured into being from the experience soup on your cognitive desktop.
Then you do a little research on Google, and you find your idea has already been conjured. It was already commercialized, and it made some other people very rich. I have mixed feelings when this happens to me. Am I happy my idea was so valuable? Or am I pissed someone beat me to it?
“Scientists dream about doing great things. Engineers do them.” -James A. Michener
I have a retort to that quote: Engineers dream about doing great things too, but we follow through.
“For an optimist the glass is half full, for a pessimist it’s half empty, and for an engineer is twice bigger than necessary.” -Anon
…efficiency being a central tenet of good engineering.
“A lot of [Soviet Army soldiers] ask me how one can become a constructor, and how new weaponry is designed. These are very difficult questions. Each designer seems to have his own paths, his own successes and failures. But one thing is clear: before attempting to create something new, it is vital to have a good appreciation of everything that already exists in this field. I myself have had many experiences confirming this to be so.” -Mikhail Kalashnikov [emphasis added]
Kalashnikov is, of course, the designer of the incredible AK-47 ‘assault’ rifle (technically, “AKM” is the sheet receiver design which became so worldly popular, the AK-47 refers to the first 3 receiver designs which were machined). His comment is so very important for any engineer wishing to design/create.
The AK-47 was in fact not a completely new design. The AK was a collection of sub-designs successfully employed, developed, and [battle] tested elsewhere: The trigger and bolt locking-lugs are patterned after the M1 Garand. The safety mechanism is similar to the Remington Model 8 (Browning designed). The gas piston layout is arguably inspired by the German Sturmgewehr 44. And the rear sight design is nearly identical to the SKS rifle.
If you are tasked with designing something new, always research the existing devices (prior art). Research not only to prevent patent issues, but also to acquire ideas/mechanisms/components you can use or improve. If there is no need to reinvent the wheel, then don’t waste resources doing so. Which leads me perfectly to my last quote:
“A good scientist is a person with original ideas. A good engineer is a person who makes a design that works with as few original ideas as possible” -Freeman Dyson