It is true that where an engineer, contractor or miner works all his life in one locality he becomes so expert in his knowledge of the methods and costs of rock excavation that he sees little practical value to himself in a knowledge of minerals, rocks or geologic principles. But when, possibly late in life, he goes to a new field of action, he is likely to lose his reputation, if not his money, through a lack of a “little knowledge” of the fundamental principles of rock formation. The science which he has regarded as being too theoretical for him might have saved him had he possessed even a little of it.”
Halbert Powers Gillette, Handbook of Rock Excavation, Methods and Costs
E. H. Carr’s seminal lecture “What is History?” gained a grateful and warm response from the elderly historian, G. M. Trevelyan, for whom the Cambridge lecture series was named. In his introduction to the Palgrave/Macmillan book, What is History?, Richard J. Evans quotes Trevelyan’s thank you note to Carr. After admiration and pleasantry, Trevelyan tells Carr, “I read Hegel’s Philosophy of History between sixty and seventy years ago and thought it such poor stuff that I never troubled myself any more with the theory of history but only practised it.” See metaphor and mineral rich passage above.
As to Halbert Powers Gillette, his Handbook of Rock Excavation, Methods and Costs was published first in 1906 and revised (to include the widespread use of gasoline-powered drills) in 1916. If engineers still wrote with Gillette’s clarity, spunk, and fearless preference for anecdote over statistics and tables, we would read their books alongside any history or fiction.