Modern machines again

I am still digesting T. R. Reid’s book, The Chip, about the microchip that we live with in almost every aspect of our lives today. Two different directions that have occupied my thoughts…

One, Reid mentions W. Edwards Deming, a quality control expert from Iowa. One of the problems chip manufactures had to overcome was that of quality control. One reason that the Japanese began to dominate chip manufacturing, even though in general the processes were invented in the U. S., was that their chips had a much higher quality. And the reason that the Japanese had higher chip quality was that they were following ideas laid down by Deming.

I’m not going to lay out Deming’s ideas here. I am going to point out that as far as I can tell he was a devout Episcopalian. I think that not because you can find it stated in any readily available commentary about him (meaning searching the Internet), but because he wrote religious music including Masses for an Episcopalian church in D.C.

It astonishes me that information about people’s faith is so difficult to discover. It is just not considered important by various gatekeepers, whoever they are.

For another example, Vincent Dethier was an amazing entomologist, working at the University of Massachusetts among other places. The only way that I know he was actually Catholic is that in the list of his publications there is one that is called, Ten Masses. Since he was a scientist there isn’t an automatic assumption about what the word ‘mass’ means here. But the cover of the book has a chalice with a host above it. He meant Mass, the Catholic celebration of the Eucharist. The book itself has some lovely and some sad descriptions of different Masses Dethier attended, including the first one he served in Boston in the early 1900’s. He also wrote a very funny and useful book called To Know a Fly, which discusses the science of flies, along with Science in general.

Deming was a brilliant scientist with a varied career. It seems to have included a sincere faith, which people want to ignore. His idea about quality in manufacturing included the insight that everyone at a manufacturing facility was responsible for it. The proof of the pudding was in the eating since the Japanese, following this idea were better than everyone else.

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