A Great Engineer and Author – Nevil Shute

Every now and then we feature engineers that have contributed significantly to our profession. These exercises are simply to remind you of the important role that we play as engineers and also to provide useful insights into the lives of celebrated engineers, scientists and even authors. Nevil Shute is one such engineer. While he was a renowned aeronautical engineer, he is more revered and a skillful author who authored several books on subjects that did not necessarily have anything to do with the profession.

Shute started off as an engineer, taking a third-class degree from Balliol College, Oxford and worked for Vickers, the aircraft company, in the early Twenties. He worked on the R-100 airship as chief calculator. It is perhaps at Vickers that the engineering basis of flight and the rivalry between private enterprise and public project fed his imagination, in unexpected ways. Evidently, aviation themes are predominant backdrops in many of Shute’s novels.


Shute’s novels are written in a simple, highly readable style, with clearly delineated plot lines. Typically, most of his novels revolve around a hero’s struggle against circumstances and, often, against hostile political regimes. The themes in his novels vary depending on the prevailing social conditions at the time of the writing. For example, in On the Beach, which was interestingly foreshadowed by a pre-Second World War novel, What Happened to the Corbetts (1938) profiles a devastating bombing raid on Southampton which leads to food shortages and cholera, as well as psychological problems. Another recurrent theme is the bridging of social barriers such as class, race or religion.

Some of Shute’s Most Popular Novels

A Town Like Alice The Breaking Wave Trustee from the Toolroom Pastoral

Shute’s Novels that have been turned into Movies

No highway in the Sky

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