The Patron Saint of Engineers?

200-foot snake replica

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Most people know Saint Patrick as the patron saint of Ireland. His big day is March 17.

Less well-known is that, for a time at least, engineers considered him the tongue-in-cheek patron saint of their profession.

This connection involves a worm drive, a gear arrangement in which a worm — a gear in the form of a screw — meshes with a rotating circular gear. Engineers have employed such drives in everything from automobiles to ship rudders to guitars.

There's no evidence that Saint Patrick used a worm drive during his missionary work in Ireland in the 5th century. But that didn't stop NC State engineering students from honoring him with a 200-foot snake replica that was paraded through downtown Raleigh as part of the 1930 Engineers Fair.

The story connecting engineers with Saint Patrick goes something like this:

Patrick is famous for driving the snakes out of Ireland. Snakes look like large worms. Therefore, Patrick completed the first "worm drive."

And since engineers use worm drives, Patrick is the patron saint of engineers.

Makes sense, right? end of story

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