Systems engineering is an interdisciplinary field of engineering focusing on how complex engineering projects should be designed and managed over their life cycles. Issues such as reliability, logistics, coordination of different teams (requirement management), evaluation measurements and different disciplines become more difficult when dealing with large, complex projects.
- Quotes are arranged chronologically
20th century, first half 
- The administrative function has many duties. It has to foresee and make preparations to meet the financial, commercial, and technical conditions under which the concern must be started and run. It deals with the organization, selection, and management of the staff. It is the means by which the various parts of the undertaking communicate with the outside world, etc. Although this list is incomplete, it gives us an idea of the importance of the administrative function. The sole fact that it is in charge of the staff makes it in most cases the predominant function, for we all know that, even if a firm has perfect machinery and manufacturing processes, it is doomed to failure if it is run by an inefficient staff.
- Henri Fayol, (1900) Henri Fayol addressed his colleagues in the mineral industry 23 June 1900
- In the past the man has been first; in the future the system must be first. This in no sense, however, implies that great men are not needed. On the contrary, the first object of any good system must be that of developing first-class men; and under systematic management the best man rises to the top more certainly and more rapidly than ever before.
- Frederick Winslow Taylor (1911) Principles of Scientific Management, p.2
- The provision of a whole new system of electric generation emancipated industry from the leather belt and line shaft, for it eventually became possible to provide each tool with its own electric motor. This may seem only a detail of minor importance. In fact, modern industry could not be carried out with the belt and line shaft for a number of reasons. The motor enabled machinery to be arranged in the order of the work, and that alone has probably doubled the efficiency of industry, for it has cut out a tremendous amount of useless handling and hauling. The belt and line shaft were also tremendously wasteful – so wasteful indeed that no factory could be really large, for even the longest line shaft was small according to modern requirements. Also high speed tools were impossible under the old conditions – neither the pulleys nor the belts could stand modern speeds. Without high speed tools and the finer steels which they brought about, there could be nothing of what we call modern industry.
- Henry Ford and Samuel Crowther (1930). Edison as I Know Him. Cosmopolitan Book Company. p. 15
- With the increasing use of electronic devices for the navigation and control of aircraft, A.R. C. has long encouraged the “Systems Engineering” of these devices into the basic design of aircraft.
- Advertising text by Aircraft Radio Corporation in: Flying Magazine. Dec 1946. Vol. 39, nr. 6. p.131
- Radio atmospherics is one of numerous projects underway at the US Navy Electronics Laboratory, which has its headquarters in San Diego... The laboratory is operated by the Bureau of Ships and is engaged not only in research but also in development and "systems engineering" by which new ideas are converted into practical pieces of equipment for use by the fleet.
- Article "Navy explores the air waves". In: Popular Mechanics. Vol. 91. March 1949. p.89
20th century, second half 
- This man tonight could almost reach the moon tonight... for he stands at the brink of a new age in the conquest of space... an entirely new development in aircraft industry now makes this possible. It is known as Systems Engineering... a science and a method of developing aircraft, guided missiles and electronic systems not as traditional flying vehicles but as fully coordinated solutions to operations problems...
- Advertising text by Glenn L. Martin Company, Baltimore in: Flying Magazine. April 1954. p.7
- Don't tell me that man doesn't belong out there. Man belongs wherever he wants to go — and he'll do plenty well when he gets there.
- Wernher von Braun Time magazine (17 February 1958)
- The concept from the engineering standpoint is the evolution of the engineering scientist, i.e., the scientific generalist who maintains a broad outlook. The method is that of the team approach. On large-scale-system problems, teams of scientists and engineers, generalists as well as specialists, exert their joint efforts to find a solution and physically realize it... The technique has been variously called the systems approach or the team development method.
- [In the year 1957] I have just returned from an exciting meeting of the American Society for Engineering Education where I heard a paper on the new discipline of systems engineering. It is no longer sufficient for engineers merely to design boxes such as computers with the expectation that they would become components of larger, more complex systems. That is wasteful because frequently the box component is a bad fit in the system and has to be redesigned or worse, can lead to system failure. We must learn how to design large-scale, complex systems from the top down so that the specification for each component is derivable from the requirements for the overall system. We must also take a much larger view of systems. We must design the man-machine interfaces and even the system-society interfaces. Systems engineers must be trained for the design of large-scale, complex, man-machine-social systems
- About 1957 in: A. Wayne Wymore (2004) in: "Systems Movement: Autobiographical Retrospectives". In: International Journal of General Systems, Vol. 33, No. 6, December 2004, pages 593-610.
- Systems engineering is the name given to engineering activity which considers the overall behavior of a system, or more generally which considers all factors bearing on a problem, and the systems approach to control engineering problems is correspondingly that approach which examines the total dynamic behavior of an integrated system. It is concerned more with quality of performance than with sizes, capacities, or efficiencies, although in the most general sense systems engineering is concerned with overall, comprehensive appraisal.
- T.B. Drew (1958) ADVANCES IN CHEMICAL ENGINEERING - Volume 2. p.39
- A.D. Hall's (1962) classic account of the methodology was based on his experience with the Bell Telephone Laboratories. Hall sees systems as existing in hierarchies. In systems engineering, plans to achieve a general objective must similarly be arranged in a hierarchy, with the systems engineer ensuring the internal consistency and integration of the plans, The methodology itself ensures the optimization of the system of concern with respect to its objectives. This requires a number of steps, the most important being problem definition, choosing objectives, systems synthesis, systems analysis, systems selection, system development, and current engineering. With Hall, the system of concern is usually a physical entity.
- About A.D. Hall (1962) in: Michael C. Jackson (1992) Systems Methodology for the Management Sciences. p.74
- Arthur D. Hall (1962) identified five traits of the ideal systems engineer and these certainly still stand today; these traits are: (1) an affinity for the systems ... (2) faculty of judgment, (3) creativity, (4) facility in human relations, and (5) a for expression. The specific role of the systems engineer has traditionally been rather inwardly focused, with considerations to environment and external systems. In this broader field of Engineering Systems, the systems engineering practitioners may need to re-evaluate their roles and responsibilities in the overall systems effort.
- About A.D. Hall (1962) in: Donna Rhodes and Daniel Hastings (2004) "The Case for Evolving Systems Engineering as a Field within Engineering Systems" in: MIT Engineering Systems Symposium, March 2004.
- A system must be designed and tested as a complete entity. The word 'system' has come, through actual practice, to include: the prime mission equipment; its supporting command, control, training, checkout, test, and maintenance equipment; the facilities required to operate and maintain the system; the selection and training of personnel specialists; the operational and maintenance procedures; instrumentation and data reduction for test and evaluation; special aviation and acceptance programs and logistics support programs for spare and depot maintenance.
All parts of a system must have a common unified purpose: to contribute to the production of a single set of optimum outputs from given inputs with respect to time, cost, and performance measures of effectiveness. The absolute necessity for coherence requires an organization of creative technology which lead to the successful design of the complex military system. This organized creative technology is called Systems Engineering.
- USAF (1964) Air Force Systems Command Manual UFSCM 375-5, February 1964: Cited in: Harold Chestnut (1967) Systems Engineering Methods. p.36-37
- The systems engineering method recognizes each system is an integrated whole even though composed of diverse, specialized structures and sub-functions. It further recognizes that any system has a number of objectives and that the balance between them may differ widely from system to system. The methods seek to optimize the overall system functions according to the weighted objectives and to achieve maximum compatibility of its parts.
- Harold Chestnut (1965) Systems Engineering Tools by Harold Chestnut. Wiley
- Management of an industrial company must be giving targets to the engineers constantly; that may be the most important job management has in dealing with its engineers.
- System engineering is the art and science of creating effective systems, using whole system, whole life principles.
- Derek Hitchins (1995) cited in: Herbert Negele (2000) Systems engineering--a key to competitive advantage for all industries. p,166
- System engineering is a robust approach to the design, creation, and operation of systems. In simple terms, the approach consists of identification and quantification of system goals, creation of alternative system design concepts, performance of design trades, selection and implementation of the best design, verification that the design is properly built and integrated, and post-implementation assessment of how well the system meets (or met) the goals.
- NASA (1995) NASA Systems Engineering Handbook
- Systems engineering is the key technology to manage this complexity
- Richard Stevens (1998) Systems Engineering: Coping With Complexity. p.2
21th century 
- Almost everybody is sure... that it is proceeding with unprecedented speed; and... that its effects will be more radical than anything that has gone before. Wrong, and wrong again. Both in its speed and its impact, the information revolution uncannily resembles its two predecessors... The first industrial revolution, triggered by James Watt's improved steam engine in the mid-1770s... did not produce many social and economic changes until the invention of the railroad in 1829... Similarly, the invention of the computer in the mid-1940s... it was not until 40 years later, with the spread of the Internet in the 1990s, that the information revolution began to bring about big economic and social changes... the same emergence of the “super-rich” of their day, characterized both the first and the second industrial revolutions... These parallels are close and striking enough to make it almost certain that, as in the earlier industrial revolutions, the main effects of the information revolution on the next society still lie ahead.
- [System engineering is] the art and science of creating optimal solution systems to complex issues and problems.
- Systems engineering should be, first and foremost, a state of mind and an attitude taken when dealing with complexity.
- Dominique Luzeaux, Jean-Ren? Ruault, Jean-Luc Wippler (2013) Complex Systems and Systems of Systems Engineering. p.208