Re: Dead trees never failed anyone
"Sounds like every engineer responsible for the industrial revolution , thinks Stephenson (pere et fils) , Trethevick, Newcomen, Bazalgette, Edison, Otto"
I eventually made a career out of stuff that did not exist when I was at university. But without the "learning how to learn" I wouldn't have done it. I believe you can become a programmer by teaching yourself, but not a software engineer. You might become one through working alongside better qualified and more experienced people who are willing to instruct you, but that's de facto apprenticeship, just another form of learning from other people.
As counter examples I offer Isambard Kingdom Brunel (French university and apprenticeship), Dr. Rudolf Diesel (German universities and apprenticeship), Benjamin Baker (grammar school and apprenticeship), Charles Parsons (Trinity Dublin and St. Johns Cambridge.
Watt notoriously had the idea for a separate condenser (his actual contribution) but then had to find people who could actually make it for him.
The tl;dr is that the actual problem with the Industrial Revolution in England, and why they were overtaken by Germany, is that the self taught engineers were too slow to adopt scientific method. By the time engineering was professionalised in the UK, Germany and France had caught up.