Civil engineering is one of the oldest, yet least understood professions. These engineers are the backbone of every society – responsible for designing and constructing buildings, bridges, roads, dams, and other structures. But that’s not all!
Here are some awesome facts about the history of civil engineering that you probably didn’t know.
The first engineer in recorded history was an Egyptian named Imhotep. He is thought to have designed a cut-stone, step pyramid for pharaoh Djoser in 2700 BC. Later the Romans mastered civil engineering design by building aqueducts to carry water from distant sources into towns. Chinese emperors built the Great Wall of China to protect their territory. In medieval Europe there were two major groups of civil engineers: guilds and military engineers who were hired by kings or feudal lords to build castles and fortifications.
In 1770, to differentiate himself from military engineers, John Smeaton was first to proclaim that he and what he did was, in fact, civil engineering. As the accepted father of civil engineering, he experimented with different kinds of concrete mixes (using Portland cement) which have significantly influenced the use of building materials in construction today.
When many people think of civil engineering, they think of roads, bridges, and buildings. But a large portion of civil engineering is underground. This includes water pipes and sewerage networks, for example, but also the foundations of buildings which can sometimes stretch many metres underground.
English civil engineer of the 19th century, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, was one of the first civil engineers to consider constructing a railway tunnel underneath a river which opened up many more possibilities for travel, and advanced the science of tunnel construction.
Gustave Eiffel was a French civil engineer and architect whose company designed and built the Eiffel tower for the World Exposition in 1889. His intricate steel lattice designs introduced art into the engineering discipline. He is known to have said that the tower would symbolise “not only the art of the modern engineer, but also the century of Industry and Science in which we are living [the 1800s]…” Although there was much controversy that surrounded the building of the Eiffel Tower, it will forever remain a well-known (and loved) civil engineering triumph.
A large part of civil engineering is road design and construction – transport links that are extremely important to connecting people and economies. Upgrading roads, and building new ones can open new connections across landlocked countries which allows them to gain access to ports and airports. These new connections assist the economy to grow by allowing easy transport of goods. Therefore a good road network can make a significant difference in a country.
Another important part of civil engineering is mapping out future development by planning roads, connections, and infrastructure. Therefore, well-planned civil engineering can help to build better future cities.
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