The Engineering Profession
Engineering is one of the oldest occupations in the history of mankind. Indeed, without the skills that are included in the field of engineering, our present-day civilization could never have evolved.
The first toolmakers who chipped arrows and spears from rock were the forerunners of modern mechanical engineers. The craftsmen who discovered metals in the earth andfound ways to process and refine them were the ancestors of mining and metallurgical engineers. And the skilled technicians who devised irrigation systems and erected the great buildings of the ancient world were the civil engineers of their time. One of the earliest names that has come down to us in history is that of Imhotep, designer of the stepped pyramid at Sakkara in Egypt about 3000 B.C.Engineering is often defined as the practical application of theoretical sciences, such as physics or chemistry, for the benefit of mankind. Many of the early branches of engineering, however, were, based not on science but on empirical information that is, information that depended on observation and experience rather than theoretical knowledge. Many of the structures that have survived fromancient times, such as the aqueducts of Rome, exist because they were built with greater strength than modern standards require. But at least the Roman engineers were sure that their buildings would last for a long time. Probably the oldest text in engineering is the work of a Roman architect and engineers named Vitruvius Pollio, who wrote a book in the first century B.C. about the engineeringpractices of this day. Many of the problem encountered by Vitruvius Pollio were similar to those that modern engineers still must confront.
The term civil engineering originally came to into use to distinguish it from military engineering. Civil engineering dealt with permanent structures for civilian use, whereas military engineering dealt with temporary structures for military use. An example of thelatter is the bridge built across The Rhine in 55 B.C. that is described in Julius Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic War. A more appropriate definition of civil engineering is that it deals with the design and construction of objects that are intended to be stationary. In practice, this definition includes buildings and house, dams, tunnels, bridges, canals, sanitation systems, and the stationaryparts of transportation systems-highways, airports, port facilities, and roadbeds for rail-roads.
Civil engineering offers a particular challenge because almost every structure or systems that is designed and built by civil engineers is unique. One structure rarely duplicates another exactly. Even when structures seem to be identical, site of requirements or other factors generally result inmodifications. Large structures like dams, bridges, or tunnels many differ substantially from previous structures. The civil engineer must therefore always be ready and willing to meet new challenges.
Since the beginning of the modern age in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, there has been an explosion of knowledge in every scientific field: physics and chemistry, astronomy and physiology, aswell as recently evolved disciplines like nuclear and solid state physics. One reason for this rapid increase in scientific knowledge was the development of the experimental method to verify theories. At least of equal importance has been the use of quantification, that is, putting the data from the results of experimentation into precise mathematical terms. It cannot be emphasized too stronglythat mathematics is to basic tool of modern engineering.
At scientific knowledge increased, so did the practical application. The eighteenth century witnessed the beginning of what is usually called The Industrial Revolution, in which machines began to do more and more of the work that previously had been done by human beings or animals. In the nineteenth century and in our own day, both...
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