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Where Did Engineering Come From ?

Humans have been modifying their environment to better adapt to their needs since before recorded history. There have always been people who designed and built tools and devices to solve problems

As civilizations developed, people began to reshape their environment with farms, villages, ships, roads, and eventually large cities. With each advance, new challenges emerged that required more complex and creative solutions.

An early example of engineering was the construction and improvement of the aqueduct that carried water in and around Rome from the 4th century BC. The profession we know today as engineering emerged during the 1500s when specialists began using mathematics to design military fortifications.

These special military architects would generally let the craftsmen do the actual construction, thus becoming the first true engineers in the modern sense of the word.

19th Century 

From the mid-19th century, new processing methods, especially for steel and oil, reformed transport, construction and manufacturing. Scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs prospered and game-changing technologies appeared in several different industries.

Advances were made in all areas, including technologies that transformed everyday activities. For example, in:

  • 1851, Isaac Singer patented a continuous-stitch sewing machine
  • 1868, Christopher Sholes patents the first practical typewriter
  • 1873, Andrew Hallidie invents the cable car for use in San Francisco
  • 1874, Joseph Glidden invents the barbed wire
  • 1876, Alexander Graham Bell patents the telephone
  • 1884, Lewis E Waterman patents a handy fountain pen

In the late 1800s inventors began to identify with the engineering process and the engineering profession began to be divided into special disciplines, such as civil, mechanical and electrical engineering.

Until the Civil War, engineers in the United States were trained at military academies or through industry apprenticeship programs. Since 1860, more emphasis has been placed on formal training that includes major courses in mathematics and science.

20th Century

The Greatest Engineering Achievements of the 20th Century website lists 20 ways that engineering has transformed our world. In the 20th century, engineering literally electrified the nation. It took us to heaven and space. It gave us cars and roads to drive. It made our waters cleaner and safer and revolutionized the way we produce food.

Engineering made our homes more comfortable and efficient with appliances that saved time and money. It connected us by phone, radio and television and gave us new ways to see ourselves and the world with a variety of imaging technologies.

The first phase of modern engineering emerged in the Scientific Revolution. 

Galileo’s Two New Sciences, which seeks systematic explanations and takes a scientific approach to practical problems, is a milestone considered by many engineering historians to be the beginning of structural analysis, mathematical representation, and design of building structures.

This phase of engineering lasted until the First Industrial Revolution, when machines, increasingly powered by steam engines, began to replace muscle in most production. When Watt improved steam, people knew what the engine could do, but no one really understood thermodynamic thrust or how it worked, only that it worked.

The understanding of the principle would be at least fifty years behind the use of steam engines. The skilled people who built these machines were craftsmen and their skills were fundamental to creating the industry.

Engineers are helping to feed and support an increasingly urban world population that could reach 10 billion by 2050. They are working to ensure that all people have access to clean, fresh water and adequate housing.

Today’s engineers are developing safe, efficient and renewable forms of energy. They are helping to improve our health with more effective drugs and medical treatments. They are working to design new and more powerful ways to create, store and use information.

Engineers are now and will continue to be critical to the advancement of technologies that allow people to work, learn, and play in new and interesting ways.

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