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A Brief History Of Civil Engineering

A Brief History of Civil Engineering

Engineering is a term used frequently these days. The profession speaks to those creating the latest smartphone apps, advanced prosthetics, or cutting-edge microchips. All engineering fields share the objective of moving forward into the future. Engineers aspire to bring a new age of enlightenment to the world. They are artists, mathematicians, and scientists delivering the next steps to modernization. Civil engineers have built some of the most monumental pieces of history. Inventions and designs that defined eras and can still be read about in books and seen in person now. As well as couple creations which may appear mundane by today’s standards, but represent turning points in civilizations. Continue for further insights into the history of the earliest civil engineers and their influences. 

​Back to the Ancients
​Travel back in time to ancient civilizations. No matter where the civilization is located on the globe, each one constructed works known today as the earliest achievements in civil engineering. However, the term civil engineering was not invented yet. In ancient times, the people who produced these great works were just architects or builders. These architects did not possess the technologies commonly found today. Using only the limited tools they had, they pushed through their projects. Historians today still ask themselves how these ancient civilizations were capable of building these historical pieces with mathematics far beyond their time and the answer remains unknown. There may not be a suitable response to that question yet, but the amazement in ancient projects continue to enchant everyone. The Egyptians built the pyramids using simple machines like inclined planes. Rome invented roads and was the first to apply concrete to construction. In South America, the Incas developed waterworks to expand throughout the city centers for canals, fountains, and drainage systems. These are all just a portion of examples of ancient engineering projects and there are many more in history. 

A New Discipline 
By the time the 14th century came around, the word engineer was created. However, the word was more or so used when describing someone who worked with military engines. Military engines are any machine built for the purpose of war such as the catapult. Essentially the engineering field was limited in regards to career options for some time. During the 18th century, the term and discipline ‘civil engineering’ came to be. The first civil engineering institute was established in France to educate the ways of engineering outside of military use and to focus on what was considered civilian projects. Its creation began a trend spreading through Europe and over the seas where other countries were implementing various civil engineering societies and institutes. More doors opened for engineering professionals as communities were realizing the need for these educated experts in everyday projects. 

​The “First”
No documentation can prove who was the world’s first civil engineer in all of time. The first person to acknowledge themselves as one was John Smeaton. Smeaton is a big name amongst the engineering community for his innovations and his influence on the industry. He was responsible for the designs of lighthouses, bridges, canals, and harbors in England during the 1700s. Over an informal dinner, Smeaton and his fellow colleagues formed the Smeatonian Society of Civil Engineers. To this day, he is regarded as the ‘Father of Civil Engineering.’ John Smeaton may not be written in the history books as the first civil engineer, but he will also not be the last. How the discipline implanted itself in every civilization in every century is astounding. The influence of the earlier civil engineers stayed relevant to the modern ones. From back then to now, this type of engineering will persist no matter how much time passes. 

​Looking Forward
As centuries passed leading up to the current time, the role of civil engineers has not transformed drastically. Civilian projects such as roads and bridges are still relevant to community infrastructure. Though they are not designing the Great Pyramids of Giza, civil engineers continue to set significant milestones in modern civilizations. While their function in society remains the same, it’s the tools they operate with have revolutionized since the times of inclined planes and pulley systems. For instance, computers and state of the art technologies play an important function in today’s civil projects. LiDAR technology is a fitting example of a new age engineering tool. This technology is an advanced land surveying and scanning software that performs in multiple areas of civil engineering. It can collect crucial data points for surveying and scanning areas of land either aerially or on the ground level. The data points collected help create 3-D models, traffic simulations, structural analysis, and so on. Rather back in the old days surveying and mapping the land was a long process. Now, it is a simple and easy method necessary for civil engineers to complete their projects. There holds no doubt on how time has influenced advancements in technology for engineers, but time will never alter the necessity of civil engineers no matter which century takes place. 

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