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A Brief History of Engineering

Mar 10, 2008
In ye olde days, 1325 AD to be more precise, an engineer was defined as "a constructor of military engines". Back then engineering was divided into two categories: Military Engineering and Civil Engineering. The former involved the construction of fortifications and military engines, the latter concerned non-military projects, for example bridge building. This definition is now obsolete, as engineering has broadened to include a myriad of disciplines.

The exact origin of the word 'engineering' comes from the era when humans applied themselves to skilful inventions. Man evolving further in the world invented devices such as the pulley, the wheel and levers. The word engineer has its root in the word engine, which comes from the Latin word ingenium, which means "innate quality particularly of mental power". And thus the word engineer emerged as a person who creates nifty and practical inventions.

Today an engineer is described as someone who has acquired and is applying their scientific and technical knowledge to designing, analysing and building useful, helpful and functional works. This would involve structures, machines and apparatus, manufacturing processes as well as forecasting their behaviour in particular environmental conditions. This is all accomplished with functionality, operational economics and safety to life and property forefront in mind.

Engineering is a broad discipline with many subdisciplines dedicated to various fields of study with regards to particular types of technologies or products.
Engineers may begin their career being trained in a specific discipline, but because of the engineering jobs they take-on, they often become multi-disciplined having worked in a variety of different fields.

The field of engineering has traditionally been divided into the following engineering job categories:
- Aerospace Engineering
- Chemical Engineering
- Civil Engineering
- Electrical Engineering and,
- Mechanical Engineering.

However, since the human race has been swiftly advancing with regards to technology, new branches of engineering are being developed. Engineering jobs can now also be found in the following fields:
* Computer Engineering,
* Software Engineering,
* Nanotechnology,
* Molecular Engineering,
* Mechatronics and many more!

Although all these fields may be defined differently, there is generally a great overlap, particularly in the fields of physics, chemistry and mathematics.

Engineering jobs usually entail applying physics and mathematics to problems in order to discover viable solutions or to make improvements. Where a number of different solutions are available, engineers evaluate these options and the required outcome in order to identify the best route to follow.

The earliest recorded civil engineer was an Egyptian known as Imhotep. It is believed that Imhotep designed and built the great pyramid of Djoser, also known as the Step Pyramid. Imhotep was one of Pharaoh Djoser's officials and it is possible that he was the first person to make use of columns in architecture. The Step Pyramid was built in Egypt in about the time period 2630 - 2611 BC and can be found at Saqqara.

Imhotep would probably be absolutely fascinated with the leaps and bounds engineering has taken in the last 4000 years - although he might have a few secrets to share himself!
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