As one of the oldest practices in human history, civil engineering is defined as the design, construction, and maintenance of both the physical and naturally built environment. This has been one of the basic foundations of life dating back to Ancient Egyptian times when humans began to construct buildings as means of shelter. Roads, bridges, and dams are just a few more examples of the works created by civil engineers that are vital advancements in human history.
Attempting to solve problems among society, civil engineering can also be credited for progression in the understanding of physics and mathematics due to the application of both physical and scientific principles. It has also been linked to the knowledge of geography, geology, and the environment as a whole through its wide-ranging practices. With examples dating back to the 3rd century BC by Ancient Greek Philosopher and Engineer Archimedes in his invention of the Archimedes’ screw, the application of civil engineering shows its diversity time and time again in shaping modern day designs.
Often called the “father of Engineering,” John Smeaton was the first self-proclaimed civil engineer who was responsible for the designs of bridges, canals, harbors, and lighthouses throughout England in the 18th century. His work in developing the Smeatonian Society of Civil Engineers paved the road for civil engineering, leading to the practice being formally recognized as a profession in 1828. This, in turn, led to a great expansion of the discipline, branching out to categories like architectural, environmental, transportation, and municipal/urban engineering.
Perhaps one of the most popular forms of civil engineering is structural design and analysis. This area is concerned with buildings, bridges, tunnels, offshore structures, and overpasses, just to list a few. The concept of physics applies heavily to this field, as identifying a structure’s force and the stresses it endures is absolutely vital in its construction. A Structural Engineer may be responsible for designing the framework of a building based on environmental and physical factors, and the ability of said building to successfully support those loads. Some of the most incredible feats in structural engineering include the Great Wall of China, designed as a form of defense, the Taj Mahal in India, a memorial for the wife of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, and the Tokyo Sky Tree, a 634-meter tall observation tower that is also earthquake-resistant.
As a literal foundation for the world, civil engineering has been and continues to be one of mankind’s most important tools in innovation and the betterment of society. The future of this practice is rapidly changing to accommodate the world’s most challenging obstacles, and has consistently created marvelous breakthroughs throughout history, shaping the world we know today.