A Brief History of Civil Engineering

A Brief History of Civil Engineering

September 26, 2022

Since humans stopped their nomad lifestyle and developed settlements, civil engineering was born. The title Civil engineering distinguishes the profession of developing structures meant for our everyday use, as opposed to military engineering or architects. Wikipedia dates the earliest civil engineering practice commencing between 4000 and 200BC, so civil engineering is almost as old as humankind.

The History of Engineering

Ancient Romans did the first big-scale civil projects. The stretch of the Roman Empire meant they needed to build roads, especially waterways, to transport goods and people from place to place, necessitating the development of civil engineering skills. 

In the early years, the work was usually commissioned by a leader and done mostly by stonemasons and carpenters who gained skills on the job until they became master builders. Of course, the Romans were not the only people who designed and built civil engineering masterpieces. No one can ignore the Chinese with the Great Wall of China, commissioned by Emperor Qin Shi Huang around 220BC. Also, Sri Lanka engineers deserve mention for building the Jetavanaramuyha Stupa and the irrigation works of Anuradhapura City.

Development of Civil Engineering Profession

Civil Engineering developed into a profession in the 18th century. In 1741, the subject was formally taught for the first time at the École Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées in France. Other European countries followed, and in 1771, John Smeaton proclaimed himself a civil engineer after successfully overseeing the Eddystone Lighthouse construction. He formed the first civil engineering society, even though, at the time, it was more of a social gathering rather than a meeting of great minds to uphold practice standards. In 1818, Thomas Telford regularized the society, and the institution received a Royal Charter in 1928. 

In recent years, civil engineering has been offered at a Bachelor’s level at university, and the degree takes between three to four years to complete. Moreover, the standard of teaching is overseen by a professional body that develops industry standards and issues professional certificates to qualified graduates.

The Importance of CAD In Civil Engineering

CAD is an acronym for the most commonly used computer-assisted drafting software that allows engineers to plan and design their structures digitally. 

A simple and effective CAD program improves productivity and reduces design errors. CAD has developed 3D modeling software allowing users to design and analyze a formation’s structural strength and create base maps. These capabilities allow civil engineers to test the design of a structure digitally without spending time and materials on building a prototype to test whether the design will hold in real life. Pre-built layouts can be created and converted into 3D images. The CAD system also helps with the documentation of each project by allowing storage and access to the project design in the cloud.

Civil Engineers always look for ways to improve the lives of people. The profession has evolved from haphazard learning on the job to formalized tertiary training and certification programs. By using digital technology, future civil engineers will solve challenges in building design fast and accurately.


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