Engineering, which is understood as the transposition of scientific principles of diverse fields into practical appliances, is as old as mankind itself.
We can consider wedges, levers, and wheels as engineering breakthroughs of ancient times, and as basic as they seem to us today, without their invention and fine-tuning, survival of earlier civilizations would have been highly unlikely.
Ancient attempts of engineering were, by design, of empirical nature. It’s plainly obvious that the first time some stone age man lifted a heavy stone using a stick as a lever he didn’t precede it with calculations regarding the weight of the stone or the length of the stick. It was a matter of trial and error. And so it was to be for a long time, but not without remarkable results.
Even in prehistoric times, humans were already devising constructions that defied their knowledge and abilities. The Monument of Stonehenge is as impressive today, as it must have been when it was erected, thousands of years ago, and continues to leave engineers bewildered.
Egypt, once a flourishing kingdom under the pharaohs, built massive buildings with surprisingly little scientific premises, yet the Sphinx, the Obelisks and the Pyramids, as magnificent as they still are, represent only a fraction of all they have achieved.
The Roman empire was a very good example of an engineering culture, with plenty of its constructions still standing today. While the Colosseum of Rome may be the first to spring to mind, there is a profusion of theatres, aqueducts, bridges, roads, and villas dating from that period, scattered all over Europe, Northern Africa, and the Middle East.
Elsewhere, one of the biggest structures ever built on the planet is the Great Wall of China. Its construction took centuries and most of it remains, as a memento of what our ancestors were capable of. It is astounding to imagine being in their shoes while they were creating wonders!
With time, engineering became a discipline on its own, and calculations and logical predictions gained the upper hand over the trial and error method. After the invention of the steam engine and its successful application to industry, there was no looking back.
In modern times, the world is a testament to engineering, with bridges spanning miles seemingly without any support, skyscrapers rising higher and higher in the air, dams big enough to hold lakes the size of cities, satellites roaming into the deepest parts of space or tiny devices with which you can communicate instantly with someone on the other side of the world.
Daily routines are unthinkable without cars, phones, computers, and planes. Even our houses, our clothing and our shoes are a playground for engineers to pave new ways for technology.