In support of Global Day of the Engineer , we are celebrating the positive impact engineers have had on our world as we know it. Engineers aren’t just responsible for building giant skyscrapers or inventing cutting-edge technology – without engineering there would be no civilisations or infrastructure, agriculture, vehicles, tools or technology.
At a very basic level, engineers combine principles of maths and science to solve problems by adapting natural resources to suit our needs. Levers, pulleys, wheels, wedges and the inclined plane were some of the first tools invented, with the aim of decreasing the effort required to lift and transport heavy loads. Engineers first emerged in ancient times, building cities, complex water systems, walls, temples and pyramids – the first engineer known by name is Imhotep, builder of the Step Pyramid in Saqqara, Egypt in approximately 2550 BC.
Since then, the profession of engineering has advanced significantly. The original core disciplines of civil, mechanical, chemical and electrical have been complemented by newer fields such as software, computer, nanotechnology, molecular and mechatronics. These disciplines work hand-in-hand to ensure our everyday life continues to run smoothly, in ways most people would take for granted on a daily basis.
Civil engineering makes the existence of infrastructure possible. Without it buildings, roads, bridges, canals, tunnels, water systems, dams and railways would cease to exist. This would leave us exposed to the elements, with no structures to protect us from wind, rain, sun and extreme temperatures. Travelling would be virtually impossible without roads, railroads, airports, bridges, tunnels and canals. Living near a clean freshwater source would be imperative for survival, as there would be no pipes to transport water. Illness would be much more prevalent, as sewage systems wouldn’t exist.
Mechanical engineering has given us vehicles such as cars, trains, aeroplanes, ships and space crafts, which enable us to explore the world and the universe around us. Without mechanical engineers, we wouldn’t even have bicycles, so we’d have to travel everywhere on foot. It would also be impossible to manufacture anything, as factories wouldn’t exist. The only means of cooking would be on a natural open-fire, lit by stones and built solely out of wood. There would be no medical technology, such as X-rays and CT scanners, let alone life-support machines and mechanical limbs or organs. Every machine you can think of would never have been invented without mechanical engineers.
Without electrical engineers, there would be no knowledge of how to convert natural resources into electrical energy, so we would live in a world without power. Environmental engineers ensure compliance with environmental law and aid in the clean-up of hazardous waste, which keeps us and our planet safe. Computers, their software and computer games wouldn’t exist without computer and software engineers.
Humans have achieved amazing things such as space exploration, the discovery of new particles, and the creation of advanced biomedical technologies, self-driving vehicles, virtual reality and 3D printing. Without engineers, our world today would not be possible.