Types of Engineering

General Overview

Engineering is the application of scientific (Physics, biology, mathematics and chemistry) principles to advanced, design, manufacture, maintain and operate components, machines, structures, systems and processes.

 

The core sciences allow us to understand the world around us and how organisms and materials interact with each other to create specific theories. Through the use of systematic problem solving, we can then use the theories that scientists have proven to undertake engineering as a profession.

 

Engineering is a very broad term and encapsulates many different fields within the industry. Such fields include mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, civil engineering and chemical engineering, however in all of these fields we can then break them down even further to understand and apply theories and technologies to specific applications.

History of Engineering

There are many historical examples of engineering, even before it became a theorised subject with specific processes and theories which now govern the industry.

 

Some of these examples come from thousands of years ago and include the Great Pyramids of the Egyptian Empire, the Aqueducts and Colosseum built through the Roman Empire, the great structures, utilising columns as structural members, constructed by the Ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians and the Great Wall of China.

The Great Pyramids, constructed 4500 years ago and still standing today. Source: www.sciencenewsforstudents.org 

A Roman aqueduct, built during the Roman Empire used to bring water from water sources great distances away to cities Source: www.nationalgeographic.com

Ancient Greece is responsible for some of the first known applied examples of mechanical engineering. Archimedes is responsible for many inventions considered to be applied examples of mechanical engineering. Additionally, he is responsible for many of the first fundamental theories that were created and developed from physics and applied mathematics. Some of the theories that are used in everyday modern engineering include calculus, analysis methods and geometric theorems. Some examples of early mechanically engineered products created by ancient Greece and Archimedes himself include the mechanical computer, many gear related inventions including gear trains, screw pumps and compound pulleys.

An example of the theory of compound pulleys and a practical use of this device at the time. Sources: www.eurovps.com; www.groovylabinabox.com

Following this, engineering was then advanced through various militaries who created weapons systems using engineering theories. Some examples of this include trebuchet, ballista and catapult which was utilised by Roman and Chinese armies. Interestingly, the major advances in technology has not changed and continues to advance exponentially throughout periods of war.

 

For many years, following initial inventions and concepts there were limited advances in engineering however it can be seen throughout the history that simple machines were then created. These advances included development of mechanisms including mechanical clocks, understanding of material science and in particular manufacturing methods, gear systems and mechanical control systems. It wasn’t until around the year 1700 that major engineering advancements began to take control of the industry. One of the first mechanically engineered machines was the steam engine which was developed by Thomas Savery. Due to the development of this machine, the industrial revolution then began and products could be mass produced.

One of the first steam engines ever constructed. Source: www.livescience.com 

Ford Model T being constructed on "Henry Fords Production Line" Source: www.blogs.adobe.com

The industrial revolution also allowed for many advancements in engineering. Although civil and mechanical engineering were still only the two main fields that were properly understood and applied, advancements in mathematics and science allowed for further innovation. This allowed for specialised machines and maintenance tooling to be developed which further progressed the Industrial Revolution. Chemical Engineering also developed throughout the Industrial Revolution. Industrial scale manufacturing demanded new materials and processes and by 1880 the need for large scale production of chemicals was such that a new industry was created, dedicated to the development and large scale manufacturing of chemicals in new industrial plants. Additionally, the industrial revolution allowed for machines such as automobiles to become economically viable and cheap enough for the majority of the population. Since then the automotive industry has boomed with most people / families around the world capable of owning a car making everyday life much easier and more efficient.

In the 19th century, experiments allowed for a basic understanding of electromagnetism theories, ultimately leading to the first electric motor being produced. Further developments then lead to the electric telegraph network being constructed. This was ultimately the first form of electrical telecommunications. In a matter of decades after their creation in the 1830's, electrical telegraph networks permitted people and commerce to transmit messages across both continents and oceans almost instantly, with widespread social and economic impacts. In the late 19th century, the field of electronic engineering began to take form. Vacuum tubes (diodes) and transistors were some of the earliest electronics components to be developed. Throughout WW1, the application of radios became necessary which further developed the electronics industry.

A radar system in use during WWII for telecommunications purposes. Source: www.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca

Following the war, this was then developed for civilian applications such as the telephone, radio and earlier television technology. Again, WWII provided a stepping stone for additional developments in the industry. Technology such as radar, sonar, communication and weapons systems were developed. Modern electronics allowed for integrated circuits and microprocessors to be developed which ultimately was the creation of the information age.

 

Aerospace engineering deals with aircraft and spacecraft design, manufacturing, maintenance and additionally technological advancements. In the 18th century fluid mechanics theories began to be understood but it wasn’t until the 19th century when the Wright brothers used these theories to create the first successful flights of aircraft.

The first successful flight from an aircraft developed by the Wright Brothers. Source: www.nasa.gov

There are many historical examples of engineering, even before it became a theorised subject with specific processes and theories which now govern the industry.

 

Some of these examples come from thousands of years ago and include the Great Pyramids of the Egyptian Empire, the Aqueducts and Colosseum built through the Roman Empire, the great structures, utilising columns as structural members, constructed by the Ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians and the Great Wall of China.

Again, WW1 provided an opportunity to develop this industry when military aircraft were design and manufactured. This was then commercialised following the war and further developments were made through experimentation and testing alongside the fundamental thermodynamic and fluid mechanic theories. Using these and mixing other fields of engineering such as electrical, mechanical and structural engineering modern aircraft have been developed and are now very efficient and reliable.

Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, operated by the United States Air Force was the fastest operational aircraft due to its highly advanced and innovative technology. It was capable of speed above Mach 3 and could out-fly surface-to-air missiles through acceleration was developed in the 1960's and served through until decommission in 1998. Source: www.nasa.gov

Modern advancements in engineering have mostly been related to the field of electronics engineering and computer science. The information age, and a requirement for global security due to terrorist activities has developed the industry to a stage where computers are now able to learn from themselves and artificial intelligence is now rising and being applied across the various fields of engineering.

What is Our "Types of Engineering Page"?

The following pages in this section of the website discuss the various disciplines of engineering. We have researched and developed pages which provide information for engineers or aspiring engineers to comprehensively understand each particular field, the responsibilities associated with it, what jobs may come from it, the governing institutes (UK and USA) and the history / background of what fundamental sciences and technologies advancements that field has developed from.

Luke T Seal Engineering