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Civil Engineering

  Civil engineering is the designing and construction of public works. The building of permanent, large-scale works, requiring large numbers of people to construct, began with the first civilizations, most notably in the Nile valley, Mesopotamia and the Indus valley some five to six thousand years ago. The development of ‘civil engineering’ works could only be supported by a settled and organized society.

The first roads linked parts of Mesopotamia together, but it was not until the establishment of the Roman Empire that civil engineering and road-building in particular became an art as well as a science. The Romans built many bridges and viaducts that used the arch as support. With the demise of the Roman Empire, civil engineering in western Europe came to an abrupt standstill.

The next great impetus to civil engineering, in Europe, was the Industrial Revolution. Better transportation systems were required in order to supply the new industrial centres with cheaper raw materials and to create markets for finished goods. New roads, canals, bridges and tunnels were constructed on an unprecedented scale in order to achieve this.

As the urban populations have become larger, civil engineering has become of major importance—constructing faster roads, reservoirs to hold water and sewers to dispose of waste, with profound effects upon society. It is generally conceded that the increase in life expectancy during the 19th century was due not to advances in medical science but to the development of public water supply and sewerage systems. AA

Further reading G.E. Sandstrom, Man the Builder.



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