The Engineer in History

The Engineer in History

The Engineer in History

The Engineer in History

Synopsis

Surveying more than two millennia, The Engineer in History presents the story of the designers and builders of aqueducts, cathedrals, clocks, machine tools, bridges, railroads, and airplanes. It examines their social origins, educations, working

Excerpt

Only the most ardent technophile would judge a civilization solely by the level of its technology. Numerous depressing examples from our own century remind us that sophisticated technologies can be used for appalling purposes. More generally, a high level of technological development can coexist with debased morals, repressive governance, and philistine artistic styles. But it would be no less an error to assume that technology is irrelevant to social and cultural advance. It is no exaggeration to say that technology provides the foundation of civilization. Not only does technology allow us to meet our material needs, it also allows us to transcend mere existence by directly and indirectly promoting the advance of science, the arts, and all the other elements of civilized life. At the same time, many technological achievements do more than simply make the development of these cultural spheres possible. Technology's products can have an aesthetic value of their own; a well-designed bridge can appeal to the artistic spirit as much as a literary or musical masterpiece.

Technology does not create itself; it requires the efforts of the technologist. Many occupational roles can be subsumed under this title—craftsman, organizer, researcher, and skilled worker. In these pages we will consider the central player in this cast, the engineer. Linguistically, the term “engineer” is a comparatively recent arrival in history. In antiquity, the designer and builder of a temple, palace, fortification, harbor, road, or water supply system was known as an architekton in Greece and an architectus in Rome. Like modern architects, they were concerned with structures, but on a broader scope. Tertullian, one of the early Church Fathers, seems to have applied the term ingenium (ingenious device) to siege artillery about 200 A.D. However, the derivative word ingeniator, the person who makes the ingenious device, does not appear until much later; only in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance do we begin to . . .

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