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Engineering in K–12 Education: Understanding the Status and Improving the Prospects
carried water from the outskirts of Rome to the city itself via a system of pipes, trenches, bridges, and tunnels.
A project of this sort today would be largely the responsibility of engineers, but the historical records of Rome do not mention anyone who played that particular role. Much of the construction and maintenance of the aqueducts was under the supervision of a curator aquarum, or water commissioner, but he (and it was almost certainly a man) seems to have been considered more of an administrator than anything else. The individuals who actually built and maintained the aqueducts were architects, surveyors, craftsmen of various sorts, and manual laborers (generally slaves), but not engineers. The concept of an engineer as we know it today did not yet exist.
Engineering as a Formal Discipline
Engineering first emerged as a formal discipline during the Renaissance, with the design of military fortifications. Historically, artisans had been in charge of both planning and constructing fortifications, but by the middle of the sixteenth century a group of non-artisan specialists had appeared who used geometry and mathematics to design fortifications in a more rational way and who generally let craftsmen take care of the actual construction. These specialized military architects were the first true engineers in the modern sense of the word.
Over time military engineers expanded their purview to include other military work, such as designing siege engines, as well as civilian projects, such as designing and planning transportation systems. Engineering was first formalized and professionalized in France, with the establishment of training programs that required formal examinations in mathematics, drawing, engineering theory, and other subjects (Langins, 2004). The first formal engineering schools were established in the mid-eighteenth century, also in France, and included the École des Ponts et Chaussées (School of Bridges and Roads) and the École Royale du Génie (Royal School of Engineering).
Later, when colonists in the nascent United States needed a corps of military engineers, they looked to France. During the Revolutionary War the Continental Congress established the Corps of Engineers to help design fortifications and artillery. After the war, the corps was given a home at West Point, New York, as director of the new U.S. Military Academy (Reynolds, 1991).
One purpose of the academy was to develop military engineers by providing training in mathematics, as well as in military and civil engineering. During the first half of the nineteenth century a number of individual states,