Influencer culture may be a new concept that has popped up with the development of social media, such as Facebook and Instagram, but people have been influential long before it became a career! We wanted to know some people who were most influential to engineering. People who took us from designing the pyramids to getting us to the moon.
Of course, we have to start at the beginning, with the supposed “first engineer”, Imhotep. He is accredited with building the first pyramids in 2550 BC. His influence is substantial. He used the available aids of arithmetic, geometry and physical sciences to design something truly incredible that still stands today. Talk about some good engineering! Other influential ancient engineers are Sostratus, who designed the Lighthouse of Alexandria in 299 BC. Emperor Vespasian commissioned the Roman Colosseum in 70 AD, and no doubt the collective efforts of those ancient engineers relied on the already vast array of historical engineering to help them move forward with their momentous effort.
As time went on and more knowledge in mathematics, geometry, and the natural and physical sciences was discovered, engineering became more advanced. The discovery of a 13th-century French engineer’s sketchbook, Villard de Honnecourt, showed just how much knowledge they had in the field of engineering and design. The castles from the medieval times that still stand today are a testament of their skills. Engineering in Asia also advanced quickly, with sophisticated techniques of construction, hydraulics, and metallurgy that the Mongol empire used to develop their cities.
In more recent history, the field of civil engineering was born in 1771 by John Smeaton. He formed the Smeatonian Society of Civil Engineers. Thomas Telford also furthered the field of civil engineering by becoming the first president of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1820. This branching out and diversifying of the fields of engineering allowed more advancements to be made. By specializing in specific crafts, engineers were able to go further even faster. For example, William D. Coolidge advanced electrical engineering in his role as director of the General Electric Research Laboratory. Alan Turing was a pioneer in the field of computer science during WWII. Katharine Burr Blodgett, the first woman to be awarded a PhD in physics from the University of Cambridge, was an inventor and developer of some of the modern day amenities we take for granted today. And finally, Wernher von Braun advanced aerospace engineering and rocket technology; he was the engineer that designed the rocket that took us to the moon.
Some modern influential engineers who are making a difference today include Computer Scientists Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the inventors of Google. Elon Musk is involved in both electric car manufacturing and space exploration. One of the largest engineering firms today, WSP USA, formerly WSP|Parsons Brinckerhoff and Parsons Brinckerhoff, is a multinational engineering and design firm. With approximately 14,000 employees, they provide strategic consulting, planning, engineering, construction management, energy, infrastructure and community planning. They are led by George J. Pierson.
Engineering has a rich history of influencers who have helped shape the way the world is today. Without the engineers of the past, we wouldn’t have the technologies of today. And for that we are grateful that over 4,000 years ago, Imhotep took his knowledge to design a pyramid.
More to come soon.