Engineering is our identity, and we will be recognized as an Engineer throughout our lives. But, how many of us really know about our profession? If someone asks you, what is engineering or who is an Engineer? What will your answer be? Some might say, engineering is about developing new technologies, others might define an engineer as:

Solving problems you didn’t know you have in ways you can’t understand

Or like this:


Our perception of engineering is confined to the articles, images or catch-phrases that we come across on social networking sites. It’s important that we go beyond this and dig a little deeper.

Let’s look inside the world engineering and explore some less known facts

To begin with, how was the term ‘Engineer’ coined? One might think it’s related to the word ‘Engine’ but, it is actually derived from the Latin words, Ingeniare (“to contrive, devise”) and ingenium (“cleverness”).

We celebrate Teacher’s day, Doctor’s day, Children’s day, which are well-known to everyone. But, how many of us are aware that there is a day dedicated to engineers as well? September 15th is known as Engineer’s day throughout India as a tribute to Bharat Ratna Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya Birth Anniversary. Sir M.V. was the greatest  Engineer of India. The Osmansagar dam which is the primary source for water to Hyderabad was built under the supervision of Sir M.V. He also came up with efficient ways of filtering water through ‘Collector wells’ and is credited with the invention of ‘automatic sluice gates’ and ‘block irrigation system’. He is also called as the ‘First Engineer of India’.

What about the world? Who was the first engineer throughout the world?

Long ago, around 2630-2611 BC (4700 years ago) there was a Vizier (highest official) in the realm of King Djoser named Imothep, the first engineer of the world. The oldest Step Pyramid of Egypt is the ‘Pyramid of Djoser’ which was architectured by him. The pyramid is 197 feet long with six layers and was constructed using 11.6 million cubic feet of stone and clay. The tunnels beneath the pyramid form a labyrinth about 5.5 km long.

The technologies and inventions which created revolutions

  • The story started in 500 B.C (6500 years ago) with the invention of a simple wheel. There’s an interesting story behind this simple invention. The early man in the Neolithic era hunted animals. One fine day a caveman noticed a log of wood rolling down the mountain. This fascinated him and on another day he placed a deer on it and noticed how the animal displaced as the log rolled. Very soon, the caveman took a log of wood and cut a round object from it, which was later known as wheel. They used the wheels to form a simple cart to take the hunted animals home.

A Mesopotamian Wheel

  • Steam Engine was another revolutionary invention by James Watt. Once during his childhood, his grandmother was boiling water in a kettle. Watt observed that the lid was moving while the water boiled. He asked his grandmother what it was and she told him about steam. Watt found it interesting and started learning about early steam engines. He improved these engines to create a steam engine that produced continuous rotary motion and a power of about 10 hp.

Steam Engine by James Watt

  • ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) was the first large-scale general purpose, electronic digital computer. It led to an evolution towards modern computer technology by developing the steward program architecture that formed the fundamental architecture for all computers today. The equations that took 2 days to solve were solved in 2 hours of time. Every panel of ENIAC was as big as a room.

Replacing a bad tube meant checking among ENIAC’s 19000 possibilities

Many other simple inventions continued to develop in coming years. Some of which were simple calculators, motors etc.

In this modern era everything around us is ‘engineer’ed. We often imagine about what technology will look like 10 or 20 years from now. There might be flying cars, human-like robots, automatic vehicles etc. The rapid pace at which technology is developing, nothing can be predicted. Some of the technologies which are being developed today are listed out here:

1. Microscale 3-D Printing: Until recently, most 3-D printers could only use plastic. A group of researchers at Harvard University, led by Jennifer Lewis, have started developing new 3-D printer inks.


2. Ultraprivate Smartphones: As concerns over personal privacy grow, particularly in terms of new technology, a Maryland-based company seeks to provide an alternative. Silent Circle, encrypts clients’ voice calls, text messages, and file attachments.


3. Neuromorphic Chips: These chips can process sensory data through sight and sound in order to respond in ways that are not explicitly programmed. The chips can anticipate user needs.


4. Agile Robots: Scientists have invented robots that can walk. They can be used for chores, for helping adults and hold many other capabilities.


Moving on to some interesting figures of engineering colleges, engineers and subjects

To start with the statistics of engineering colleges, there are about 22,123 colleges all over the world. 20% of them are located in India (about 4298), in which 960 alone in former Andhra Pradesh and 196 in the city of Hyderabad. An Engineer has a range of 26 branches to choose from. Coming to the programming languages, there are more than 700 languages in total.

Engineering holds the superpower to change the world. As an engineer, we will face many challenges in this “Century of innovation”. If every engineer develops technology and takes up challenges, that can make life easier and better to live. Let’s try to make our contribution to technology this Engineers’ Day.

Have a look at this video which describes engineering in a creative way (Source: University of NewCastle, Australia. YouTube)

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