What Is the Role of the Civil Engineer?

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A civil engineer serves a role in the construction, design and maintenance of a man-made or naturally built environment, such as roads, dams, bridges, buildings and canals. Civil engineering is the second oldest engineering discipline.

The earliest practices of civil engineering are thought to have begun somewhere between 4000 and 2000 B.C. when humans in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia were in need of constructing shelter. The pyramids in Egypt were some of the first examples of large structure construction. Other impressive examples of civil engineering include the Parthenon in Greece built from 447 to 438 B.C., the Appian Way built by Roman engineers in 312 B.C. and the Great Wall of China in 220 B.C. The Romans used civil engineering to construct bridges, roads, dams, aqueducts and insulae harbors throughout its empire. In the 18th century, civil engineering had been used to label civilian engineering as opposed to military engineering. John Smeaton was the first self-proclaimed civil engineer. In 1771, he formed the Smeatonian Society of Civil Engineers.

Civil engineering is traditionally broken down into many sub-disciplines: architectural engineering, environmental, geotechnical engineering, geophysics, geodesy, control engineering, water resources engineering, structural engineering, earthquake engineering, transportation engineering, earth science, forensic engineering, urban engineering, materials engineering, offshore engineering, coastal engineering, atmospheric sciences, construction engineering and surveying.