Weight distribution laws play an important role in the field of structural engineering, which is a body of knowledge that is concerned with the response of structures to the distribution of loads. Columns and arches are early examples of weight distribution and engineering. For example, the columns of ancient structures were adapted to support additional weight by the addition of thicker bases and deeper fluting in the vertical shaft to resist the downward pressure exerted by the weight they supported.
Arches transferred the downward force of the structure’s weight and redistributed it laterally so they could become taller and wider. The arch is unique in that it uses the very weight that tries to bring it down to hold itself up. Engineers soon began stacking arches and columns to design buildings such as the Coliseum in Rome and ancient aqueducts that still exist over a thousand years after construction.
Engineers also experiment with the laws of weight distribution to develop different types of arches, vaulted domes and flying buttresses that redistributed weight loads and opened up new engineering possibilities. This enabled them to construct the massive cathedrals toward the end of the first millennium and the beginning of the second millennium. Engineers also applied the laws regarding weight distribution to structures carrying live loads.