Building Engineering & Construction|History of an Important Department at MIT

January 30, 2008
Publication: Structure Magazine p 58-59
Author(s): Werner Gumpertz

Abstract: This is a personal history. It tells a story from my memory; however, many important elements may be missing.|Engineering is as old as the hills, with fascinating examples from merely old or antique, to ancient (see Stonehenge). As an organized compendium of applied science, "civil engineering" was paired with (and sometimes derived from) military engineering. The 19th century saw civil engineering develop as an academic discipline, and was soon followed by mechanical, sanitary, electrical, chemical and aeronautical fields of knowledge. "Civil Engineering", as the senior field, eventually encompassed sanitary, environmental engineering, and surveying/geodetic engineering. The "structural" part of engineering specialized in strength of materials and the knowledge of buildings, bridges, tunnels, and other fields.|With growing sophistication, engineering education specialized more and more on the theory and practice of structures, while the field of architecture developed the art and practice of how to plan buildings. This division between engineering and architecture relied more and more on the practice of building construction - the master builder and the skill of craftsmen. In the middle of the 20th century, some engineering schools developed "Architectural Engineering" as a field of science and practice concentrating on how to put buildings together. The Architectural Engineering curricula encompassed a knowledge of building materials and envelopes, a course of study that had fallen behind in the academic education. As buildings became more complex, the need for engineering every building component resulted in the academic field to systematize building envelopes, components, and materials, that had formerly been the specialization of experienced craftsmen.