TOP 10 Engineering Achievements in History
The history of civilization is replete with examples of how humanity is improving the world. Thanks to ingenuity, imagination and hard work, man tamed rivers, built roads, built cities and created infrastructure to connect them together. Some projects took centuries, others completed very quickly, driven by urgent need. Many projects were criticized by contemporaries who considered the idea crazy. Some of them, for example, the Panama Canal, could be completed only after impressively expensive previous failures. Others appeared as a result of rivalry between countries and empires.
Before the term “engineer” appeared, incredible designs were already created. Master builders and visionaries have evolved from mathematicians around the world. The Great Wall of China, the Mayan and Aztec pyramids, the cities of the Ancient World – all this was created by engineers, although builders and designers did not know that they were engineers. Over the centuries, engineering achievements have been made to the glory of the gods and heroes, to improve public life and simply to the glory of man. Here are 10 of the greatest engineering achievements in history.
10. Roman water system
Three centuries BC in the Roman Republic, and later the Empire, a system of canals, pipes, reservoirs, standing tanks and aqueducts were used to distribute water throughout the territory. Using the influence of gravity, the Romans distributed fresh water to cities and towns, as well as mines and farms. Some aqueducts are still standing, these are real miracles of architecture, built by workers under the supervision of surveyors and construction masters. By the end of the III century, Rome had eleven separate water pipelines, through which water was distributed throughout the city, and it went straight to the house for wealthy citizens. Poor residents used public wells and bathhouses.
Water supply systems were managed by both local authorities and the state. Natural sources were the preferred sources of water. On both sides of the pipeline, the law established restrictions. Observation points were established along the pipelines, which today would be called hatches in order to regularly check the purity of the water. Lead pipes were used in some sections, although ceramic pipes were preferred, and the concrete sections of the aqueducts were bricked to prevent erosion and improve water filtration. The system was so well designed and built that today, 20 centuries after their construction, some sections are used to distribute fresh water.
9. Hagia Sophia
Built as a Christian church and then converted into an Islamic mosque, Hagia Sophia is today a museum and a landmark of Turkey. It was erected in the sixth century, it survived riots, robberies of conquerors, earthquakes, fires and destruction caused by time. It was built using masonry, and its design includes corner minarets and a massive dome. The cathedral was rebuilt many times but remains a symbol of Byzantine architecture, and for more than 1000 years Hagia Sophia was considered the largest cathedral in the world. At one time, its design revolutionized.
The huge dome is mounted on a square base supported by four triangular dome sails in the corners. Although the dome collapsed several times, and during the reconstruction, it was changed, each reconstruction strengthened the dome and improved the overall structure of the building. Hagia Sophia is a museum of Christianity, Islam, as well as the Byzantine Empire and the Crusades. In the 21st century, it remains one of the largest stone buildings in the world.
8. Buddha statue in Leshan
Carved from solid rock at the beginning of the ninth century, the statue of the Great Buddha in Leshan reaches 70 m in height, and his shoulder width is 28 m. This is the tallest Buddha statue in the world, carved from rocky sandstone, it rises above the confluence of rivers Ming (Min) and Dadu (Dadu) in Sichuan (Sichuan). Typically, sandstone is easily washed away by rain, watering the statue for centuries. This did not happen thanks to an engineering structure built to protect the statue around 803 A.D.
The head of the Buddha has more than 1000 spiral curls of hair. They were made to collect rainwater and direct it into a system of drains and drainage pipes through which water flows through the head and hands of the statue, flowing through the back, behind stone clothes and away from the statue, which prevents erosion. The system was made while working on the statue. First, the latter was protected by a wooden shelter, which was destroyed by the Mongols. As a result, the statue was exposed to the elements for seven centuries, and its drainage system protected the Buddha from erosion. Today the greatest threat to the statue is the highly polluted air of the region, a factor that its designers could not have foreseen.
7. Channel Erie
Between the Hudson River and Lake Erie, the land slope increases by about 183 m. With the help of locks, canals of the time (the 1800s) could raise or lower boats by about 3.6 m, i.e. the construction of the canal connecting the Hudson with the Great Lakes would require at least 50 locks. President Thomas Jefferson called the project “… a little crazy.” New York Governor Dewitt Clinton did not agree with him and supported the project, as a result of which the channel was dubbed the “Devitt Ditch” and other, less bland names. Clinton continued the project, overseeing the creation of a 580-kilometer waterway through upstate New York, which connected the upper Midwest with New York. The cities of Buffalo, New York and Cleveland, Ohio, flourished after the completion of the canal in 1825.
To implement the engineering plan, animals were required to remove the earth, water (delivered by aqueducts to redirect the flow) and gunpowder to blow limestone. None of the designers and builders of the channel was a professional engineer; instead, they were teachers of mathematics, judges and amateur surveyors who studied along the way. Workers became emigrants, mainly from Ireland and the German provinces. When the canal was completed in 1825, it became an engineering masterpiece, one of the longest canals in the world. The flowering of the Erie Canal was relatively short due to the development of railways, but it contributed to the growth of the port of New York and stimulated the construction of canals in other eastern states.
6. Brooklyn Bridge
The Brooklyn Bridge was conceived by John Roebling, who built suspension bridges with shorter spans across the Ohio River and elsewhere. Work in Brooklyn and Manhattan led to an accident that cost Rebling his life, and the duties of an engineer passed to his son, Washington Roebling. At the start of construction, Washington was paralyzed, and he was forced to control the project from his Manhattan apartment. The builders faced complex engineering tasks: wooden caissons were immersed at the bottom of the East River, inside of which were people who had to dig the bottom of the river until the caissons reached the underlying rock. This was not done in the case of the east tower supporting the bridge. The tower rests in the sand to this day.
It took 14 years to complete the project, from 1869 to 1883. The design, often described as a suspension bridge, is actually a hybrid suspension-cable bridge, with span loading carried by cables on the towers and then on the rock from Brooklyn and sand above the rock on the Manhattan side. In the 21st century, the bridge holds six lanes, as well as paths for bicycles and pedestrians, although now it does not have a railway track or commercial vehicles. At the time of completion, it was considered a masterpiece of engineering, stretching almost 9656 meters, and connecting previously separate cities of Brooklyn and New York.
5. The Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower, which became the symbol of Paris, and in fact the whole of France, was built by Gustave Eiffel as the gateway to the 1889 World’s Fair. Contrary to popular belief, Eiffel did not design the tower but bought a design patent. Then he signed the contract for the construction of the tower on his behalf, and not on behalf of his company, and then created another company to manage the tower and the income received from it. The design of the tower was controversial from the very beginning, artists and engineers said that it lacked aesthetic value. It was said that after the construction of the tower, the French writer Guy de Maupassant ate at the tower restaurant because it was the only place in Paris where the tower was not visible.
Metal structures were brought to the construction site with already drilled holes for the bolts, and they were installed using hydraulic jacks. To build each subsequent level, crawling cranes climbed the “legs” of the tower. The tower was declared completed in March 1889, while it was the tallest man-made structure in the world. It reaches a height of 324 m and today remains the tallest building in Paris. Under the terms of the original contract, in 1909 the tower should have been dismantled, but the possibility of using it as a radio transmission device extended its life. By the end of the twentieth century, they did not even think about dismantling the tower.
4. Panama Canal
People dreamed of a canal through the Isthmus of Panama many decades before the French began to dig an 80-kilometer canal in 1881. During the construction of the American Transcontinental Railway, equipment shipped from the east coast of the United States to Panama was transported through the isthmus and then shipped to California. Before the French attempted to build the canal, the engineers studied the features of construction for many years, but after more than two decades, engineering difficulties, combined with climate and politics, reduced their efforts to nothing. The United States started the construction of the canal failed by the French and completed it in 1914, 10 years later.
The canal consists of two canals connected by the artificial lake Gatun, located at an altitude of 26 m above sea level. Gateways on two channels raise or lower ships to or above lake level, allowing them to cross the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean or vice versa. The channel allows ships to move from one ocean to another in less than twelve hours. The Americans abandoned the French engineering decision to place the canal at sea level and instead created Lake Gatun by building the Gatun Dam (then the largest dam in the world), and then installed locks for raising and lowering ships. This allowed the Americans to successfully build the dam, which forever changed the shipping lanes and interoceanic communication.
For centuries, the British Isles had no connection with the European continent, which many Britons considered critical to national security. Many suggestions were made regarding the construction of the Channel Tunnel, but opposition within England and France prevented any serious attempts to translate this idea. In the middle and end of the 20th century, attempts were made to build a tunnel for cars that were frozen. Finally, in the late 1980s, after the usual maneuvers between politicians and professionals, enterprises and financiers, they began work on the construction of the tunnel, which today is known as the Eurotunnel.
The tunnel was built on both sides, using massive drills to get closer. The machines drilled rock, which mainly consisted of Cretaceous sediments, although some difficulties arose on the French side due to mixed geology. The French and the British used the remote breed for land reclamation projects. The tunnel was faced with cast iron and reinforced concrete. After completion of construction, it provided electricity to trains running over the tunnel. The tunnel opened in 1994 and today allows you to travel from London to Paris in just two hours. The tunnel also allows importing goods manufactured in Europe into the UK, and those manufactured in the UK into Europe.
2. Burj Khalifa
For 2019, this is the tallest structure in the world. Burj Khalifa is a mixed-use skyscraper in Dubai, the construction of which was completed in 2009. The building was designed by the same Chicago-based company that designed the Willis Tower in this city, and it used the same engineering principle of grouped pipes used as a rod to support the weight of the building. The tubular construction made it possible to use significantly less steel in the construction, while most of the building was reinforced concrete.
The building has an outdoor pool located on the 76th floor, and another on the 43rd floor. Also, the building places a hotel with 300 rooms, corporate offices and private apartments. There is an observation deck on the 124th floor. Desert plants grow in the park surrounding the building, known as Burj Khalifa Park, and water them with water collected in the building’s cooling system, which uses the colder air in the upper part of the building to lower the temperature in its lower part.
1. Apollo space program
This program remains one of the main engineering achievements in the history of mankind. No other program allowed sending people to an environment different from their home planet and returning them to Earth intact. The Americans walked on the surface of the moon, traveled on it using a specially designed all-terrain vehicle with a battery, which allowed people to use a large area. It was delivered to the moon in the Lunar Excursion Module and used during the last three lunar missions in the early 1970s. In 2003, the National Academy of Engineers named the program “… the greatest collective engineering achievement in American history.”
The Apollo program contributed to significant progress in the development of integrated circuits, which had a beneficial effect on the environment, and more than 20% of the world’s population were able to watch on television how the astronaut Neil Armstrong leaves the first human footprints on the lunar surface. NASA announced positive side effects triggered by the space program, including frozen food, emergency warming blankets, portable hand-held vacuum cleaners, and more than 2,000 other inventions. The LASIK laser vision correction method is a direct descendant of the technology developed for docking with spacecraft, first used as part of the Gemini program, in which astronauts studied the methods needed for the Apollo program.