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Civil Engineering Technicians

History

Engineering, both military and civil, is one of the world's oldest professions. The pyramids of ancient Egypt and the bridges, roads, and aqueducts of the Roman Empire (some of which are still in use) are examples of ancient engineering feats. It was not until the 18th century in France and England that civil engineers began to organize themselves into professional societies to exchange information or plan projects. At that time, most civil engineers were still self-taught, skilled craft workers. Thomas Telford, for instance, Britain's leading road builder and first president of the Institution of Civil Engineers, started his career as a stonemason. And John Rennie, the builder of the new London Bridge, began as a millwright's apprentice.

The first major educational programs intended for civil engineers were offered by the École Polytechnique, founded in Paris in 1794. Similar courses at the Bauakadamie, founded in Berlin in 1799, and at University College London, founded in 1826, soon followed. In the United States, the first courses in civil engineering were taught at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1824.

From the beginning, civil engineers have required the help of skilled assistants to handle the many details that are part of all phases of civil engineering. Traditionally, these assistants have possessed a combination of basic knowledge and good manual skills. As construction techniques have become more sophisticated, however, there is an increased need for assistants to be technically trained in specialized fields relevant to civil engineering.

These technically trained assistants are today's civil engineering technicians. Just as separate educational programs and professional identity developed for the civil engineer in the 18th and 19th centuries, so they have developed for civil engineering technicians in this century. The civil engineering technician is a distinguished member of the civil engineering team.

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