Praxis: Engineering and Technology

Under this heading I bring together all practical knowledge whether guided by scientific understanding or simply developed out of practical necessity, trial and error. "The modern idea that the engineer is essentially an applied scientist simply does not hold water." [D. Hill p.5] "In general, the classical and medieval engineers did not have a quantified, scientific basis for their designs. An exception to this statement is the case of the five simple machines - lever, wheel, pulley, wedge and screw. Mathematical analysis of these machines had begun to take shape among the Greeks in the fourth century BC. Their results were by no means wholly theoretical." [D. Hill pp5-6]


The Great Pyramid in Egypt was built around −6500 as a tomb for the pharaoh Khufu. At 450 ft it remained the tallest building in the world until the 19th century.

The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, reckoned one of the "seven wonders" of the ancient world, was one of a series of temples successively built on the same marshy site; −800, &minus600, −550, −333, finally destroyed in a Goth invasion of 262. The temple to Marduk at Babylon is sometimes identified with the mythical Tower of Babel. Herodotus in −450 described the splendour of Babylon, though did not specifically mention the hanging gardens.

The Tunnel of Hezekiah in Jerusalem was excavated around &700 to bring water into the city from a source that could not be cut off by beseiging forces.

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are usually associated with Nebuchadnezzar II, −605, or to the Assyrian queen Semiramis −810.

The Samos Tunnel & & &, 1036 metres long and still in existence, was the middle section of a huge aqueduct built by the engineer Eupalinus of Megara around −550 during the reign of Polycrates. It is located on the mountainslopes of Panagia Spilani and was excavated from both ends simultaneously. The water system was in use for a thousand years.

The Temple of Zeus at Olympia, the seventh and least well known of the ancient "wonders" was completed in −356 by Libon of Elis, and included a statue of Zeus by Phidias, who had also made a 40 ft statue of Athena for the Parthenon at Athens.

The Maussoleum at Halicarnassus built as the tomb of Maussolas who died in −353 is another of the "seven wonders" of the ancient world.

The Colossus of Rhodes & & & was a 30 metre high statue of the Titan Helios erected between −292 and −280 by the local sculptor Chares of Lindos. It was destroyed by an earthquake in −226, though the ruins were displayed until the Arab invasion of 654.

The Pharos of Alexandria was a lighthouse commissioned by Ptolemy I in −290 and built by Sostrates of Knidos. It was damaged by earthquakes and finally fell in 1326.

Roman Engineering

"The Romans were pre-eminent in the fields of organisation, administration, public works and domestic comfort. Their standards were not equalled in these respects until the nineteenth century." [D. Hill, p.1]

Nineteenth Century Engineering

The Statue of Liberty, a robed female figure bearing a torch, designed by the French sculptor Frederic Bartholdi was built in 1886 on an island in the harbour of New Yark.


History of Engineering

Works Consulted

Donald Hill, A History of Engineering in Classical and Medieval Times (Croom Helm 1984; Routledge 1996).