On the Historical Nature of Engineering Practice



The first chapter, by Antonio Dias de Figueiredo, opens a historical perspective on the ways that engineers and engineering have been portrayed through the eyes of philosophers, historians, writers and researchers over more than 2000 years. This chapter sets the stage for the rest of this book, helping us see the research presented in each chapter in the light of historical accounts of engineering. It helps to highlight the present difficulties experienced by engineers when they try to explain to others what engineering is, how it is different from science, and what it is for. The paper explores four threads of these portrayals of engineering in detail: craft, science, society and design, and how these different aspects impinge on contemporary debates on engineering education. There are many references that enable the reader to explore these histories in more detail. The sparseness of our knowledge, at least in English- language media, is an open invitation for historians of technology to dig deeper and enlarge our knowledge.


engineering, practice, epistemology, science, history


Engineering, History, Epistemology

Book Chapter

Williams, B., Figueiredo, J., and Trevelyan, J. (2013) Engineering Practice in a Global Context: Understanding the Technical and the Social, 1, pp. 7-32, CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, London, August 2013

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