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Keyword: engineers

By Steve Walsh
Director of Public Works

Next time you take a drink of nice cool, clean water; flush away something nasty or take a pleasant drive, think of the engineers over time who have made our modern comforts and sanitation possible. Engineers are the original environmentalists who have toiled for centuries to protect us and our surroundings by coming up with ingenious ways to keep raw sewage, rotting garbage, pollution and disease under control and from affecting our daily lives.

The History of Engineering

Photo of an aqueduct

Ancient engineers developed the aqueducts and water treatment, starting with the ancient Egyptians who collected rainfall and designed copper pipelines to dispose of sewage. Around 2000 B.C., Hindus figured out that water should be stored in copper vessels, exposed to sunlight and filtered through charcoal. The early Romans created drains and sewers and fostered hygienic processes. The “filth, pestilence and plague” of the Dark Ages helped inspire further innovations in engineering.

In the 1600s, English philosopher Sir Francis Bacon conducted thousands of experiments on the treatment of water, including boiling, distillation and percolating it through filters. In the 1800s, hydraulic engineers worked out methods to deliver abundant clean water to the developing cities and reduce the choking pollution from industrial smokestacks. In the 20th century, American engineers sent Neil Armstrong to the moon to take his “giant leap for mankind.” For more of these historical nuggets, check out the interesting article "History of Environmental Engineering," by Washington University in St. Louis Professor Charles A. Buescher Jr., PE, DEE.

The County's World-Renowned Engineering

Photo of the shore of Loch Raven

If you hike or bike around Loch Raven, Prettyboy or Liberty Reservoirs, you may be interested to know that our world-renowned reservoir and dam system for drinking water in the Baltimore region is thanks to engineer extraordinaire Abel Wolman. He was in the very first graduating class of the Johns Hopkins School of Engineering in 1915, and went on to become the architect of Baltimore City’s expansive water and sewage treatment plants built in the 1930s, which still serve some 1.8 million people in Baltimore City and County.

Modern-day engineers come in all stripes, including civil, environmental, transportation, aeronautical, electrical, mechanical and chemical. They keep our bridges and roadways in working order, reduce stormwater run-off from roads and buildings, dredge waterways to keep them open, protect and restore our streams and shorelines, and much more.

National Engineers Week

Did you know that the word "engineer" derives from the Latin words "ingenium," meaning "cleverness," and "ingeniare," meaning "to contrive or devise?" So if you know a clever engineer who is helping to keep our environment healthy and the gadgets, gizmos and systems of our society running smoothly, please take a moment to thank him or her during National Engineers Week, from February 17 through 23. (Sponsored by the National Society of Professional Engineers.)


 
 
Revised September 11, 2017