Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Acronyms, Idioms, Wikipedia.


engineering, profession devoted to designing, constructing, and operating the structures, machines, and other devices of industry and everyday life.

Types of Engineering

The primary types of engineering are chemical, civil, electrical, industrial, and mechanical.

Chemical engineering deals with the design, construction, and operation of plants and machinery for making such products as acids, dyes, drugs, plastics, and synthetic rubber by adapting the chemical reactions discovered by the laboratory chemist to large-scale production. The chemical engineer must be familiar with both chemistry and mechanical engineering.

Civil engineering includes the planning, designing, construction, and maintenance of structures and altering geography to suit human needs. Some of the numerous subdivisions are transportation (e.g., railroad facilities and highways); hydraulics (e.g., river control, irrigation, swamp draining, water supply, and sewage disposal); and structures (e.g., buildings, bridges, and tunnels).

Electrical engineering encompasses all aspects of electricity from power engineering, the development of the devices for the generation and transmission of electrical power, to electronics. Electronics is a branch of electrical engineering that deals with devices that use electricity for control of processes. Subspecialties of electronics include computer engineering, microwave engineering, communications, and digital signal processing. It is the engineering specialty that has grown the most in recent decades.

Industrial engineering, or management engineering, is concerned with efficient production. The industrial engineer designs methods, not machinery. Jobs include plant layout, analysis and planning of workers' jobs, economical handling of raw materials, their flow through the production process, and the efficient control of the inventory of finished products.

Mechanical engineering is concerned with the design, construction, and operation of power plants, engines, and machines. It deals mostly with things that move. One common way of dividing mechanical engineering is into heat utilization and machine design. The generation, distribution, and use of heat is applied in boilers, heat engines, air conditioning, and refrigeration. Machine design is concerned with hardware, including that making use of heat processes.

Aeronautical engineering is applied in the designing of aircraft and missiles and in directing the technical phases of their manufacture and operation. Mineral engineering includes mining, metallurgical, and petroleum engineering, which are concerned with extracting minerals from the ground and converting them to pure forms. Other important branches of engineering are agricultural engineering, engineering physics, geological engineering, naval architecture and marine engineering, and nuclear engineering.

Another way of dividing engineering is by function. Among the top functional divisions are design, operation, management, development, and construction; development engineering is concerned with converting an idea into a practical product.

Development of Engineering

Until the Industrial Revolution there were only two kinds of engineers. The military engineer built such things as fortifications, catapults, and, later, cannons. The civil engineer built bridges, harbors, aqueducts, buildings, and other structures. During the early 19th cent. in England mechanical engineering developed as a separate field to provide manufacturing machines and the engines to power them. The first British professional society of civil engineers was formed in 1818; that for mechanical engineers followed in 1847. In the United States, the order of growth of the different branches of engineering, measured by the date a professional society was formed, is civil engineering (1852), mining and metallurgical engineering (1871), mechanical engineering (1880), electrical engineering (1884), and chemical engineering (1908). Aeronautical engineering, industrial engineering, and genetic engineering are more modern developments.

The first schools in the United States to offer an engineering education were the United States Military Academy (West Point) in 1817, an institution now known as Norwich Univ. in 1819, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1825. An engineering education is based on a strong foundation in mathematics and science; this is followed by courses emphasizing the application of this knowledge to a specific field and studies in the social sciences and humanities to give the engineer a broader education.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.


The design of the civil, structural, and electrical portions of a construction project.
Illustrated Dictionary of Architecture Copyright © 2012, 2002, 1998 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Russian tekhnologiia), the aggregate of means and methods used in obtaining, processing, or reprocessing raw or processed materials and semifinished or finished goods in various branches of industry, in construction, and so on; engineering is also the scientific discipline that develops and perfects such means and methods. The Russian term tekhnologiia also refers to the operations of extracting, processing, reprocessing, transporting, and storing materials; such operations are the basic components of the production process. The technical control of production is also part of modern engineering. It is customary to use the term tekhnologiia for descriptions of production processes, instructions for performing such processes, engineering codes, specifications and requirements, charts, diagrams, and the like.

Engineering is usually viewed in the context of a specific branch of production, for example, mining engineering, machine-building engineering, and construction engineering, or in relation to the mode by which certain materials, such as metals, fibers, or textiles, are obtained or processed. Production processes result in a qualitative change in the objects being processed. Thus, the engineering involved in obtaining various metals is based on changes in the chemical composition and the chemical and physical properties of the original raw material. The engineering of machining involves changes in the shape and certain physical properties of the parts being machined. Chemical engineering is based on processes that occur as a result of chemical reactions and that produce changes in the composition, structure, and properties of the original products.

The most important indexes of the technical and economic efficiency of a production process are the specific consumption of raw materials, semifinished goods, and energy per unit of production; the output (quantity) and quality of the finished product; the level of labor productivity; the production rate; production costs; and the prime cost of production.

The goal of engineering as a science is to discover physical, chemical, mechanical, and other regularities in order to define and put into practice the most efficient and economical production processes, requiring the least expenditure of time and material resources. Thus, the subjects of engineering study and research in machine building include the basic elements in designing production processes (the types of processing, the choice of stock, the surface quality of the items being worked, the precision of the processing work and the permissible tolerances, and the raw materials for stock); the machining of surfaces (for example, flat or contoured); techniques for producing standard parts (for example, housings, shafts, and gears); assembly processes (the way in which parts and subunits are put together and the principles of mechanizing and automating assembly operations); and the principles of designing attachments.

The engineering involved in various production processes is constantly being changed and improved with new advances in technology. Engineering improvements in all branches of industry and types of production are a major condition for the acceleration of technical progress in the national economy. Important trends in the development of modern engineering include a transition from discrete (separate or cyclical) production processes to production-line techniques and the introduction of recycling in production processes. Production-line techniques increase the scale of production and ensure efficient use of machinery and equipment. Recycling in production processes ensures the best possible use of raw and processed materials, energy, and fuel, making it possible to reduce to a minimum or eliminate entirely production waste and to carry out measures for cleaning up the environment. Improved engineering has become especially important in the extracting industries, where the goals are increased efficiency in the extraction of valuable minerals and in dressing and processing such minerals, the elimination of harmful effects on the environment resulting from the exploitation of mineral wealth, and the integrated use of mineral resources in the national economy (seeCONSERVATION).

The Uniform System of Technological Preparation for Production was introduced in the USSR in 1975 for the manufacturing branches of industry, particularly for machine building and instrumentation. It provides a single system for preparing engineering plans and using standard production processes and standardized equipment and instruments. The system reduces production times by a factor of 2–2.5 and at the same time increases labor productivity and improves the quality of goods produced.

The Uniform System of Technological Documentation was introduced in the USSR in 1975 for the purpose of unifying and standardizing production means, methods, and terminology; the system has the status of a national standard.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


(science and technology)
The science by which the properties of matter and the sources of power in nature are made useful to humans in structures, machines, and products.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


Most simply, the art of directing the great sources of power in nature for the use and the convenience of people. In its modern form engineering involves people, money, materials, machines, and energy. It is differentiated from science because it is primarily concerned with how to direct to useful and economical ends the natural phenomena which scientists discover and formulate into acceptable theories. Engineering therefore requires above all the creative imagination to innovate useful applications of natural phenomena. It seeks newer, cheaper, better means of using natural sources of energy and materials.

The typical modern engineer goes through several phases of career activity. Formal education must be broad and deep in the sciences and humanities. Then comes an increasing degree of specialization in the intricacies of a particular discipline, also involving continued postscholastic education. Normal promotion thus brings interdisciplinary activity as the engineer supervises a variety of specialists. Finally, the engineer enters into the management function, weaving people, money, materials, machines, and energy sources into completed processes for the use of society.

For articles on various engineering disciplines See Chemical engineering, Civil engineering, Electrical engineering, Industrial engineering, Manufacturing engineering, Marine engineering, Mechanical engineering, Methods engineering, Mining, Nuclear engineering

McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Engineering. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
The Canadian Coalition for Women in Engineering, Science, Trades and Technology (CCWESTT) is an advocacy organization to increase women's participation, retention and leadership in science, engineering, trades and technology (SETT) throughout Canada.
Click on a bar to see the engineering occupations with the most employment in the industry in 2016.
Assessment for registration is typically carried out on Engineering Council's behalf by a licensed member institution.
It has also entered about 100 consensual agreements to authorise the use of 'engineer' and 'engineering'.
Sutcliffe provided engineering and surveying services in the New Liskeard area in 1906, forming the company H.
Vulcan Engineering Co., One Vulcan Drive, PO Box 307, Helena, AL, 35080 tel: 205/663-6732 fax: 205/663-9103#
The M-Series MegaShredder[R] is a prime example of Riverside Engineering's innovation.
Consistent with this system, it established major cost pools including (among others) (1) engineering labor costs for individuals involved in the planning, design and implementation engineering of specific projects; (2) engineering supervision and clerical support; (3) other engineering department costs; and (4) "provisioning" costs of material and supplies.
While it is in our interest to convince youth in this country to pursue careers in science and engineering, I do not believe that just increasing the number of engineering graduates will sharpen our competitive edge.
Functional engineering managers are primarily teachers in the Toyota system.
With today's technology it is often difficult to remember that engineering is built on a set of basic principles developed over time, such as solving problems related to piping, structures, energy distribution and generation, etc.

Full browser ?