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Forensic Engineers

History

Building has been one of humanity’s basic activities. The development of civilization is marked by the building of pyramids, bridges, roadways, temples, aqueducts, walls and fortifications, canals, and many other structures. These projects were designed and supervised by the earliest form of civil engineers. These engineers had to design methods of moving large and cumbersome stones for buildings, sometimes across a long distance. To accomplish this without the benefit of motorized vehicles, early engineers designed rollers, pulleys, levers, and hydraulics. An understanding of force and counterforce allowed the engineers to design ways to decrease the physical effort needed by the builders to move massive stones. Without this, structures like the pyramids would not have been possible. 

Engineers have influenced discoveries and inventions more than workers in any other profession. The work of engineers has a more thorough impact on all human life than any other discipline. But despite this expertise, sometimes products, machinery, tools, and other manufactured items fail to work as designed, while some fail completely, causing loss of life and personal injury. One of the earliest examples of the work of forensic engineers during modern times occurred after the collapse of the Dee Bridge in Chester, England, on May 24, 1847. A passenger train fell through the bridge, killing five people. An accident inquiry by the Royal Engineers, a branch of the British army, found that the architect’s design was flawed. After this accident, and the resulting inquiry, architects and builders became more cognizant of the importance of careful planning and the use of established engineering principles when designing a project.

Today, forensic engineers work in nearly every engineering discipline—investigating everything from faulty engine parts on automobiles to major disasters such as bridge and building collapses; airplane, automobile, and train crashes and collisions; and nearly any other part, product, mechanism, system, or structure that does not perform to expectations.