Most of the time when we think about engineers, we think about the nifty things they’re designing and building, now. But a lot of what they do now started a long time ago. We’ll take a look back, today on Engineering Works!
The engineers we know design and build new fuel-efficient cars, ultra-fast computers, tall buildings. Cool stuff. But many of the principles they use are thousands of years old. Consider the lever. You know what a lever is. It’s a bar of something that pivots over something else. It’s a powerful idea. Every geometry student knows what the ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes said about levers: give me a fulcrum and a place to stand and I’ll move the world.
If we think about levers at all, we probably picture playground teeter-totters or prybars. But these are only the beginning. Hammers, the oars in a rowboat, wedges used to split wood. They all use the principles of the lever. Then there’s the wheel and the pulley. And the screw. They’re levers, too.
Archimedes gets a lot of credit for understanding the lever. But he wasn’t the first to think about how levers work. The earliest recorded discussion of levers appeared at least a generation before Archimedes and his famous statement. So the next time you see something really neat that an engineer did, take a minute to wonder a little. It all started a long time ago.
Long time or short, we’re done. See you next time.
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