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May 2017
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Structural Engineering

The Institution of Structural Engineers’ defintion:

Structural engineering is the science and art of designing and making, with economy and elegance, buildings, bridges, frameworks and other similar structures so that they can safely resist the forces to which they may be subjected

A comprehensive explanation can be found in this Wikipedia article about structural engineering. An interesting and enlightening alternative definition of structural engineering is:

Structural engineering is the art of molding materials we don’t wholly understand, into shapes we can’t fully analyze, so as to withstand forces we can’t really assess, in such a way that the community at large has no reason to suspect the extent of our ignorance.

As explained here, it is difficult to attribute this definition to any one person. However, as noted at the end of that article, this defintion captures the essence of the inherent challenge of structural engineering. It is this challange that makes being a structural engineer so exciting, rewarding, and critical to public safety.