The 10 Most Impressive Civil Engineering Projects of All Time
With every day that passes, thousands of new civil engineering projects are completed around the globe. They might be as simple as building the foundation for a house or as complex as designing a suspension bridge that spans an entire river.
Once in a while, however, a very special type of civil engineering marvel gets finished that is earmarked to forever exist in a league of its own.
Civil Engineering Feats
Today’s infographic comes to us from Norwich University, and it counts down the 10 most impressive civil engineering projects ever completed by humanity.
These unique and extremely bold endeavors tend to exceed all normal standards of size, complexity, and manpower required. They transcend time and bestow wonder upon new generations, showing that incredible feats are possible with the right team, ideas, and expertise at hand.
Some of these projects were also included on the 1994 list of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, put together by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Meanwhile, the Great Pyramid is the only entry from the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World list.
Counting Down the Top 10
Here are the projects, going from #10 all the way to #1:
10. Qingdao Haiwan Bridge
This 26.4 mile (42.5 km) bridge was completed in 2011 in China, using 450,000 tons of steel and 3 million cubic yards of concrete.
9. Burj Khalifa
The world’s tallest skyscraper is one of many fascinating projects in Dubai. It reaches 2,717 ft (828 m) in height, almost a full 1,000 ft higher than One World Trade Center in New York.
8. English Channel Tunnel
This 31 mile (50 km) long tunnel is also up to 250 ft (76 m) deep, connecting England and France.
7. Golden Gate Bridge
This historic wonder connects San Francisco to the rest of the bay, and needed an incredible 600,000 rivets in its construction.
6. Hoover Dam
This dam formed the largest man-made lake in the Western Hemisphere, and it generates 4 billion kWh of energy per year.
5. Panama Canal
This 47 mile (77 km) long man-made canal was designed to connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to provide trade ships with passage between North and South America. It needed more than 60 million pounds of dynamite to dig.
4. Brooklyn Bridge
The first suspension bridge to use steel in its cables was also the longest in the world at the time of its construction.
3. Aqueduct of Segovia
This amazing aqueduct in Spain was made without the use of mortar, and is so well-preserved that it is still in use today.
2. Great Wall of China
What many people do not know about this enormous 5,500 mile (8,850 km) long wall is that the mortar connecting stones was made from rice flour.
1. Great Pyramid of Giza
This incredible creation is made of 2.3 million stone blocks, which required the constant labor of 30,000 people to build. It was the tallest man-made structure for more than 3,800 years.
A Final Note
The list represents the ranking as done by Norwich University’s civil engineering department, and surely there are other incredible feats that are missed by this ranking. Those would include projects like the Three Gorges Dam in China, the CN Tower, and many other worthy accomplishments.
Ranking the World’s Most Populous Cities, Over 500 Years of History
This two-minute animation shows changes in the last 500 years of historical rankings for the world’s 10 most populous cities.
Animation: The Most Populous Cities, Over 500 Years
What do Beijing, Tokyo, Istanbul, London, and New York City all have in common?
Not only are they all world-class cities that still serve as global hubs of commerce, but these cities also share a relatively rare and important historical designation.
At specific points in history, each of these cities outranked all others on the planet in terms of population, granting them the exclusive title as the single most populated city globally.
Ranking the World’s Most Populous Cities
Today’s animation comes to us from John Burn-Murdoch with the Financial Times, and it visualizes cities ranked by population in a bar chart race over the course of a 500-year timeframe.
Beijing starts in the lead in the year 1500, with a population of 672,000:
|Rank||City||Population in Year 1500|
In the 16th century, which is where the animation starts, cities in China and India were dominant in terms of population.
In China, the cities of Beijing, Hangzhou, Guangzhou, and Nanjing all made the top 10 list, while India itself held two of the most populous cities at the time, Vijayanagar and Gauda.
If the latter two names sound unfamiliar, that’s because they were key historical locations in the Vijayanagara and Bengal Empires respectively, but neither are the sites of modern-day cities.
The 1 Million Mark
For the first minute of animation—and up until the late 18th century—not a single city was able to eclipse the 1 million person mark.
However, thanks to the Industrial Revolution, the floodgates opened up. With more efficient agricultural practices, better sanitation, and other technological improvements, cities were able to support bigger populations.
Here’s a look at the biggest cities in the year 1895:
|Rank||City||Population in Year 1895|
|#2||🇺🇸 New York||3,712,000|
|#6||🇷🇺 St. Petersburg||1,286,000|
In the span of roughly a century, all of the world’s biggest cities were able to pass the 1 million mark, making it no longer a particularly exclusive milestone.
Modern City Populations
Finally, let’s look at the modern list of the top 10 most populous cities, and see how it compares to rankings from previous years:
|Rank||City||Population in Year 2018|
|#6||🇧🇷 Sao Paulo||21,698,000|
|#7||🇲🇽 Mexico City||21,520,000|
|#10||🇺🇸 New York City||18,713,000|
Interestingly, the modern list appears to be a blend of both previous rankings from the years 1500 and 1895, listed above.
In 2018, cities from China and India feature prominently, but New York City and Tokyo are also included. Meanwhile, Latin America has entered the fold with entries from Mexico and Brazil.
The Future of Megacities
If you think the modern list of the most populous cities is impressive, check out how the world’s megacities are expected to develop as we move towards the end of the 21st century.
The Shape of the World, According to Old Maps
What did ancient maps look like, before we had access to airplanes and satellites? See the evolution of the world map in this nifty infographic.
The Shape of the World, According to Ancient Maps
A Babylonian clay tablet helped unlock an understanding for how our ancestors saw the world.
Dating all the way back to the 6th century BCE, the Imago Mundi is the oldest known world map, and it offers a unique glimpse into ancient perspectives on earth and the heavens.
While this is the first-known interpretation of such a map, it would certainly not be the last. Today’s visualization, designed by Reddit user PisseGuri82, won the “Best of 2018 Map Contest” for depicting the evolving shapes of man-made maps throughout history.
AD 150: Once Upon A Time in Egypt
In this former location of the Roman Empire, Ptolemy was the first to use positions of latitude and longitude to map countries into his text Geographia. After these ancient maps were lost for centuries, Ptolemy’s work was rediscovered and reconstructed in the 15th century, serving as a foundation for cartography throughout the Middle Ages.
1050: Pointing to the Heavens
The creation of this quintessential medieval T-and-O Beatine map is attributed not to an unknown French monk, but to the Spanish monk Beatus of Liébana. Although it shows several continents—Africa, Asia, and Europe—its main objective was to visualize Biblical locations. For example, because the sun rises in the east, Paradise (The Garden of Eden) can be seen pointing upwards and towards Asia on the map.
1154: The World Turned Upside Down
The Arabic geographer Muhammad al-Idrisi made one of the most advanced medieval world maps for King Roger II of Sicily. The Tabula Rogeriana, which literally translates to “the book of pleasant journeys into faraway lands”, was ahead of the curve compared to contemporaries because it used information from traveler and merchant accounts. The original map was oriented south-up, which is why modern depictions show it upside down.
1375: The Zenith of Medieval Map Work
The Jewish cartographer Abraham Cresques created the most important map of the medieval period, the Catalan Atlas, with his son for Prince John of Aragon. It covers the “East and the West, and everything that, from the Strait [of Gibraltar] leads to the West”. Many Indian and Chinese cities can be identified, based on various voyages by the explorers Marco Polo and Sir John Mandeville.
After this, the Age of Discovery truly began—and maps started to more closely resemble the world map as we know it today.
1489: Feeling Ptolemy and Polo’s Influences
The 15th century was a radical time for map-makers, once Ptolemy’s geographical drawings were re-discovered. Henricus Martellus expanded on Ptolemaic maps, and also relied on sources like Marco Polo’s travels to imagine the Old World. His milestone map closely resembles the oldest-surviving terrestrial globe, Erdapfel, created by cartographer Martin Behaim. Today, it’s preserved at the Yale University archives.
1529: A Well-Kept Spanish Secret
The first ever scientific world map is most widely attributed to the Portuguese cartographer Diego Ribero. The Padrón Real was the Spanish Crown’s official and secret master map, made from hundreds of sailors’ reports of any new lands and their coordinates.
1599: The Wright Idea
English mathematician and cartographer Edward Wright was the first to perfect the Mercator projection—which takes the Earth’s curvature into consideration. Otherwise known as a Wright-Molyneux world map, this linear representation of the earth’s cylindrical map quickly became the standard for navigation.
1778-1832: The Emergence of Modern World Maps
The invention of the marine chronometer transformed marine navigation—as ships were now able to detect both longitude and latitude. Jacques-Nicolas Bellin, a French geographer, was responsible for the 18th century’s highly accurate world maps and nautical charts. His designs favored functionality over the decorative flourishes of cartographers past.
Finally, the German cartographer and lawyer Adolf Stieler was the man behind Stieler’s Handatlas, the leading German world atlas until the mid-20th century. His maps were famous for being updated based on new explorations, making them the most reliable map possible.
Is There Uncharted Territory Left?
It is worth mentioning that these ancient maps above are mostly coming from a European perspective.
That said, the Islamic Golden Age also boasts an impressive cartographic record, reaching its peak partially in thanks to Muhammad al-Idrisi in the 11th century. Similarly, Ancient Chinese empires had a cartographic golden age after the invention of the compass as well.
Does this mean there’s nothing left to explore today? Quite the contrary. While we know so much about our landmasses, the undersea depths remain quite a mystery. In fact, we’ve explored more of outer space than we have 95% of our own oceans.
If you liked the visualization above, be sure to explore the world’s borders by age, broken down impressively by the same designer.
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