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Proceedings of the Fifth International Symposium.

Structural engineering dates back to 2700 B.C.E. when the step pyramid for Pharaoh Djoser was built by Imhotep, the first engineer in history known by name. Pyramids were the most common major structures built by ancient civilizations because the structural form of a pyramid is inherently stable and can be almost infinitely scaled (as opposed to most other structural forms, which cannot be linearly increased in size in proportion to increased loads).

The structural stability of the pyramid, whilst primarily gained from its shape, relies also on the strength of the stone from which it is constructed, and its ability to support the weight of the stone above it.[4] The limestone blocks were often taken from a quarry near the build site and have a compressive strength from 30 to 250 MPa (MPa = Pa * 10^6).[5] Therefore, the structural strength of the pyramid stems from the material properties of the stones from which it was built rather than the pyramid’s geometry.

Throughout ancient and medieval history most architectural design and construction was carried out by artisans, such as stonemasons and carpenters, rising to the role of master builder. No theory of structures existed, and understanding of how structures stood up was extremely limited, and based almost entirely on empirical evidence of ‘what had worked before’. Knowledge was retained by guilds and seldom supplanted by advances. Structures were repetitive, and increases in scale were incremental.[3]

No record exists of the first calculations of the strength of structural members or the behavior of structural material, but the profession of structural engineer only really took shape with the Industrial Revolution and the re-invention of concrete (see History of Concrete. The physical sciences underlying structural engineering began to be understood in the Renaissance and have since developed into computer-based applications pioneered in the 1970s