Civil engineering is that part of the engineering profession that deals with major efforts in shaping infrastructure, large structures and landscape. Civil engineers deal, for example, with the infrastructures of water and its related waste disposal in building dams; shaping watercourses; designing, installing and maintaining water purification and distribution systems on the one hand and drainage and sewerage systems on the other. They construct such transport links as roads, railways, airports, ports and canals (bridges and tunnels are important branches of the profession). Civil engineers safeguard people and societies by designing safety provision against such natural hazards as floods, earthquakes and storms. The structural engineering branch of the profession is responsible for such things as foundations, steel frames for skyscrapers (as well as the buildings themselves) in static structures, and integrity, safety and fitness for purpose of many moving structures, such as vehicles, ships, satellites and rockets. (The Engineering Department at Hull University used to have a tall poster of a space rocket lifting off, with a line of print above saying "It's not rocket science", and another below that said " - it's rocket engineering.") The supply - production, supply and safety - of electricity and other sources of energy, along with applications like telephones and the internet, form another branch of the profession. In short, civil engineers are fundamental to modern life in many ways.
- These engineers were first called 'civil' to distinguish them from the military engineers who had been recognized much longer, since the fourteenth century. Military engineers were originally people who operated 'engines of war', such as siege catapults and trebuchets, but whose functions became involved in constructing static defences, such as forts and trenches, and such aggressive activity as 'sapping', originally digging trenches that would conceal an attack and protect the attackers, later adding tunnelling to undermine walls, towers and forts. The earliest record of its use dates to 1760, when John Smeaton (1724-1792), who built third Eddystone Lighthouse (1755–59), described himself as "Smeaton, John F. R. S. Surveyor and Civil Engineer" in a trade directory (cited OED, s.v civil SPECIAL USES). He founded a Society of Civil Engineers in 1771 (renamed in his honour in 1830, the Smeatonian Society of Civil Engineers, which still meets, as he oldest society of civil engineers in the world). It was a precursor of the Institution of Civil Engineers ([]).