It will be interesting to know, as to how the early man had been curious to know about the different processes going on the earth. In fact, he used to content himself, by holding gods responsible for all the processes. For a long time, the man had been trying to improve his ways of working. The first step, in this direction, was the discovery of a circular wheel, which led to the use of animal driven carts. The study of ancient civilization of Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks and Roman reveal the use of water wheels and wind mills even during the pre-historic days.
It is believed that the word ‘Mechanics’ was coined by a Greek philosopher Aristotle (384–322 BC). He used this word for the problems of lever and the concept of centre of gravity. At that time, it included a few ideas, which were odd, unsystematic and based mostly on observations containing incomplete information. The first mathematical concept of this subject was developed by Archimedes (287–212 BC). The story, for the discovery of First Law of Hydrostatics, is very popular even today in the history of the development of Engineering Mechanics. In the normal course, Hieron king of Syracuse got a golden crown made for his use. He suspected that the crown has been made with an adultrated gold. The king liked the design of the crown so much that he did not want it to be melted,in order to check its purity. It is said that the king announced a huge reward for a person, who can check the purity of the crown gold without melting it. The legend goes that Archimedes, a pure mathematician, one day sitting in his bath room tub realised that if a body is immersed in water, its apparent weight is reduced. He thought that the apparent loss of weight of the immersed body is equal to the weight of the liquid displaced. It is believed that without further thought, Archimedes jumeped out of the bath tub and ran naked down the street shouting ‘Eureka, eureka !’ i.e. I have found it, I have found it !’
The subject did not receive any concrete contribution for nearly 1600 years. In 1325, Jean Buridan of Paris University proposed an idea that a body in motion possessed a certain impetus i.e. motion. In the period 1325–1350, a group of scientists led by the Thomas Bradwardene of Oxford University did lot of work on plane motion of bodies. Leonarodo Da Vinci (1452–1519), a great engineer and painter, gave many ideas in the study of mechanism, friction and motion of bodies on inclined planes. Galileo (1564–1642) established the theory of projectiles and gave a rudimentary idea of inertia. Huyghens (1629–1695) developed the analysis of motion of a pendulum.
As a matter of fact, scientific history of Engineering Mechanics starts with Sir Issac Newton (1643–1727). He introduced the concept of force and mass, and gave Laws of Motion in 1686. James Watt introduced the term horse power for comparing performance of his engines. John Bernoulli (1667–1748) enunciated the priciple of virtual work. In eighteenth century, the subject of Mechanics was termed as Newtonian Mechanics. A further development of the subject led to a controversy between those scientists who felt that the proper measure of force should be change in kinetic energy produced by it and those who preferred the change in momentum. In the nineteenth century, many scientists worked tirelessly and gave a no. of priciples, which enriched the scientific history of the subject.
In the early twentieth century, a new technique of research was pumped in all activities of science. It was based on the fact that progress in one branch of science, enriched most of the bordering branches of the same science or other sciences. Similarly with the passage of time, the concept of Engineering Mechanics aided by Mathematics and other physical sciences, started contributing and development of this subject gained new momentum in the second half of this century. Today, knowledge of Engineering Mechanics, coupled with the knowledge of other specialised subjects e.g. Calculus, Vector Algebra, Strength of Materials, Theory of Machines etc. has touched its present height. The knowledge of this subject is very essential for an engineer to enable him in designing his all types of structures and machines.