The Bridge - A Brief History

The first bridges were made by nature — as simple as a log fallen across a stream. The first bridges made by humans were probably spans of wooden logs or planks and eventually stones, using a simple support and crossbeam arrangement. Most of these early bridges could not support heavy weights or withstand strong currents. It was these inadequacies which led to the development of better bridges.

The oldest surviving stone bridge in China is the Zhaozhou Bridge, built from 595 to 605 AD during the Sui Dynasty. This bridge is also historically significant as it is the world's oldest open-spandrel stone segmental arch bridge. The first book on bridge engineering was written by Hubert Gautier in 1716. With the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, truss systems of wrought iron were developed for larger bridges, but iron did not have the tensile strength to support large loads. With the advent of steel, which has a high tensile strength, much larger bridges were built, many using the ideas of Gustave Eiffel. Bridges are classified on the basis that how the four forces namely shear, compression, tension, and moment are distributed in the bridge structure.