Two of my final year students approached me and requested that I deliver an inauguration lecture during the formal inauguration of the Nigerian Institution of Mechanical Engineers (NIMECHE), University of Uyo chapter, on the above topic. The date and time of the lecture was acceptable to me and so, I gladly obliged and proceeded to develop the lecture by asking and answering a few pertinent questions as outlined in the material that follows.

Right from the time man was able to discover himself and his environment, and indeed throughout the civilizations, mankind has always used mechanical engineering in one way or another. Take ancient Greece for example, the Archimedean spiral, Archimedean solid and other works of Archimedes (278-212BC) cast a prolonged influence in mechanics in the western tradition, Heron of Alexandria (10-70AD) in Egypt was an important geometer and worker in mechanics, who through such works as pneumatica, lelopoeica, geometria, stereometrica to make a few, greatly influenced mechanics during the Islamic golden age. He crated aeolipile- the first steam engine. In China, Zhang Heng (78-139AD) mproved a water clock and invented a seismometer. Ma Jun (200-265AD) invented a chariot with differential gears. In the 7th to 15th century, the era called “the Islamic golden age”, muslim inventors in the mechanical engineering field. One of them Al-Jazari is said to have invented the crankshaft and camshaft.

The 16th and 17th century was a period of rapid breakthroughs particularly in England and its immediate environs. It was at this time that Sir Isaac Newton formulated the three laws of motion and also developed calculus. During the 19th century in England, Germany and Scotland, the development of machine tools led mechanical engineering to develop as a separate field within engineering, providing manufacturing machines and engines to power them.

It is pertinent to note here that the British industrial revolution in the midlands of England, in the 18th century, gave rise to unprecedented and specialization and standardization. In 1847 AC, the first professional society of mechanical engineers – the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, was formed, although thirty years after the institution of Civil Engineers was formed. The first underground train was commissioned on 9th January, 1863. On the European continent, Johann Von Zimmerman ( 1820-1901) founded the first factory for grinding machines in Chemnitz, Germany in 1848. In the USA, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) was formed in 1880, after the American society of Civil Engineers (1852), and the American institute of mining engineers in 1871.

It is important to note here that, although mechanical engineering took root in the Islamic world very early and in Asia, and later in Europe, the same could be said about America because Christopher Columbus only sailed the ocean blue in 1492, and in 1776 with the declaration of independence, the USA was formed. The earliest engineering education was offered by the United States military Academy in 1817. The historical background of Mechanical Engineering cannot be exhaustively treated in a lecture like this, due to time factor. Perhaps, an attempt should be made at defining the discipline.

MECHANICAL ENGINEERING: Some authorities say that it is the discipline that applies the principles of engineering, physics, and material science for the design, production and operation of machinery. It is one of the oldest of the engineering disciplines.

In m0dern time, the above definition of mechanical engineering has gone beyond the traditional boundary and now, embraces developments in such fields as composites, mechatronics and nanotechnology. Mechanical engineering overlaps with aerospace engineering, metallurgical engineering , civil engineering, electrical engineering, manufacturing/industrial engineering, chemical engineering and other engineering disciplines to varying amounts.

It is very obvious from what we see today- the advances in mechanical engineering – that it will continue to evolve and at some point in time, in collaboration with other disciplines , will succeed in putting man permanently in space and other planets. Already, man can hire and work in space for periods lasting more than one year.

At this point in this lecture, let me say a few things on who should study mechanical engineering.

On this century and elsewhere, generally the emphasis is in the core courses of physics, chemistry, and mathematics. The language of study depends on the host country where students locates, ipso factor, English language. These fundamental courses will enable understanding in

  1. Statics and dynamics
  2. Strength of materials and solid mechanics
  3. Thermodynamics, heat transfer and energy conversion
  4. Fuels, combustion, inter combustion engine
  5. Fluid mechanics including fluid statics and fluid dynamics
  6. Mechanism and machine design (including kinematics and dynamics)
  7. Instrumentation and measurements
  8. Manufacturing engineering, technology, or processes
  9. Vibration, control theory and control engineering
  10. Mechatronics and robotics
  11. Engineering design, product design
  12. Drafting computer aided design (CAD) and computer aided manufacturing (CAM)

In addition above more specialized programs include: transport, automotive, cryogenics, biomechanics and optics. Many modern tools and many engineering companies especially those in the high-tech nations, have begun to incorporate computer- aided engineering (CAE) into existing design and analysis processes including 2D and 3D solid- modelling computer-aided design.

Other programs include: product life cycle management and analysis, tools used to perform complex simulations like product response to loads including fatigue-life, and manufacturability. The tools include finite element analysis, computational fluid dynamics, and computer-aided manufacturing. At the end of studies, a piece of document is issued which becomes the license for professional registration

At the end of four or five year’s practical inclusive training, a Bachelor of Engineering, Bachelor of Science Engineering, Bachelor of Technology, Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering or Mechanical Engineer is awarded to a successful graduate. The nomenclature of degree document is dependent again on host country of study.

Some Mechanical Engineers go on to pursue postgraduate degree much as Masters of Engineer, Masters of Technology, or Doctor of philosophy in Engineering (PH.D), which is often viewed on the entry qualification to academia. After the acquisition of the academic qualification, a mechanical engineer needs the professional registration and recognition.

In this country, the Nigerian Institution of Mechanical Engineers (NIMECH E), Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), and the Council for the regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) are there to fulfill this role usually, after a proper screening, examination and induction. This lecture has attempted to consider and shade light on some critical areas of what Mechanical Engineering has been and who is qualified to become a Mechanical Engineer including the qualification obtained at the end of training, perhaps it is fulfilling at this point, to turn attention to where can a Mechanical Engineer find employment at the end of everything.

Each time I see the wonderful works of Engineering, as documented throughout history, every time I look around and observe that everything we use in our daily life are the products of Engineering from the nail cutter, shoes eye glass, microscope, spacecraft, aircraft, submarines, hovercraft, vacuum cleaner, ball point pen, ballistic missiles, drones, robots, smart phones including android, space stations and motor car, to name but a few, go back in history to the time God created the world. Did God create all these things? The answer is NO. He simply created the heaven and the earth, and all that he created, but each time I look at genetics chapter one verse twenty six “And God said, let us make man in our own image, after our likeness and let them have dominion over all the earth”. Verse twenty-eight of the same chapter says: And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply and replenish the earth, and subdue it….The portions of the Holy Bible quoted above convinced me that the people who sat with God at creation were all engineers, and in particular those He gave authority to subdue the world were mechanical engineers, after God first created the world. These people who create systems through design and manufacturing and also maintain them, can always find employment wherever systems, machines and their maintenance are needed and utilized. Thus mechanical engineers are needed almost everywhere in the defence industry and the civil society including

  • Aerospace industry in research, design, manufacture, operation and maintenance of aircraft.
  • Automobile industry in research, design and manufacture, distribution and marketing of motor vehicles.
  • Chemical industry, in building new plants or developing new process technologies.
    Construction industry, in design and building services (including heating and ventilation)
  • Defence industry, in the provision of equipment and support services.
  • Electronics industry, in design, manufacture of component, equipment for sectors from automobile to medicine and the military.
  • Fast moving consumer goods industry in the manufacture of household items, (dish-washer, microwave oven, etc ), personal hygiene goods and convenience foods.
  • Marine industry in the development operation and maintenance of vessels.
    Materials and metals industry, in the development of new materials, components and end products.
  • Pharmaceuticals industry, in the development and manufacture of drugs.
  • Rail industry, in the design, construction, management and maintenance of rail systems and train control systems.
  • Utilities industry, mechanical engineers helps to supply power, water, waste management and telecommunications.
  • Academics where they are involved in research, teaching and community service.

Professional opportunities for mechanical engineers are too numerous to list, as can be seen the attempt above. They are professors, corporate leaders, inventors, innovators, thinkers, politicians, mathematicians, bankers, pastors and soldiers.

I am aware that I have taken a little bit of your time and my inauguration lecture is coming to a close. But, let me say something about the Islamic golden age, which I mentioned earlier on. The period spanned through eight centuries during which the nations including Morocco, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Syria and so on dominated and controlled world politics, education, commerce, engineering, religion and what have you. Take for instance, the first university in the world- University of Al-Karaouine was founded in Fes, Morocco in 859. The Al-Azhar university, the second university, was founded in Egypt in Egypt in 970-972. The third university known as the Nizamiyya set of universities founded in 1065 by Nizan Al-Mulk had schools in Baghdad, Amul, Mosul, Damascus and Basra to name a few locations. The above named centres of excellence flourished in the Arab world for over two hundred and twenty nine years before the first university of Montepelier, France in 1150, the university of Cambridge, in 1209, the university Salamanca, Spain in 1218; and lastly the university of Padua, in 1222, exactly two hundred and seventy years before Columbus sailed the ocean Blue in 1492.
My dear listeners, I thank you very much for your patience and time, I end this lecture here.

I am Engr. Dr. Obotowo W. Obot
Senior Lecturer
Department Of Mechanical Engineering
University Of Uyo

REFERENCES what do mechanical engineers do? Accessed 27.08.2015 of alexandria accersed 29.08.2015. What jobs you can do with a mechanical engineering degree?
http;// un9iversities in the world; ancient colleges accessed 29.08.2015
Holy Bible(KJV) containing the old and new testaments.
The English dictionary


  1. Just to add a little to your well-researched presentation; I got to know, with practice, that Mechanical Engineering basically convert things done manually to machine execution. One slogan that lays credence to this is:
    “When it moves, It’s Mechanical”.
    This true from hindsight as mechanical contrivances either move in operation or facilitate the movement of things.
    Thank you, sir.


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