The History of Chemical Engineering

An Origin Story

The History of Chemical Engineering


Chemical engineering is one of today’s broadest and most in-demand engineering disciplines. Chemical engineers work in a variety of industries, including energy, mining, chemical production, food production, and water treatment. Because of their diverse skillset and the industries in which they work, chemical engineers are highly sought-after.

There is no set definition of what chemical engineering is because of how broad chemical engineering is and the diversity of industries in which chemical engineers work. A good definition might be “the union of chemistry, physics, biology, mathematics, and economics to refine and add value to raw materials and to develop and optimise chemical processes, often at an industrial level”. This definition captures the disciplines relied upon by chemical engineers and the key functions of the discipline.      

The chemical engineering discipline is less than 150 years old, yet still has a fascinating history. From manufacturing dyes and perfumes in small batches to the largest chemical plant in operation today, this discipline has evolved by leaps and bounds in a relatively short time.