George Davis, British, security inspector, was in 1880, as far as we know, the first to identify the need of a new profession linked to the chemical industry, in development at the end of the XIX century.

Until that point the technicians in charge of supervision or the processes project in chemical industries were mechanical engineers with knowledge in the chemical process or chemicals with large industrial experience and processes knowledge.

Later in 1888, in EUA, was created by Lewis Norton a Chemical Engineering course, that at first was called “X course”. In Europe, the first graduations in Chemical Engineering ended up coming later, around 1920.

In other countries of Europe where the chemical industry developed early an important part, how is the case of Germany, it was only in 1950 that graduation in Chemical Engineering became independent from Mechanical Engineering. In some cases was the own industry who pressured the creation of unique graduations in Chemical Engineering in prestigious universities.

In a simple way, we may say that Chemical Engineering was born from the junction of Mechanical Engineering with Industrial Chemistry, with a higher emphasis in engineering:

Mechanical Eng. + Industrial Chemistry = Chemical Eng.

Depending on the region of the globe, the graduations in Chemical Engineering may be closer to Mechanical Engineering, to Industrial Chemistry or to the basic concepts of the Chemical Engineering Science.

Nowadays with the Chemical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering courses consolidated, Mechanical Engineers work with construction, analysis, projection, operation and mechanical systems maintenance. They are in charge of design and develop engines, thermodynamics systems, vehicles and machines. The occupation area of a graduated student in this area is extremely wide, because he can also participate in cutting-edge technological researches, lead production and maintenance teams, and act in the quality control. The mechanical engineer is also responsible to handle since home fans until aircrafts, besides petroleum exploration.

Chemical engineers work in an area of engineering focused on the development and supervision of productive processes in industries besides employing techniques of physical chemical transformations, they create extraction techniques of raw materials, as well as it’s utilization and transformation in chemical and petrochemical products. The Chemical Engineer can also do other activities like study the technical and economical possibility of the production of new products, define standards to the manipulation and discard of chemical products, control industrial pollution, etc.

Together these two professionals work together in many industry like the car manufacturers, electronics and textiles industries, petrochemicals, cellulose industries, sugar, gas and alcohol.

Industrial park of a cellulose factory.

Fonte: Conheça os 34 tipos de engenharia que existem, Conheça as áreas de atuação do curso de Engenharia, Introdução a Engenharia Química.