The very first bridges were made by nature itself, as simple as a log fallen across a stream or stones in the river. The first bridges made by humans were probably spans of cut wooden logs or planks and eventually stones, using a simple support and crossbeam arrangement. Some early Americans used trees or bamboo poles to cross small caverns or wells to get from one place to another.
A common form of lashing sticks, logs, and branches together involved the use of long reeds or other harvested fibers woven together to form a connective rope which was capable of binding and holding in place materials used in the first bridges. This Bridge is one of four, corbel arch bridges part of a former network of roads, designed to accommodate chariot, in Greece. Dating to the Greek Bronze Age (13th century BC), it is one of the oldest arch bridges still in existence and used. The greatest bridge builders of the old age were the ancient Romans.
The Romans built arch bridges and aqueducts that could stand in conditions that would damage or destroy earlier designs. Some still stand today. An example is the Bridge, built over the river Tagus, in Spain. The Romans also used cement, which reduced the variation of strength found in natural stone. One special type of cement they used consisted of water, lime, sand, and volcanic rock. Brick and mortar bridges were built after the Roman era, as the technology for cement was lost then later rediscovered.
Although large Chinese bridges of wooden construction existed at the time of the Warring States, the oldest surviving stone bridge in China is the 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. European segmental arch bridges date back to at least the Bridge (2nd century AD), while the enormous Roman era Trajan’s Bridge (105 AD) featured open-spandrel segmental arches in wooden construction.
Rope bridges, a simple type of suspension bridge, were used by the Inca civilization in the Andes Mountains of South America, just prior to European colonization in the 16th century. During the 18th century there were many innovations in the design of timber bridges by Hans Ulrich, Johannes, and others. The first book on bridge engineering was written by Hubert Gautier in 1716. A major breakthrough in bridge technology came with the erection of the Iron Bridge in, England in 1779. It used cast iron for the first time as arches to cross the river Severn.
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 Eiffel. In 1927 welding pioneer Stefan designed the first welded road bridge in the world which was later built across the river near, Poland in 1929. In 1995, the American Welding Society presented the Historic Welded Structure Award for the bridge to Poland.