Skip to Main Content

Biochemical Engineers


Biochemical engineering is a branch of chemical or biological engineering, which dates back to early civilizations. For example, Ancient Greeks distilled alcoholic beverages, and as early as 800 B.C., the Chinese were distilling alcohol from fermented rice. Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote in 4th century B.C. about the process of evaporating and condensing sea water to create fresh water.

Modern biochemical and chemical engineering have roots in the Renaissance, when longstanding scientific theories were questioned and experimentation grew. Many chemical processes were developed during this time, such as those to create sulfuric acid (used in fertilizers and textile treatments) and alkalis (used in soap). In the 1800s, John Dalton's and Amedeo Avogadro's atomic theories laid the theoretical foundation for modern chemistry and chemical and biochemical engineering.

The development and growth of large-scale manufacturing in the late 19th century created the need for chemical technicians or industrial chemists, which were chemists familiar with manufacturing processes. In 1888, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology offered the first class in chemical engineering, and in early 1900, the job title "chemical engineer" took hold.

Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928, and biochemical engineering emerged in the 1940s, when there was great need for antibiotics to treat wounded soldiers during World War II. Biochemical engineers were needed to create the correct conditions for the fermentation process of penicillin. Large-scale manufacturing of antibiotics grew in the 1950s and the field of biochemical engineering has expanded since then.

Companies today hire biochemical engineers for a variety of areas, from health and hygiene to agriculture or manufacture. Biochemical engineers use the latest technologies and laboratory equipment to study cell cultures and develop new products and more efficient ways to produce products, from new natural fuels to cures for diseases.

Related Professions