Little Bits of History

ICE is Cool

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 2, 2015
Institution of Civil Engineers, One Great George Street, London

Institution of Civil Engineers, One Great George Street, London

January 2, 1818: The British professional association, the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) is established. It is headquartered in central London and represents civil engineers of Britain but includes membership from around the world. There are more than 150 countries represented by the over 80,000 members  who pay a yearly fee of £235 (students free). The purpose of the group is to promote professional learning for both students and established practitioners. They uphold ethical practices and represent the interests of engineers while helping to establish standards of the profession for academia as well as industry and government. They also publish technical studies covering research and best practices in the field.

During the late 1700s and early 1800s, a number of learned societies and professional bodies were created in England – such as the Royal Society and the Law Society. Civil engineers had been meeting in groups since the late 1700s with the Society of Civil Engineers was formed in 1771 by John Smeaton (which was later renamed the Smeatonian Society). At that time, all formal engineering in Britain was limited to military engineers of the Corps of Royal Engineers. With more “civilian engineers” entering the picture, ICE was formed as the world’s first professional engineering body.

The initial meeting was the idea of three young engineers – Henry Robinson Palmer who was 23, James Jones who was 28, and Joshua Field who was 32 at the time. This first meeting was held at the Kendal Coffee House in Fleet Street. The group saw little success until they appointed Thomas Telford as the first president of the group. The Scotsman was born in 1757 and was an established road and canal builder who went on to greater projects designing harbors and tunnels. He was called The Colossus of Roads due to all his building and he brought great respect to the fledging group when he took the leadership role in 1820, a post he held until his death in 1834. He was able to obtain a Royal Charter for ICE in 1828.

In 1839, headquarters was moved to Great George Street and that same year saw the group begin to publish papers on topics of interest to engineers. For the first 29 years, ICE was the preeminent forum for engineers practicing in all the disciplines recognized today. Mechanical engineer and tool maker Henry Maudslay was an early member and published one of the first papers put out by ICE. By 1847 the Institution of Mechanical Engineers formed their own group. A new headquarters building was needed and built at the same site on Great George Street. It was designed by James Miller and built by John Mowlem & Co. with completion in 1911. The post of president eventually changed to a two-year and then a one-year position. David Balmforth was appointed President in 2014.

The general advancement of mechanical science, and more particularly for promoting the acquisition of that species of knowledge which constitutes the profession of a civil engineer; being the art of directing the great sources of power in nature for the use and convenience of man, as the means of production and of traffic in states, both for external and internal trade, as applied in the construction of roads, bridges, aqueducts, canals, river navigation, and docks, for internal intercourse and exchange; and in the construction of ports, harbours, moles, breakwaters, and light-houses, and in the art of navigation by artificial power, for the purposes of commerce; and in the construction and adaptation of machinery, and in the drainage of cities and towns. – from the ICE charter

Engineering stimulates the mind. Kids get bored easily. They have got to get out and get their hands dirty: make things, dismantle things, fix things. When the schools can offer that, you’ll have an engineer for life. – Bruce Dickinson

You can be creative in anything – in math, science, engineering, philosophy – as much as you can in music or in painting or in dance. – Ken Robinson

Architecture begins where engineering ends. – Walter Gropius

Also on this day: Liquor Through the Ages – In 1934, Pennsylvania opened the first state run liquor store.
Big Bottom – In 1791, the Big Bottom massacre took place.
The Planet Vulcan – In 1860, a new planet’s discovery was announced in Paris.
Espionage – In 1943, the Duquense Spy Ring was sentenced.
Battle of the Assunpink Creek – In 1777, the battle is found and won by George Washington’s troops.


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