The Institution of Engineering and Technology was formed in 2006 by the joining together of the IEE (Institution of Electrical Engineers) and the IIE (Institution of Incorporated Engineers). This Research Guide summarises the history of the IET from its foundation in 1871.
Telegraphy: The New Technology
Electric telegraphy reached commercial success in Britain when Cooke and Wheatstone applied electric telegraphy to railways. By 1870 over 2000 men and 500 women were employed by the telegraph companies in the UK, predominantly as telegraph operators, but for the men there was opportunity to become an engineer. The term “engineer” was barely in use in 1870, but the telegraph engineer had to know about electricity, which set him apart from the civil or the mechanical engineer.
Telegraph engineers had the option of joining one or other of the existing Institutions (The Institution of Civil Engineers was founded in 1818 and the Mechanicals in 1847) but by 1870, felt that their profession had attained such a standing that its needs were inadequately met by the other bodies.
The Society of Telegraph Engineers
The Society of Telegraph Engineers (STE) formally came into existence on 17 May 1871 at a meeting held in 2 Westminster Chambers, Victoria Street, London. The prime mover in this endeavour was Major Frank Bolton. He had been made an unattached major as a reward for his services to army signaling in 1868.
At the first meeting Bolton and seven others attended. They appointed a President (Charles William Siemens 1823-1883), two vice-Presidents (Lord Lindsay 1847-1913 and Frank Ives Scudamore 1823-1884), a Council of eleven members, a Treasurer and Librarian, an Honorary Secretary (Frank Bolton) and two Auditors.
The earliest statement of the Society’s ‘Objects’ pronounces that its purpose was for the general advancement of Electrical and Telegraphic Science and for facilitating the exchange of information and ideas among its members.
Qualifications for admission reflected the Society’s dual nature as a professional association and a learned society. The professional engineer’s route to membership required him to have been educated as a Telegraph Engineer and to have been employed in positions of responsibility for at least five years. An Associate had to be over the age of twenty-one. There were no qualifying examinations until 1913; emphasis was placed instead on experience and positions of responsibility.
In the early days the focus of the Society was on telegraphy alone. However, it was decided that it would need to broaden its scope to include electrical science as this was a concern of every Telegraph Engineer and was not already represented in a separate learned society. The STE grew from strength to strength mainly because engineers required a Society of their own to reflect and represent their needs in a world where new uses for electricity were being rapidly developed.
The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) is a registered charity(no. 210252) that strives to promote and progress civil engineering. We believe that civil engineers are “at the heart of society, delivering sustainable development through knowledge, skills and professional expertise.”
With this in mind, we are a qualifying body, a centre for the exchange of specialist knowledge, and a provider of resources to encourage innovation and excellence in the profession worldwide.
The ICE was founded in 1818 by a small group of idealistic young men. We were granted a royal charter in 1828 where we declared that our aim was to “foster and promote the art and science of civil engineering”. That is still our aim today. Now the number of members has grown, and the ICE represents nearly 80,000 members worldwide. You can read more about the ICE’s rich history here.
For even more information about the Institution, download the ICE overview, a plain English guide to the ICE and what we do.
The Institution of Mechanical Engineers is the fastest growing professional engineering institution in the UK. Our 80,000 members work at the heart of the country’s most important and dynamic industries.
With a 160-year heritage supporting us, today’s Institution is a forward-looking, campaigning organisation. By working with leading companies, universities and think tanks, we create and share knowledge to provide government, businesses and the public with fresh thinking and authoritative guidance on all aspects of mechanical engineering.
We truly believe we can improve the world through engineering. So the Institution finds and nurtures new talent, helping engineers build their careers and take on the challenges that, when solved, will make a difference to all of us.
In the UK, engineering has achieved great successes, but in a quiet way. We’re looking to shout about the achievements of our members and the industry, taking a positive, inspiring message into schools and out into the media. By being independent of both government and business, and avoiding strategic relationships with single-issue bodies or pressure groups, we can deliver genuinely impartial advice in a passionately committed manner.