[This passage has been excerpted from Dale H. Porter's The Thames Embankment: Environment, Technology, and Society in Victorian London, which is reviewed eleswhere in the Victorian WebGPL.]

decorative initial The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), founded in 1818, served (and still serves) as a research center, a London club, and a professional society for British engineers around the world. Mechanical engineers, who worked in tandem with the "civils" on the great railway systems, were at first included in the ICE, but they formed their own institution in 1847. Their work was oriented more toward the provinces, while civil engineers focused on the London area; but many "mechanicals" belonged to both institutes. Membership in the two groups grew from 220 in 830, to 2,000 in 1850, and 3,500 in 1870, with over four hundred engineers registered in London alone. The roll of ICE presidents and vice-presidents, elected for two-year terms until 1880, includes almost every notable engineer of the century. Meetings were held weekly during sessions of Parliament, with members presenting papers for extended and often lively discussion. Their Transactions were published periodically in respectable formats, and, from 1837, they also produced annual Minutes of Proceedings. The ICE kept dues high enough to exclude the casual amateur but voted honorary membership to aristocratic enthusiasts and retired military engineers. Careful to maintain its image as a gentleman's club, the ICE regarded formal discussion of current projects, wages, and working conditions, or related political issues, as taboo. Even an enthusiastic call for a public resolution in favor of the Thames Embankment, proposed after a spirited debate in January 1856, was ruled out of order by the chair of the session, John Fowler (1817-1898). The ICE established a model for most other engineering groups arising in the second half of the nineteenth century. In fact, its determination to maintain an intimate and cohesive clublike ambiance for its members contributed to a gradual proliferation of societies for other types of engineers, which emulated its rules, style, and publications. Nevertheless, until the 1880s the ICE regarded itself as the leading representative of the profession. Having received a royal charter, in 1828, and maintaining premises in Westminster close to Parliament, it jealously guarded its members' interests. [166]


Porter, Dale H. The Thames Embankment: Environment, Technology, and Society in Victorian London. Akron, Ohio: University of Akron Press, 1998.

Last modified 1999