In 1818 three young engineers met in a London coffee shop and founded the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), the world’s first professional engineering body.
They had hoped that lots of engineers from different engineering backgrounds would join the institution. However, civil engineering hadn't really become an official profession yet, and before the 18th century most engineers were in the armed forces.
After two years of struggling to attract new members, ICE asked Thomas Telford to become its first President. His appointment in 1820 not only gave ICE a major boost, it also played a huge part in shaping who we are today.
Telford designed and built all types of infrastructure; from churches to castles, canals to harbours, tunnels to bridges. He was also given the nickname ‘the Colossus of Roads’ because his designs were used to construct all major British highways (during his lifetime he built over 1,000 miles of roads).
Using his political and social connections, Telford helped to bring in many new members, from the UK and overseas. But his most important role was getting ICE's Royal Charter in 1828. Our charter (updated by Queen Elizabeth II in 1975), gives us our status as the leading institution for the civil engineering profession.
Since our small beginnings, ICE has become home to many of history's greatest engineers as past presidents and members, and almost 200 years later, we have over 80,000 members around the world.
ICE archives contain records relating to the ICE from its formation to the present including details of all past members. Our archives also include records relating to famous engineers from the past, including James Brindley, John Smeaton, Thomas Telford, the Rennies, as well as world famous structures such as Brunel's Thames Tunnel or the Panama Canal.
Access to the archives
Provided you arrange an appointment beforehand, our archives are open to the public. If you're interested in visiting, then please contact our Archivist, Carol Morgan:
t: +44 (0)207 665 2043
The archives are open between 9:30am and 4:30pm Monday to Friday
Download a copy of our Guide to the Archives