Smeaton Lecture: The British civil engineers who created the world’s infrastructure

This year’s Smeaton Lecture is to be held virtually and will see leading expert and author Hugh Ferguson detail the history of British consulting engineers and their role in global development.

This year’s Smeaton Lecture tells the story of British consulting engineers through the ages.
This year’s Smeaton Lecture tells the story of British consulting engineers through the ages.

Registration is now open for July’s Smeaton Lecture, which will tell the extraordinary story of British consulting engineers and how they built the industrial world.

The latest in the ICE Prestige Lecture series will take place virtually on 21 July and covers the full history of British consulting engineers, from early beginnings through to the establishment of the profession in the 18th century, the Railway Age of the 1800s, their post-World War Two international boom and the recent commercialisation and consolidation of the industry.

The lecture will also examine how these engineers created much of the global infrastructure used during the 19th century before doing so again, for the developing world, during the post-war years. This will be followed by a 30-minute panel discussion around what lessons have been learned from the past and how they could be used to shape the future of civil engineering.

Detailing a remarkable story, peppered with great successes and spectacular failures, is leading author and industry expert Hugh Ferguson BSc(Eng) CEng FICE MCIHT, who was previously Editor-in-Chief of New Civil Engineer, Managing Director of Thomas Telford Ltd and ICE’s Deputy Director General.

He now writes regularly for various engineering publications and his books include Constructionarium (2016), Engineers (co-author, 2012 and 2017) and the trilogy (with Mike Chrimes) of The Civil Engineers (2011), The Contractors (2014) and The Consulting Engineers (2020), which this lecture is based on.

The always-popular Smeaton Lecture covers the history and development of civil engineering. Running since 1891, it is named after John Smeaton FRS, the founding father of British civil engineering and whose professional standards provided a model of excellence for all following civil engineers.

Taking place on 21 July between 18:45 and 20:00 BST, this is a free event open to ICE members and their guests.

Register for the lecture