Smeatonian Society of Civil Engineers

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Smeatonian Society of Civil Engineers
Predecessor The Society of Civil Engineers
Established 1771
Founder John Smeaton, Robert Mylne and five others
Type Civil engineering professional association
Headquarters London
Membership approx 75
Key people
  • Alec Broers, President
  • Chris Price, Honorary Treasurer
Slogan Omnia in Numero Pondere et Mensura ("All by number, weight and measure")

The Smeatonian Society of Civil Engineers was founded in 1771, and was originally known as the Society of Civil Engineers, being renamed following its founder's death. It was the first engineering society to be formed anywhere in the world, and remains the oldest.


The first known formal meeting of civil engineers in Britain took place at the King's Head tavern in Holborn, London, on 15 March 1771, when seven of the leading engineers of the time agreed to establish a Society of Civil Engineers. The leading light of the new Society was John Smeaton who was the first engineer to describe himself as a "Civil Engineer", having coined the term to distinguish himself from the military engineers graduating from the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich.[1] The other founding members were Thomas Yeoman, Robert Mylne, Joseph Nickalls, John Grundy, John Thompson and J. King. In the first year they were joined by John Golborne, William Black, Robert Whitworth and Hugh Henshall and these eleven were known as the Original Members.

When the Society was founded its title was the "Society of Civil Engineers". When William Mylne started a new Minute Book in 1822 he used the heading "Engineers' Society" in the reports of each session until 1869, when he changed it to "Smeatonian Society". The Rules and Regulations issued in 1830 bore the title "Smeatonian Society of Civil Engineers" for the first time, which has been its title ever since.[2]

Eventually the Smeatonian Society of Civil Engineers became more of a dining club and a group of younger engineers began to demand a better grouping to aid their profession and the Institution of Civil Engineers was formed in 1818.

Present day[edit]

The Society continues to this day, mainly as a dining and discussion club of around 50 senior engineers, twelve "Members Emeritus" and around twelve Honorary Members which includes HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, who served as President in 1971. Since 1975 the Society has often met at the headquarters of the Institution of Civil Engineers.[1]

Membership classes[edit]

There were originally three classes of membership:

  • Real Engineers actually employed as such
  • "Men of science and gentlemen of rank and fortune who have applied their minds to ... Civil Engineering".
  • "Various artists whose professions and employments are necessary and useful to ... Civil Engineering".


The following is a list of presidents of the Society from its inception. Honorary Members are shown in italics. In 1793 the Society was reconstituted without a President. The post was reintroduced as an annually elected position in 1841:[2]


  1. ^ a b Roberts, Gwilym (1995). From Kendal's Coffee House to Great George Street. Thomas Telford. p. 1. ISBN 0-7277-2022-8. 
  2. ^ a b Watson, Garth (1989). The Smeatonians: The Society of Civil Engineers. Thomas Telford. ISBN 0-7277-1526-7.