My colleague, ICE archivist Carol Morgan, and her opposite members at the Institution of Engineering and Technology and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) are collaborating on an exhibition due to open at One Great George Street on 11 October.
The exhibition's theme is essentially the commonality of experience of the largest British engineering institutions since their 19 th century foundations.
It is generally known that the majority of the ICE's founder members would now be considered mechanical engineers, and that throughout the 19 th century the ICE represented all engineering disciplines.
The establishment of the IMechE in the West Midlands in 1846?7 and the Society of Telegraph Engineers in 1871 was a major development in the fragmentation of the engineering profession.
The establishment of the IMechE has been associated, with little evidence, with the ICE spurning George Stephenson as a member. It had much more to do with the development of professional solidarity of mechanical engineers in the Midlands and North West.
Rather than exploring the reasons for the 'fragmentation' of the engineering institutions, the exhibition illustrates common themes and experiences in their foundations, similarity of learned society objectives, development of regional meetings and organisations, joint meetings and events and membership overseas.
The careers of WG Armstrong, CA Parsons, REB Crompton, and the Siemens family are displayed as examples of engineers who played leading roles in more than one institution or profession.
Nineteenth-century water supply schemes often featured pumping stations that were cathedrals of mechanical engineering, such as that at Birmingham. While civil engineers in India developed irrigation, railways and water supply, mechanical engineers supplied the pumps and locomotives, and electrical engineers the telegraphic communications.
An engineer like REB Crompton (1845?1940) developed steam road haulage in India and pioneered electric lighting, as well as playing a key role in the establishment of BSI, itself an ICE committee.
The Siemens family were international industrialists, engaged in the steel and electrical engineering industries.
William Siemens, president of the IMechE and the Society of Telegraph Engineers, was vicepresident of ICE at the time of his death.
Robert Stephenson, president of the ICE and IMechE, began his independent career in South America, a continent where British engineers, such as CB Vignoles, designed railways such as the Bahia line. Telegraph engineers, such as Sir Charles Bright, another ICE member, laid transatlantic cables.
The exhibition demonstrates the interconnectivity of the engineering disciplines, even at a time when new specialisms were forming. At a time when the ICE and IMechE councils are discuss ing further means of collaborative working the exhibition provides a timely reminder of how of our much engineering heritage is shared.