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Learning from Telford

Viewpoint - ICE president Quentin Leiper looks ahead to the Telford 250 celebrations.

This year marks the 250 anniversary of the birth of Thomas Telford, one of the greatest engineers of all time. As ICE President in office during most of 2007, I'm delighted to be supporting many of the events planned in honour of the great man's work.

Thomas Telford was born on 9 August 1757. He was ICE's first President and his leadership enabled the Institution to be awarded Royal Charter status in 1828. During his career, Telford dominated civil engineering in the British Isles, having worked on nearly 60 major projects - a feat worth celebrating this year.

Telford also developed a plan to improve communications in Scotland. That included building the Caledonian Canal, 920 miles of roads, over 1,000 bridges and significant harbour improvements.

Major Telford exhibitions and conferences are planned at the Guildhall in London and at venues across the country in 2007 and a whole range of lectures, seminars and receptions will also take place.

I will be presenting my Spirit of Telford Awards across ICE regions to those engineers who have shown outstanding commitment in achieving excellence in similar ways to Telford.

All ICE members are eligible to nominate award winners, so I encourage you to get involved.

More information can be found here at: www. ice. org. uk/about_ ice/aboutice_awards. asp I believe that if we show young students how exciting engineering is, we can develop the Telford's of the future. With this mind, I'm delighted that ICE is producing educational material for schools linking in with Telford 250 celebrations. Schoolchildren will face the challenge of designing a sports ground for their school, with engineers mentoring their progress and inspring them just as Telford used to do.

My 13 President's Apprentices, will shadow me as I promote Telford's work and the importance of the profi le of the engineer in today's business environment. I've already set them six tasks and you can find details of the apprentices and their activities on the apprentices' page on the website at: www. ice. org. uk/about_ice/ aboutice_apprentice. asp Telford commemorative plaques will be unveiled at Montford Bridge in the West Midlands and St Mary Magdalen Church in Bridgnorth on 9 August - two projects Telford worked on during his career.

I often think about how Telford could solve today's engineering issues, and I feel that his vision is still immensely relevant. He was an engineer with the foresight to design at the time the longest span, the Runcorn Bridge, which was 1000ft in length. In his initial career as a stone mason, Telford was willing to work with materials in a new way. Today, such an open minded approach, could help engineers tackle climate change by employing radical and open-minded techniques.

I hope that many of you will be able to attend events or at least reflect on Thomas Telford's success during 2007.

Telford was a true engineering legend who we should all be proud to be associated with.

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