17 May 2011
Europe’s largest professional engineers’ body, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), based in Stevenage, is celebrating its 140th anniversary.
The IET started life as the Society of Telegraph Engineers on 17 May 1871 at a meeting held in London attended by eight people.
Today, the IET has over 150,000 members in 127 countries around the world, and provides a professional home for life for its members, supporting them throughout their careers.
The IET employs 430 staff at its headquarters at Michael Faraday House, which opened in 1991. To mark the anniversary, IET Chief Executive, Nigel Fine has today (17 May) cut a special cake – 140 years to the day that the organisation came into existence.
Nigel said: “It’s a big day for the IET as we celebrate our 140th anniversary. We have marked the occasion by cutting a special cake and more events will take place during our anniversary year.
“The IET has constantly evolved over the years to reflect the changing needs of the engineering community and the wider world while providing our members with a professional home for life.
“We have had strong connections with the local area for over 40 years when we opened offices in Hitchin and Stevenage. We moved to Michael Faraday House in 1991, which now houses the majority of our 500 staff. We look forward to continued success in the local area.”
Cake cutting ceremonies also took place in the IET’s offices in London, Birmingham, Glasgow, Beijing, Hong Kong and Bangalore. A series of events are planned over the coming months to mark the IET’s 140th anniversary.
Electric telegraphy reached commercial success in 19th century Britain when it was applied to the railways by Sir William Fothergill Cooke and Charles Wheatstone. By 1870 over 2,000 men and 500 women were employed by the telegraph companies in the UK, mainly as telegraph operators.
There were opportunities for many to become engineers. Telegraph engineers needed to know about electricity, setting them apart from the civil or the mechanical engineer, and by 1870 many felt that their profession had attained such a standing that it deserved its own society.
The Society of Telegraph Engineers came into existence on 17 May 1871 at a meeting held at 2 Westminster Chambers, Victoria Street, London. Its remit was for the general advancement of Electrical and Telegraphic Science, and more particularly for facilitating the exchange of information and ideas among its members. Eight people attended the meeting.
The first President of the Society was Charles William Siemens, and early members of the Society included Sir William Thomson, Baron Kelvin of Largs, and Sir Charles Wheatstone, all prominent electrical engineers.
The Society changed its name in 1889 to the Institution of Electrical Engineers and became the Institution of Engineering and Technology in 2006.
Prior to being headquartered at Michael Faraday House, the IET had occupied offices in Southgate House, St George's Way, Stevenage since 1967 and Station House, Hitchin, since 1968.
As well as its Stevenage base, the IET has offices in London, Birmingham, Glasgow, New Jersey, Beijing, Hong Kong and Bangalore.