A sense of history

24 July 2012

In this month more than any other, the history of the IET has been brought home to me more than at any other time as IET president, says Dr Mike Short.

I had the privilege of being asked to mark 140 years of IET history at my inauguration last year as IET president, but little prepares you for the wealth of experience and history of engineering that is the IET and all its antecedents.

I did highlight the relevance of IET member Sir Isaac Shoenberg and his contribution to the 1948 Olympics with his Emitron cameras and the first showing of the Olympics on public service television. I also highlighted then the importance of the new Science Museum gallery to open in 2013, which the IET will assist with digital memories.

Little did I know of the depth of the IET library collection and some of its rare artefacts; until I prepared to chair the IET/BCS Turing lectures to mark 100 years since Turing’s birth, nor did I realise how significant were his major contributions to computing, cryptology and artificial intelligence. I have also been involved in the digitisation of the BT archives which will open next year and then offer wider access to key cultural and telecommunications landmarks over the last 130 years of so. More recently, with the support of IET staff, we have announced (and sold out within 48 hours) the IET event in September marking 175 years of telecommunications. Heritage and engineering are alive and well within the IET, and so many lessons can be taken from this experience and history.

There are now 10,826 members with 50 years or more of IET membership. With 953 members reaching 50 years of membership I have had a lot of letters to sign to thank them for their loyalty and contributions.

This is also the first time we have exceeded 10,000 members with this senior status, making every signature worthwhile. This does incorporate our valued members who joined the IEE when it merged with the Institution of Electronic and Radio Engineers (IERE)in 1988 and the Institution of Manufacturing Engineers (IMfgE), formerly the Institution of Production Engineers (IProdE), which merged with the IEE in 1991; or the Institution of Incorporated Engineers (IIE) which merged with the IEE to form the IET in March 2006. The IET remains all the better because of these foundations and rich experience.

Finally, on 6 July I had the honour of hosting 22 past presidents. The experience in the room could be seen by even a passing visitor. For me it was a special occasion to see old friends, share memories of the IET and its predecessors, solve problems and discuss opportunities; but most of all, to discuss how to enhance the reputation of engineering. All were willing volunteers and all held a passion for what innovation and engineering will bring. I do hope this tradition continues and we stand together for engineering. As is often said, we are standing on the shoulders of giants.

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