Smeatonian Society of Civil Engineers
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, in 1771, when a number 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
John Smeaton
John Smeaton, FRS, was an English civil engineer responsible for the design of bridges, canals, harbours and lighthouses. He was also a capable mechanical engineer and an eminent physicist...

 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.

When the Society was founded its title was the "Society of Civil Engineers". When William Mylne
William Chadwell Mylne
William Chadwell Mylne, FRS was a British engineer and architect.He was descended from a Scottish family of masons and architects, and was the second son of Robert Mylne , surveyor to the New River Company, and builder of the first Blackfriars Bridge in London.Initially, William's elder brother...

 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.

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
Institution of Civil Engineers
Founded on 2 January 1818, the Institution of Civil Engineers is an independent professional association, based in central London, representing civil engineering. Like its early membership, the majority of its current members are British engineers, but it also has members in more than 150...

 was formed in 1818.

Present day

The Society continues to this day, mainly as a dining club of around 50 senior engineers and twelve "Gentlemen Members" which includes HRH The Duke of Edinburgh
Duke of Edinburgh
The Duke of Edinburgh is a British royal title, named after the city of Edinburgh, Scotland, which has been conferred upon members of the British royal family only four times times since its creation in 1726...

. Since 1975 the Society has often met at the headquarters of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

Membership classes

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".
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