Happy birthday, The Engineer

If every anniversary is worth celebrating, some deserve the status of a truly special occasion. We trust you will agree that 150 years is very special indeed, and in that spirit hope you enjoy the souvenir edition of The Engineer that accompanies this issue.The advances in engineering during that century and a half are staggering. […]

If every anniversary is worth celebrating, some deserve the status of a truly special occasion. We trust you will agree that 150 years is very special indeed, and in that spirit hope you enjoy the souvenir edition of The Engineer that accompanies this issue.

The advances in engineering during that century and a half are staggering. When the first edition of The Engineer appeared in 1856, many of the developments that we take so much for granted today were yet to come.

The automobile, the aircraft, the telephone, television and the computer were all in the future. Today we invite you to share in some of that history as seen through the eyes of The Engineer at the time. We have reproduced and placed on the internet a selection of ‘classic’ articles, ranging from the very first issue of the magazine to the space age. Visit www.theengineer.co.uk/150years to find out more.

First and foremost, we are pleased to share these with the current readers of The Engineer. You are the most important element of the magazine’s continuing history, for without readers a publication is nothing more than a private indulgence.

Yet it is to be hoped that a wider audience will also take an interest in these unique historical archives. When The Engineer described the first television pictures, or Edison’s light or the Spitfire engine that would help win the war, it was recording the history not just of engineering and technology, but of the UK and world.

We are frequently told that engineers are less valued than they once were, that they provide few role models and that their work fails to inspire the population at large. Hopefully, access to The Engineer’s accounts of the genesis of some of the technical wonders of the age will go some way to redressing this.

Inspiration, in particular, is in plentiful supply from the journal’s earliest days. Even in 1856 there was a palpable sense of excitement in the pages of The Engineer about the possibilities that lay ahead.

In its opening message to its readers, the new publication described the importance of what it described as the ‘industrial sciences’ to the advance of civilisation and civilised values.

The Engineer identified ‘the science of the application of science’ as the root of progress. It pointed out that without this application the principles of physics would remain only ‘beautiful theories’. It is the application of science that has ‘rendered them available to the purposes of life’.

After a century and a half it is difficult to conceive of a more worthy and inspiring definition of engineering than ‘the science of the application of science’.

All those involved in that application in 2006 can share pride in the huge achievements of the past and look forward to a future of enormous possibilities.

Andrew Lee, editor