Engineers honoured at Westminster Abbey thanksgiving service

In the first event of its kind, representatives from across the engineering community gathered at Westminster Abbey yesterday (Thursday 22nd Nov) to celebrate the vast contribution that engineers make to society.

Westminster Abbey thanksgiving service
Royal Academy of Engineering President Prof Dame Anne Dowling delivers the main address

The multi-faith service, which was timed to celebrate both the government’s Year of Engineering and the bicentenary of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), included personal testimonies from engineering ambassador Roma Agrawal MBE, Associate Director at AECOM and famed for her work on The Shard, and Colonel Deborah Porter, Deputy Commander of the Defence Medical Group, on how engineering has changed their lives and enabled them to help and inspire others through their work.

Colonel Porter detailed how injured soldiers are benefitting from the astonishing engineering advances being made in prosthetic technology. In what must surely be a first for the Abbey, she even discussed the emerging field of osseointegration – in which prosthetic devices are connected directly to a patient’s bone.

Westminster Abbey thanksgiving service

The opening address was delivered by Professor Dame Ann Dowling, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering. She began by quoting The Duke of Edinburgh who, when asked to describe the profession, once said: “Everything not invented by God was invented by an engineer.” Dowling went on to celebrate some of the great British engineers of the past, including Thomas Telford and Robert Stephenson, who are buried at the abbey, and Sir Frank Whittle, whose achievements are celebrated on a memorial stone within the abbey.

Westminster Abbey thanksgiving service
Laing O’Rourke engineer Yewande Akinola reads the poem “What is an Engineer?”

Looking to the future, Dowling said: “Engineering expertise will be key to tackling the global challenges we face in the years to come. Engineers will play a central role in addressing the effects of climate change and rising sea levels. They will help to ensure that our growing population will have access to food, water, clean energy and affordable healthcare.

Commenting on the service Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling said: “In a year which has seen government and industry join forces to raise the bar for inspiring the next generation of engineers, what could be more fitting than to come together to celebrate the contribution that engineers have made and will continue to make to all of our lives.”