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Smeatonian Society of Civil Engineers
Founder John Smeaton
Type Civil engineering
Founded 1771
Headquarters London
Members 62

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 in the world.



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 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.[1]

When the Society was founded its title was the "Society of Civil Engineers". When William Mylne 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.[2]

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 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. Since 1975 the Society has often met at the headquarters of the Institution of Civil Engineers.[1]

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".


  1. ^ a b Roberts, Gwilym (1995). From Kendal's Coffee House to Great George Street. Thomas Telford. pp. p. 1. ISBN 0727720228.  
  2. ^ Watson, Garth (1989). The Smeatonians: The Society of Civil Engineers. Thomas Telford. ISBN 0727715267.  


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