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History of the Academy

Early Days

On 11 June 1976 at Buckingham Palace 126 of Britain's leading engineers gathered for the inaugural meeting of what was then The Fellowship of Engineering. For Prince Philip, who hosted the meeting as Senior Fellow of the new body, it was the culmination of years of effort during which he was the most prominent advocate of what was to become The Fellowship. The result was the establishment of a body of the most distinguished British engineers drawn from all branches of the profession, to recognise the contribution of engineers to society and to provide expertise and advice on engineering-related matters. Since then The Royal Academy of Engineering, as it became in 1992, has played an increasingly important role in policy advice to government and other bodies. Its promotion of best engineering practice through reports and educational programmes has also proved to be a catalyst of change within British engineering.

Prince Philip had previously become the founder President of the Council of Engineering Institutions (CEI), a body set up in 1965 by the major engineering institutions to promote the interests of the profession. This provided a focal point where the profession as a whole could debate matters of common concern, including the need for the formation of an elite body. Progress, however, was slowed by the lack of priority given to this initiative and uncertainty over the form the body should take. It was only in January 1976, thanks not least to steady pressure from Prince Philip and others, that this issue was resolved.

Picture of founder fellows at Buckingham Palace on 11 June 1976, at the inaugural meeting of The Fellowship of Engineering

Picture: Founder Fellows at Buckingham Palace on 11 June 1976, at the inaugural meeting of The Fellowship of Engineering.

The Fellowship, once established, set up permanent membership arrangements. The founding Fellows had either been nominated by the chartered engineering institutions or had come from the engineers in the Royal Society. The Fellowship now established nomination procedures, with proposals to be scrutinised by four disciplinary groups representing mechanical, civil, electrical and process engineering, whilst a ceiling of 1,000 Fellows, revised to 1,500 in 1994, was set. A maximum of 60 Fellows was to be elected annually.


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