James Sutherland History Lecture

Watch a recording of the lecture via this link

The James Sutherland History Lecture takes place at the beginning of each year at the Institutions' headquarters in London. It covers historical topics related to structural engineering.


In 1972, James Sutherland set up a study group called 'Archaeology of Structures'. In 1973, the group was reformed under the title 'History of Structural Engineering'. The History of Structural Engineering Study Group organised its first annual lecture (then known as the Star History Lecture) in 1989 and this was delivered by Dr. Euan Corbett on 'The rise and fall of iron ship construction'.

In 1992, James Sutherland retired as Convenor of the Group. As an enduring mark of appreciation, the annual lecture was retitled the Sutherland History Lecture. James himself delivered the first lecture under its new title in 1994.

The 2017 lecture: A Decade in the Life of the Clifton Suspension Bridge​

The Clifton Suspension Bridge is an enduring icon to lovers of bridges and the City of Bristol alike.  Yet this wonderful structure continually sets engineering challenges that must be addressed in a sympathetic and understanding manner, if it is to be preserved in perpetuity.  The 2017 Sutherland Lecture will present a review of the Bridge over the past decade. 
Since 2006, Flint & Neill (and their sub-consultant, Geo-Design) have acted as Engineer to the Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust.  The lecture will explain how the initial focus on maintenance activities was redressed by the failure of a single component in 2009, leading to a holistic review of risk and the re-development of maintenance strategies.  Aspects such as articulation, aerodynamic stability, corrosion, knowledge management and emergency response will be discussed.
Despite the apparent stability of the bridge foundations and of the high rock slopes that support them there is a long history of rock fall and deeper seated instability in the Clifton Gorge slopes. The strength and stability reserve of the abutments and of the chain anchorages has thus been a particular area of concern.  A study commenced in 2007 with a ground investigation campaign and development of a geological model for each tower foundation area, followed by an extensive 'cutting-edge' numerical assessment.  A better understanding of the ground and its interaction with the Bridge foundations has developed and this will be presented.  It will explain how the investigation has evolved to understand the risks initially perceived, as far as is possible in the context of geological uncertainty and current methods of analysis.


Flint & Neill Limited
A S Mulcahy BSc CEng MICE
Flint & Neill Limited
R A N Mackean BSc MSc CGeol CEng FGS MIMMM

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