History of Structural Engineering

History of Structural Engineering

Date published

The History of Structural Engineering Group welcomes all who are interested in structural engineering and its history.

About us

The History of Structural Engineering Group, also known as the History Study Group, has been active since 1973.
You do not need to be a member of the Institution or an engineer to join the Group which includes historians, architects, and other professionals: all members are encouraged to share their knowledge and experience. 

Five reasons to study engineering history

  1. It is interesting and gives structural engineering a cultural context
  2. It underpins our understanding of existing structures
  3. It is of increasing importance as we re-use and upgrade existing structures to maximise the value of their embodied energy
  4. It provides an opportunity to explore engineering beyond the limitations of codes of practice
  5. It gives practising engineers and students a perspective on their studies, principles, and practices


Our regular meetings at the Institution’s headquarters consist of a 45-minute talk, followed by an open discussion. Our meetings are held either online or in-person, depending on the speaker’s preference. The Group has also arranged conferences, symposia and study trips within the UK and in Europe. We also organise The James Sutherland History Lecture (formerly Star History Lecture) series.

Get involved

Contact the Group if you would like to know more or get involved.

Contact the group

HSG's 50th anniversary autumn lecture series

What is Engineering History? What is it for?

Date: 12 September
Location: London or online

Dr. David Yeomans' lecture will place engineering history in the context of other aspects of history and discuss the importance of history for engineers. 

From decline to delight - A practical guide to reusing buildings

Date: 26 September
Location: London or online

Margaret Cooke will explore the considerations, challenges, and opportunities in re-purposing existing buildings.

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Listening to workers: oral histories of post-war construction

Date: 10 October
Location: London or online

Prof. Christine Wall will show how oral history enhances and expands historical accounts of the construction process and working life on building sites.

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That little old echo: acoustics and designing for musical tone

Date: 24 October
Location: London or online

Prof. Fiona Smyth's lecture will cover the history of experiments in how scale, structure, and material were used to shape acoustic environments.

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Building the canal age

Date: 7 November
Location: London or online

Mike Chrimes will discuss the materials, logistics, design and construction of the canals, the scale of the contracting enterprises they required, and the engineering understanding they built up; preparing civil engineering for the challenge of the railway age.

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Understanding masonry bridges: a historical perspective

Date: 21 November
Location: London or online

“As hangs the chain”: 350 years after Robert Hooke, Hamish Harvey will review why masonry bridges are still an 'unsolved problem’?

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Craftsmen and the building revolution of the seventeenth century

Date: 5 December
Location: London or online

Steven Brindle will argue that, in the seventeenth century, construction in the British Isles was modernised by craftspeople and their clients, not by professionals who as yet hardly existed.  The accepted art-historical discussion of famous architects entirely misses this perspective.

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Watch recent James Sutherland History Lectures on the Institution’s YouTube channel
Download the list of James Sutherland History Lectures
Download the list of History Study Group past activities
Download the Jacques Heyman technical autobiography


Explore our training, events and resources to support you throughout your career and membership journey.