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ALUMINIUM owes its early development as a structural material to the aircraft industry, a field in which the low density of the material is a factor of paramount importance, outweighing its high initial cost. Its applications in other branches of
structural engineering (specialist or experimental at first) began only about twenty five years ago, and progress was slow until the end of the last war when appreciation of the results of wartime research and development and the influence of the post-war shortage of steel led to a new interest in aluminium. During the last ten years an increasing number of light alloy structures have been built and while aluminium has been found to be a true economic solution in several specialist cases, it has been used as an interesting and novel solution in others. Research andevelopment have continued, and today aluminium alloys are available with properties appropriate to structural uses and are obtained in a wide range of sections, plates, sheets, etc.
Within the preceding pages we have traced the history of the Institution from its beginning as the Concrete Institute to the present day. We have shown how the membership of the Institution has grown from a small body of men to one of over eight thousand engineers drawn from all quarters of the globe, how its activities have expanded from the relatively restricted field of concrete to cover all types of structures in all the materials of construction and how, step by step, national and international recognition has been given to the exclusive title of “ Chartered Structural Engineer ” which our Members and Associate-Members are proud to bear.
FIFTY YEARS AGO the structural use of timber was entirely governed by the known properties of the raw material in its natural state. These properties had become known by trial and error and in consequence were defined by limitations rather than potentialities. The natural limitations on available dimensions, weakness in shear, inability to make a good tension joint or to maintain continuity around bends or at the ends of pieces, no effective control over moisture movement, no systematic evaluation of strength, no constructive knowledge of pathology and treatment, no apparent escape from unidirectional stress distribution : all factors which operated in the development of empirical techniques and the establishment of a fairly rigid code
of traditional practice.