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This lecture series, previously named the Star History series, derives from an initiative by Keith White when he was President. He felt that at least some of the activities of the Institution’s History Study Group should reach an audience wider than the Group’s membership. It is perhaps even more appropriate this year to remember who suggested the Study Group. This was Dr George Geddes when he was President in 1971-2. Sadly, George Geddes died last November. Although the History Study Group may seem a small item among his many considerable achievements, I think it is fitting to remember him this evening. Effectively, this lecture series is his ‘grandchild'.
Dr J. G. M. Wood (F)
You gave a beautiful example in your reference to the Royal Commission into the failure of a mill building. Students nowadays do not have the benefit of a Royal Commission on the failure of the Milford Haven Bridge; they do have the Australian Royal Commission on the failure of the Yarra Bridge. Do we analyse and recall our failures in public sufficiently well? My view is that, in this country, we grossly fail in this, and there is a classic paper by Alastair Walker, I think written for this Institution, about lessons from failures of Victorian structures, which he used to illustrate what was going wrong in the area of box girders. He could not mention modern steel bridges - someone might have sued him! - but history enabled him to draw the lessons from the past without pointing the finger. The key question is this: do we, as an Institution or a society, properly wash our linen in public so that it is on the record? The Milford Haven collapse is not on the record.