My interest in engineering history started when I was first exposed to Britain’s canals in the late 1940s. It was heightened by getting to know Skem (the late
Professor Sir Alec Skempton) 10 years later and being drawn by him, at first reluctantly, into the Newcomen Society. ‘But they are only interested in steam engines’ I protested. He snapped back ‘If people like you don’t join they will go on only being interested in steam engines’. Skem could be quite fierce. I joined and found a nucleus of members, led by him and Dr. S. B. Hamilton, who were fascinated by the history of civil and structural engineering.
Until Lawrance Hurst asked me to give a talk on my life as a consulting engineer I had not really thought of it as history. I demurred but finally agreed to discuss practice and research in the ‘sixties’, that is from 1955 to 1975, albeit from a very personal angle. That period was just far enough away to seem like history and in many ways it was more interesting than the years, which followed.
R. J. M. Sutherland, FREng, BA, FICE, FIStructE