Lobbying and disciplinary infighting – learned societies of old

Learned societies and professional organisations have some very interesting histories written up on their websites – and sometimes these can be quite insightful (as well as providing me with something to chuckle at).

Tonight I have been reading about the history of the ‘Institution of Structural Engineers‘, set up in 1897 as ‘The Concrete Institute’. And I’ve found two quotes in the official history they publish online that I want to share, as they touch on interesting issues I’ve been thinking about.

Disciplinary infighting

Sir Henry Tanner in his presidential address made the first proposal for the Institute to broaden its scope and become the Institution of Structural Engineers but through its editorial Concrete and Constructional Engineering responded by stating it regarded the term “structural engineer” as one which described steel contractors and failed civil engineers

There is no obvious citation, so I’ve not (yet) checked the veracity of this apparent retort from the journal – but I find it interesting to see some suggestion that even back in the early 20th century there was disagreement over disciplinary boundaries and what was/wasn’t an ‘acceptable’ discipline.

Lobbying

There is a lot I want to consider about modern learned societies/professional organisations and their role in lobbying – but there is much in the research literature that discusses their role in finding public funding in the 19th/20th centuries. However, this quote from the Institute of Structural Engineers is the first I’ve come across which boasts of pushing for specific laws/regulations. While, again, I’ve not (yet) checked any original resources, at present the Institution publishes this on their website:

On 22nd February 1909, the Institute was incorporated under The Companies Act (1862-1907) and much of the time and energy of the new body was spent on ensuring reinforced concrete was accepted by the London County Council Regulations and the London Building Acts.

.

I mean, I’m sure the ‘Concrete Institute’ would have no vested interest in making sure concrete was accepted by Council Regulations and Building Acts, and that it was specifically done for ‘the good of all of London’.

Right…?

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