Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer

I found this card years ago in an old book I picked up.

A uniquely Canadian tradition, the Ritual dates back to 1922 and continues to this day.  As mentioned on the card, Rudyard Kipling's assistance was sought in designing the Ritual, which was intended to foster a strong sense of professional responsibility among newly minted engineers.  The Corporation of the Seven Wardens was created subsequent to two disasters when the Quebec Bridge was being constructed, first in 1907 and then in 1916 when it was being rebuilt.  The disasters, both the result of engineering errors and incompetence, cumulatively took 89 lives.  The iron ring awarded during the ritual is supposedly made from steel scrap obtained from these ruined bridges.  (The bridge was finally completed, and its centre span of 549 metres (1800 ft) makes it the longest cantilevered bridge span in the world and is considered a major engineering feat.  It was declared a National Historic Site in Canada in 1995.)

Sadly, the lesson is not learned by all.  As Eric Hudson points out his article in the The Sheaf:

In Quebec of late, the iron ring can be spotted on the fingers of engineers as they publicly admit to participating in networks of corruption and collusion within the province’s construction industry, much to the chagrin of many who know the significance and meaning of the ring.

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