Address given at A Service of Thanksgiving to celebrate The Year of Engineering 2018

“Everything not invented by God was invented by an engineer”

Professor Dame Ann Dowling OM DBE FREng FRS President of the Royal Academy of Engineering

Thursday, 22nd November 2018 at 12.00 PM

"Everything not invented by God was invented by an engineer"

These were the memorable words of His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, Senior Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, when asked to describe our profession.

Engineers throughout history have shaped our landscape, improved our lives and made the world a better place for humans to inhabit.

In this Abbey are buried some of our greatest engineers. Robert Stephenson, creator of The Rocket steam engine, and Thomas Telford, the colossus of roads, who built iconic structures such as the Menai Bridge in Anglesey. In 1820, Telford was elected the first President of the Institution of Civil Engineers, which celebrates its bicentenary this year.

Another memorial stone here commemorates the life of Air Commodore Sir Frank Whittle, inventor of the jet engine. His genius transformed aviation history and the Royal Air Force and it is fitting that we should remember him here in the RAF's centenary year. At this anniversary time, we must also pay tribute to the many engineers who served in the First World War and to those who work around the world to aid our servicemen and women and support and protect communities ravaged by conflict.

This is an occasion to celebrate the work of engineers who shape our world and provide us with shelter, warmth and water. From farming and sanitation to clean energy and healthcare, engineering transforms our lives for the better. Through transport systems and communication technologies, engineers connect us to our sisters and brothers in every corner of the globe. Medical advances such as ultrasound imaging, advanced prosthetics, and robotic surgery have all been made possible through the work of engineers. Few professions have such a direct and positive impact on the world around us and the people in it. 

Engineering expertise will be key to tackling the global challenges we face in the years to come. Engineers will play a central role in addressing the effects of climate change and rising sea levels. They will help to ensure that our growing population will have access to food, water, clean energy and affordable healthcare.

We hope future generations may be inspired to shape their world, to discover new ways to improve lives in the future and to help meet the needs of the twenty first century and beyond.

In 2018, the Year of Engineering, the profession has worked together with government and industry to inspire the next generation to become the engineers to solve these challenges. Through this unprecedented collaboration, we have reached more young people than ever before. By aligning our efforts, we have seen measurable improvements in public perceptions of engineering, especially among young people.

We thank the government for providing this impetus and creating the Year of Engineering. We must continue to work together to ensure that young people from all walks of life have the opportunity to consider a career in engineering, so that the diversity of our profession properly reflects the society it serves. Our collaboration should also extend to other areas of our work; it is together that we can best increase the visibility and impact of our profession.

As His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh highlighted, engineers play a remarkable role in creating and shaping the world around us. We must now work together to create and shape the future of our profession, placing engineering at the heart of a sustainable and prosperous society, improving lives and opportunities for all.