The IET (Institution of Engineering and Technology)
Many IEEE members and others interested in the engineering professions will be aware of the recent merger, in the United Kingdom, of the Institute of Electrical Engineers (IEE) with the Institution of Incorporated Engineers (IIE) to form the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). Interestingly, the IIE traces its history back to 1884 — the same year as the founding of IEEE — with the formation of something called the Vulcanic Society. A series of earlier mergers over time insures that — with the addition of the IEE — the new organization represents the full breadth of engineering in the U.K.
However, it is the loss of the IEE brand that is perhaps of greatest interest to IEEE members. For one thing, we will no longer be confused with our European cousin. Our joy is tempered, however, by the realization that this represents the passing of an era in our profession. Although it is one of the roles of the IEEE History Center to preserve the institutional history of the IEEE's predecessor societies (www.ieee.org/web/aboutus/history_center/history_of_ieee.html), few members of the general public recall the AIEE or IRE. In case this fate awaits IEE as well, now is a good time to remind readers of Today's Engineer of the origins of IEE.
In the U.K., the Institution of Civil Engineers was founded in 1818 and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1847. By 1870, however, technical employees of the rapidly expanding British telegraph companies felt that their profession — owing to their knowledge of electricity — was not served by these other learned societies. So in 1871, Major Frank Bolton, Charles William Siemens and other notable "electricians" formed the Society of Telegraph Engineers (STE).
The early focus of the Society was on telegraphy. However, this was a time of a great expansion of the use of electricity — particularly into lighting and traction — and other practitioners applied for membership. It was decided to broaden the scope of the Society to specifically include electrical science, since this was a concern of every telegraph engineer and was not already represented by other organizations. This led to further growth of the Society, and in 1880 it was renamed The Society of Telegraph Engineers and of Electricians. The profession and technology of electricity continued to evolve, in step with this organization that continued to grow in membership, prominence and importance.
Finally, in 1887 — during this very month (10 November, to be precise) — the name was changed again, to the Institution of Electrical Engineers. This is the name that persisted for 118 years. Over time, the IEE merged with The Institution of Electronic and Radio Engineers (IERE) and the Institution of Production Engineers (IProdE, later the IMfgE), analogous to AIEE's merger with the IRE to form IEEE, but it is only with the latest merger with IIE that IEE finally gave up its venerable identity.
For more information on the history of IEE, readers are invited to visit the site of the IET Library & Archives (www.iee.org/theiee/research/libsvc/).