How engineering has changed since the Queen took the throne

How engineering has changed since the Queen took the throne

There are few people who can boast of having two birthdays; in fact, perhaps the Queen is the only one. Although born on 21st April 1926, the Queen celebrates her ‘Official Birthday’ on the second Thursday in June, which was yesterday. As celebrated the week before last, it’s been 70 years since Elizabeth II began her reign. Certainly, it must have been amazing to preside over so many major events and advancements.

Some of the most remarkable changes have been in technology and engineering. In 1952, most people couldn’t have imagined the existence of the Internet, the iPhone, nor the personal computer, let alone the possibility of AI or commercial space travel. Now, we’re on the brink of more amazing discoveries, and here, we’ll take a look at how far we’ve come.

From pen and paper to screens and code

It’s probably the tools that have changed the most over the last 70 years. In the 1950s, blueprints and plans would have been drawn up on gridded paper and kept in plan chests. These would be painstakingly drafted with pencils, T-squares, triangles, compasses, pens, and pencils. Everything would be drawn by hand, not rendered by machines. Engineers would tape on transparencies to propose adjustments or changes, and it would be a full-time job keeping all these documents in order. 

Now, it’s astonishing how far the industry has come. Computers have revolutionised the mathematical equations, analytics, and modelling needed to design a building. We can build better structures and products than ever before. It’s also sped things up an awful lot; now, design processes and proposals that took years are now turned around in record time.

Cutting-edge materials and methods

It’s not just the design process that’s changed, but also the materials. Engineers in the 50s probably never could have predicted the wide range of uses for plastics. They can withstand heavy loads, high temperatures, and speeds, and are far easier to engineer than ever before.

However, perhaps the most important change in materials is our journey towards sustainability. Now, engineers are exploring how we can introduce more organic materials into building to make the built environment more sustainable. Timber, for example, is having somewhat of a renaissance as engineers look to renewable materials as a solution to carbon emissions.

People are the future

The final thing that’s changed is the people. Once strictly the domain of white men, diversity in engineering has brought thousands of promising minds into the field to propose new ideas. Talent will be integral to innovation in engineering going forward, creating sustainable solutions and driving change. 

Sustainable engineering will be essential to our quality of life and the economy. In our previous jubilee-themed article, we touched on the contrast between the economy in the 1950s and now; certainly, things are looking tricky for the UK going forward, but innovation will be key to weathering the storm. The last 70 years have seen a lot – and may the future bring more exciting change.



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