The Engineering Institute of Canada
Founded in 1887
Now a Federation of Twelve Canadian Engineering Societies

History & Archives: The Engineering Institute of Canada

EIC Archive Collection


The present Vision Statement of the Engineering Institute of Canada (EIC) states that one of its objectives is the promotion of awareness of the history of engineering in this country. Not only is the general public quite unaware of it, the engineering profession is almost equally so. This activity of EIC is also part of the business of enhancing the image of engineers and recording their contributions to the nation's development over many years.

Since 1887, the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers (CSCE) - and the Engineering Institute that it became in 1918 - have contributed in a variety of ways to the recording of the history of engineering in Canada and by Canadians. For example, the Transactions of the Society and the Institute, as well as the Institute's Engineering Journal that appeared from 1918 until 1987, have published papers that were written as historical records or have become part of the corpus of engineering history with the passage of time. Both the Society and the Institute established medals and other awards to recognize meritorious technical writing, professional achievement and service by their members, and the Institute continues to do so. The two institutions have also taken steps to preserve at least some of their archival material in the National Archives and elsewhere, and the Institute is continuing this practice.

During the 1920s and 1930s, the Institute sponsored a Biographies Committee that published material in this field, none of which is still in print. A number of memorial plaques recording professional achievements have been erected, some quite recently. In the 1970s the Institute participated with the federal government in a program to identify heritage engineering sites across Canada. During the early 1980s it sponsored a History & Heritage Committee. In 1987 it participated in the Centennial of Engineering as a Profession and, as part of this year-long festival, in the selection of the most outstanding Canadian engineering achievements during the previous one hundred years. Several of EIC's present Member Societies also have history-related activities that include the publication of books and papers and the plaquing of sites and institutions.

In 1991, a Secretary for History & Archives was appointed by the Council of the Institute to initiate a focused program that would help to increase awareness of the engineer's role in Canadian development. Steps were also taken to collect, analyse and store archival material reflecting the activities of EIC over the years and, when active, its regions, branches and committees. Research was initiated into the evolution of the Institute as a whole, as well as into the development of other engineering-related institutions in Canada and abroad and into the technical side of engineering generally. The submission for publication and/or archival purposes of career-based autobiographical material by senior and retired engineers was also encouraged. Since the EIC Council approved their publication in 1995, a series of Working Papers in these fields has been in preparation. Those published so far are listed and their contents described elsewhere in this sub-section of the website. EIC also took the lead in supporting a profession-wide committee to make recommendations to the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada with regard to nationally significant engineering achievements. The EIC Life Members' Organization and the Member Societies within the EIC Federation were helpful in the development of this program.

In June 1999, as part of a general revision of EIC's by-laws, the Council decided to establish a Standing Committee for History & Archives whose terms-of-reference would absorb the duties of the H&A Secretary and the profession-wide committee. The Council decided that the membership of the new SCH&A would include representatives of the EIC and its Member Societies and the Life Members' Organization, as well as several non-EIC 'learned' societies and a number of professional historians associated with the engineering field. It would be chaired by the Institute representative. The terms-of-reference that had been developed for the Committee were approved by the Council in March 2000 and the full Committee met for the first time in June to develop the elements of its program and projects for the year or more ahead. The thrust of these activities are to coincide with the Institute's Vision Statement. The Committee is also to:

  • Collaborate with the History Committees of the member Societies of the Institute to encourage the publication and dissemination of new information related to the history of engineering in Canada
  • Publish or broadcast through the various media, historical information on the Institute itself, the engineering profession, Canadian engineers and their activities, and specific engineering projects
  • Collaborate with the Historic Sites and Monuments board of Canada and other public and private institutions to ensure that significant achievements by Canadian engineers are adequately commemorated
  • Encourage cooperation with academic, public and private institutions, associations and other organizations with similar interests and objectives
  • Promote the collection, secure storage and accessibility for research of archival material associated with the Institute, its Member Societies and the engineering profession

Thomas C. Keefer

Founding President, CSCE, 1887
Also President of the Society in 1897
Eminent engineer and essayist
Born in Thorold, UC in 1821, educated at Upper Canada College. Canal builder, railway surveyor,
designer and builder of significant hydraulic engineering works in Montreal, Hamilton and Ottawa.

Sir Casimir Gzowski

Founding Vice-President, CSCE, 1887
President, 1889-1891
Born in Poland in 1813, exiled by Russia to the USA in 1833, emigrated to Canada in 1842. Superintendent roads, waterways harbours, roads and bridges, including the Fort Erie-Buffalo international bridge Aide-de-camp to Queen Victoria Knighted in 1890

Sir John Kennedy

Founding Vice-President, CSCE, 1887
President in 1892
Born in Spencerville, UC, 1838, educated at McGill University Railway Engineer, later Chief Engineer of the Montreal Harbour Commission for over 30 years and leading developer of the international port. Became blind in 1907 but continued as a consulting engineer. Founding member of the Canadian Engineering Standards Association (now the CSA) Knighted in 1916

Members of the Engineering Institute of Canada and its predescessor the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers who are recognized by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (HSMBC) as persons of national historic significance:

  • Charles Camsell
  • Sandford Fleming
  • Percy Girouard
  • Casimir S. Gzowski
  • C.D.Howe
  • T.C.Keefer
  • John Kennedy
  • Charles A. Magrath
  • Wallace Turnbull
  • Phillip Louis Pratley
  • Elsie Gregory MacGill
The EIC also recommends to the HSMBC Engineering Sites to be plaqued and included in their list of National Historic Sites in Canada

EIC’s Collection of Engineering History Papers

This Collection includes documents of historical significance previously published by the EIC or elsewhere. Many of these documents have been authored by Andrew H. Wilson, former EIC President and former Chair of its History Committee.

EIC Book Reviews

Book review: "Gentlemen Engineers: The working lives of Frank and Walter Shanly"

The engineer brothers, Walter and Francis (Frank) Shanly - two of Canada's most prominent engineers in the late 19th century - were the subject of a biographical work, Daylight Through The Mountain, by Frank and Gladys Walker, published in 1957 by the Engineering Institute of Canada, but no longer in print. Much more recently, the lives of the Shanlys were captured by Richard White in his book Gentlemen Engineers: The Working Lives of Frank and Walter Shanly published in 1999 by the University of Toronto Press.

This eminently readable 200-page narrative has a strong element of social history that covers the transition of a family with roots in the rural Irish gentry into a group of related individuals operating as North American urban professionals. The book has three parts. The first covers the Shanly family background in Ireland and its emigration to Canada. It goes on to describe how Walter and Frank learned the business of engineering and the contributions both made up to the mid-1850s. The second follows the career of Frank from 1855 to his sudden death in 1882 and of Walter from 1855 to his death forty-four years later. In the third part, which is quite short, the author discusses his thesis that the brothers were indeed gentlemen engineers. There are, of course, some photographs plus an index and a bibliography. This book should please the general reader and the professional engineer as well as other historians.

The author is currently a freelance historian and university-level teacher. The research for the book was done originally for academic thesis purposes within the Department of History at the University of Toronto.The book was published with the help of grants from the Humanities and Social Sciences Federation of Canada, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Ontario Arts Council. It retails for $60. Order enquiries should be made to the UofT Press, 5201 Dufferin Street, North York, Ontario M3H 5T8. 1-800-565-9523, or

Book Review : "The Skule Story: The University of Toronto Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering 1873-2000"

For the second time in two years, Richard White has produced a well-written book of considerable interest and importance for the history of engineering in Canada. Commissioned, as part of the celebration of the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering, The Skule Story required two years of research and writing before it appeared in 2000. Once again, it is strongly narrative, with an evident element of social history. But it also includes an illuminating discussion of the issues in engineering education in this country over the years since it was first offered through the universities.

The view the author takes is principally the one seen from the Faculty Office and through the eyes of the person in charge - first the principal of the School of Practical Science (SPS) and later the dean of the Faculty (FASE). His main themes are the (usually evolutionary) change within the School/Faculty, who brought the change about, and the Faculty's influence on the Ontario economy. White also describes, as appropriate for his text, the growth and development of the individual disciplines and departments within SPS/FASE, but make no attempt to be definitive. The book is divided into five chapters, each covering roughly a quarter of a century and taking between 40 and 60 pages to do so. There are at the beginning the usual prefaces and a useful map of the Faculty's buildings on campus. At the end are five supplementary sections taking up a further 70 pages, including a most useful list of "Works Consulted" and an index. At the very end, to supplement the main text, there is a pull-out that shows the development of the disciplines and departments of SPS/FASE from 1878 to 2000. There are photographs every four pages or so throughout the main text - mostly of people, buildings, classrooms and student activities.

The author is himself a UofT graduate in history. He is currently a freelance historian and university-level teacher. His book was published by the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering at UofT and is being distributed on behalf of FASE by the University of Toronto Press, from whom copies may be ordered (5201 Dufferin Street, Toronto, Ontario M3H 5T8, 1-800-565-9523, or The price for alumni, professors and students of FASE is $30 per copy and, for others, $40.

Book reviews:
  • The Coast Connection
  • Carving the Western Path Through B.C.'s Southern Mountains
  • Carving the Western Path Through Central and Northern B.C.

In his review, which appeared in the Summer 2002 issue of the Canadian Civil Engineer, Peter Hart discusses these three books by R.G. Harvey, as well as EIC History Working Paper 9/2001, "Turning an Engineer into an Author," which Harvey also wrote and which describes the genesis, writing and publication of these books. The first of them was published in 1994 by Oolichan Books, Lantzville, B.C., and the other two in 1998 and 1999 by Heritage House Publishing Company, Surrey, B.C.. The three, together, describe the development of transportation systems on the mainland of British Columbia, a process in which the author took part, lately as deputy minister of Transportation and Highways. As Hart notes, all three books are well illustrated and include some excellent maps drawn by the author. As he also notes, Harvey brings to his accounts a refreshing honesty regarding the machinations of the politicians and railways in obtaining special deals from the Province. Harvey's work on the books earned him the W. Gordon Plewes Award of the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering in 2001.

For more information regarding this page, please contact: Guy Gosselin, EIC Executive Director (E-mail:

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