The Duke

EW’s edition of April 26th 1961 carried this story:

‘As I and 2,400 other members of the Institutions of Civil, Mechanical and Electrical Engineers listened to the talk by the Duke of Edinburgh earlier this month, we were left in no doubt of what he believed an engineer’s educational responsibilities were.

“Nothing is more worthwhile than teaching the next generation,” he said, “it is the job of engineers to help teach the next generation of engineers, not only by seeing that their practical training is right, but also by deciding qualifications, by imparting the knowledge which only experienced engineers possess, and by planning education with an eye on the requirements of the next generation.”

The Duke also stressed the need for Commonwealth countries with good higher education facilities to help those who were less developed.’

It was not long before the Duke figured in our pages again.

In the edition of May 24th 1961 a story opens:

‘Next Monday marks the start of Commonwealth Technical Training Week, an event which would never had taken place had it not been for the initiative of the Duke of Edinburgh.’

‘The object of the Week, which is being held in all Commonwealth countries, is to impress on school leavers, parents, teachers and the community at large their responsibility for ensuring that new generations prepare themselves for careers with expanding prospects, and not go into unskilled dead-end jobs because of the early lure of higher pay.’

‘The Week will cover every type of training from electronics to banking, from secretarial to surveying.’

“I hope that the general public will get to know a bit more about the training for technical skills which makes their modern standards of living possible,” said the Duke of Edinburgh.

The stories show two lifelong passions of the Duke – for technology and for the Commonwealth. They were the first of many articles about him in EW.

In 1952 he became President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science and gave a much praised inaugural speech in Edinburgh in which he outlined scientific progress since the time of his predecessor as Prince Consort, Prince Albert.

One of the award skills in the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme founded in 1956 is for Science and Technology.

The Duke

In 1959 he founded the Prince Philip Designer’s Prize whose winners include Sir James Dyson.

His interest in science was matched by an enthusiasm for applied science and, at a time when science was elevated far above engineering in the national psyche, he promoted the idea of forming a national academy of engineering.

This became the Royal Academy of Engineering tasked with identifying excellence in engineering, and integrating the ideas of engineering across its different disciplines. In recognition of his role in the founding of the academy he was appointed its Senior Fellow.

For 65 years he was an Honorary Fellow of the IEE/IET.

Along with his enthusiasm for technology, he saw the wider issues it raised.

In the early days of the Internet he warned: “Information technology has produced immense benefits for humanity but only when it is used with honesty and integrity. The opportunities that technology offers to humanity are greater than ever but so are the risks.”

He believed that technology should begin at home having internal phones installed in Buckingham Palace being one of the first people in the country to have a car phone, and becoming an an early adopter of ViewData.

The practical use of science to solve humanity’s problems was an interest he maintained all his life. In an interview five years ago he said:

“The human population is growing and occupying more space and it has got to be accommodated somehow. What I think most people would like to see is that it accommodates a certain amount of the natural world and everything we require to keep it going. But somehow or other that balance, of trying to fit as many people on this globe as possible without doing too much damage – ultimately it is going to be engineers who decide that.”

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