The Iron Ring

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The first Quebec Bridge was built in 1907 and collapsed before it had even reached completion. Failure of the bridge has been attributed to a lack of effort on the part of the engineers. When the design of the bridge was extended in length, the engineers never recalculated its load bearing abilities. It collapsed and killed 75 workers. Many Canadian Engineers point to this catastrophe as the reason they wear the Iron Ring.

Wreckage of the bridge collapse
Wreckage of the bridge collapse

The Iron Ring is worn on the pinky of an engineer’s dominant hand. It serves as a representation of pride surrounding the profession and the consequences if you fail to follow the proper procedures. Each ring is made with a rough surface that drags against paper as a reminder. Originally the ring was hammered to create the surface, while today 12 semicircle facets are machined into the outer surface; top and bottom.

The Iron Ring
The Iron Ring

Seven past presidents of the Engineering Institute of Canada came up with the idea in 1922, with the first ceremony happening in 1925. The ceremony is something special in and of itself, but the details are private and not shared with the public. What’s known is that Rudyard Kipling wrote the ceremony and it includes the reading of “The Obligation” (an expression of their intentions as a new engineer). At the end of the ceremony, the ring is given to the candidate.

The Obligation
The Obligation

After decades of use in Canada, US engineers founded the Order of the Engineer in 1970. They conduct similar rituals at US colleges and have entrants sign an “Obligation of the Engineer”. Unlike the Canadian ring, the US ring can be smooth, but it represents the same things: pride and humility.

Music: The Musical Offering by Johann Sebastian Bach

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