Thomas Telford
Telford's legacy
Telford died in 1834, in his house in Abingdon Street, Westmonster. He left behind both a wealth of engineering achievements and the establishment of civil engineering as a profession in its own right.
In 1820, Telford had been invited by a group of young engineers to become the first president of the Institution of Civil Engineers, the world's first professional engineering body. He was to remain president for rest of his life and leave the Instution a sizable bequest, which gave it financial security and permanent premises.
Through his position with the ICE, he was in a position to introduce and establish the practice of recording discussions at meetings, plus he encouraged engineers to document their work and the problems they were solving. These ways of sharing experience and passing on knowledge are ones that continue in the profession today.
Telford's ability to manage all kinds of projects, big and small, without being on the spot, is testimony to his good management practices and the trusted relationships he built with colleagues — a precursor to the modern-day definition of project management.
He used contractors to manage construction work. They were given detailed specifications and instructions on what needed to be completed by what date. And he regularly worked with the same people — those he knew would produce the best results. Two examples are ironmaster William Hazeldine and stonemason John Wilson, both instrumental in his major suspension bridges.
In Telford's day the main method of communication was the written word, delivered by horse-drawn coach or train. The ability to delegate effectively to resident engineers was essential in managing far-flung projects. A good judge of character, he nurtured trusting relationships with deputies and he was a supportive mentor. Crucially, he inspired the people he worked with. The management techniques he developed in the course of his career have had a lasting effect on the profession of civil engineering.
Telford was the first civil engineer to be given the honour of a burial in Westminster Abbey. He left us a diverse range of groundbreaking structures — a body of work that inspired his fellow Britains and still inspires engineers today.
All items by Thomas Telford  •  Everything built ... 1757 - 1834
references  BDCE1, DNB, TT
brunel photo  ICE

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Thomas Telford
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