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Happy Birthday to ‘ingeniator’ Fred Lanchester – born 153 years ago today

19th October 2021

Today we celebrate the 153rd birthday of the engineer, scientist, inventor, author, poet and possibly the first ‘ingeniator’ – Fred Lanchester.

On October 23rd 1868, in Lewisham Octavia and Henry welcomed Fred Lanchester into the world and alongside his brothers and sisters, he carried on the family’s remarkable capacity for innovation and invention.

He startled the world (locally) with his first word – aged 2 and 3/4!

LAN-1-1-30-1crop - First words

I was not known to utter an articulate sound before I was 2 3/4 years of age, and then startled the world (locally) by blurting out the one word, egg! No I have been told by a woman doctor who has charge of in infant welfare clinic that the knowledge of my case has been of great and frequent service to her having enabled her to pacify mothers who were getting anxious as their offspring who were a trifle behind in that same direction.  She tells them that one of our greatest scientific engineers never spoke a word till nearly 3 years of age; and i suspect she adds ” but has made up for it since!”

From the first all-British four-wheeled petrol motor car in 1895 to patents for fantastic flying machines and pianos that could play themselves, his legacy lives on – not least in the form of the Lanchester Library at Coventry University (itself formerly Lanchester Polytechnic).

We often say that Fred could be described as ‘Britain’s Leonardo da Vinci’ but trying to sum up his genius in one word can be difficult. However Professor Elena Rodriguez-Falcon, CEO of  New Model Institute for Technology and Engineering (NMITE) might have the solution, by suggesting the word ‘ingeniator’, as an alternative to ‘engineer’, to help set the profession apart from the sort of engineers that fix washing machines, boilers and cars.

She told the Times:

Engineering is not about engines but ingenuity and innovation. Engineer in Spanish is ingeniero, in German ingenieur, in French ingénieur, in Norwegian ingeniør. All of these words come from ‘ingenious’ or ‘ingenuity’. I challenge all the professional engineering bodies to do the unthinkable — change the name of the profession.

Perhaps Fred could claim to be the first ‘ingeniator’, something to think about on what would have been his 153rd birthday.

Happy Birthday Fred!

 

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