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An elusive profession

Kluwer Academic (part of Springer Verlag)
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  • Q Science (General)
  • Chemistry
  • Design
  • Education
  • Engineering


Chapter 1 INTRODUCTION: An elusive profession Divall, C. and Johnston, S.F. An elusive profession. In Scaling up: the Institution of Chemical Engineers and the rise of a new profession, Chap 1. First published in Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic (2000) Glasgow ePrints Service JOH 1.1 NSTON_SCALING_UP_CHAP1.DOC ‘Scaling Up’ Chapter 1 INTRODUCTION: An elusive profession How did ‘chemical engineers’ acquire a professional identity, and what was their role in inventing chemical engineering itself? These terms became increasingly common from the late nineteenth century to describe certain work practices in the chemical manufacturing industries – principally the design, adaptation and operation of chemical plant and processes. A body of knowledge with that name was being taught regularly in a handful of American and British colleges by the first decade of the twentieth century.1 From a meagre presence in Britain before the first world war, chemical engineering became, by the end of the century, one of the ‘big four’ engineering professions, and a major contributor to the British economy. Yet this ‘success story’ is not a mere parallel of its better known American counterpart. Its sources are dissimilar and complex. In Britain, different industries harboured the malcontents who promoted the specialism; the competition of established technical professions were more obstructive; the role of the state was considerably more explicit; industrial cultures were a more heterogeneous mixture of home-grown, European and American traditions; and educational provision evolved more centrally, if episodically. In this quagmire of competing factors, the would-be profession struggled for an identity. The role of t

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