The terms “engineer” and “engineering” have become so widely used that it is now necessary to adopt qualifying terms to identify the type of engineering meant — electrical, civil, mechanical, chemical, and so on — and also to distinguish between the manual skills of the artisan-engineer (be he fitter, boilermaker, steam engineer, or electrician), and the academic and mental skills of the professional engineer. The term “professional engineering” is increasingly used to describe the applied science which is engineering. In addition, there is a newly emerging and very important group — the “technicians” – who occupy an ill-defined position between the artisan and professional engineers.
One hundred years ago professional engineering was divided into two simple categories — military and civil. At that time civil engineering embraced the whole field of engineering now generally separated into civil, electrical, and mechanical. Young men received their training by pupilage. Under this system an aspirant became articled to a practising engineer who undertook to instruct him and to provide him with practical experience of his craft. In Britain, one of the earliest attempts to offer organised classes for engineers was made by a small society which met in John Smeaton's house about 1780. This group eventually formed the Smeatonian Society which became the forerunner of the Institution of Civil Engineers (London).