The engineer’s ring

After years of toil and study, the Seven Wardens call you to attend a sacred ritual. At that ceremony, you swear a secret vow and are awarded a ring of iron. Classical cult? Medieval guild? Nope, you’re now a Canadian engineer.

Iron Ring
Dllu [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
If you, like me, believe that ceremonies are a useful way to mark the significant moments of life and join in a shared formal celebration of achievement, then this is the ritual for you.

The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer was designed by Rudyard Kipling and first ran in 1925. It is administered by the Corporation of the Seven Wardens, a group named after seven past presidents of the national engineering society. If you train as an engineer in Canada, you can attend the ceremony upon completion of your studies.

The intention is to instil ethics and values in the profession, and the vow (technically not an oath) emphasizes the responsibilities of an engineer:

I, in the presence of these my betters and my equals in my Calling, bind myself upon my Honour and Cold Iron, that, of the best of my knowledge and power, I will not henceforward suffer or pass, or be privy to the passing of, Bad Workmanship or Faulty Material in aught that concerns my works before mankind as an Engineer…

I love the profound capitalisation in this text. That “Cold Iron” part refers to the Iron Ring, which all engineers in the ceremony are given. They wear it on their little finger, so that they always get in the way while writing or working – hence, a constant reminder of the obligations of the profession.

There’s an old myth that the Iron Rings are made out of iron left over from the 1907 collapse of the Quebec Bridge, as a reminder of the consequences of “Bad Workmanship.” It’s not true, alas, but rings are often returned by retiring engineers so that they can be passed down. In many cases now the ring is made of stainless steel, but it’s pretty badass either way.

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