The Society of Civil Engineers was founded in 1771 by John Smeaton and some of his professional acquaintances as a dining club to facilitate ‘conversation, argument and a social communication of ideas and knowledge, in the particular walks of each member were, at the same time, the amusement and business of the meetings’. The Society met in London once a fortnight, at 7 o’clock from Christmas to the end of the sitting of Parliament.
The Society was the first to adopt the name ‘civil engineer’ as a new profession, as distinct from the much older calling of military engineer. Following the death of Smeaton in 1792 the Society was revived as the Smeatonian Society of Civil Engineers. The Society is the oldest society of engineers in the world and embraces engineers of all disciplines. It predates the Institution of Civil Engineers founded in 1818. Members are known as ‘The Smeatonians’