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Highlights from the last 190 years of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering at UCL

In 1827 the founders of University College London appointed a professor of engineering, John Millington, to teach civil engineering, the first such appointment in England. Over 180 years later, we are still at the cutting edge of the discipline, home to some of the most successful engineering departments in the UK.

          The London University by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd 1827-28                 An invitation to the foundation ceremony on 30th April 1827

Edwin Chadwick (1800-1890), a nineteenth-century sanitary reformer, has had a profound influence on the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at University College London. The Department is housed in the Chadwick Building and the current Head of Department, Stuart Robson, is the Chadwick Professor of Civil Engineering.

The real beginning of academic engineering came with the appointment of Alexander Blackie William Kennedy as Professor of Engineering in 1871 at the age of 27. He established laboratory courses and coined the term ‘engineering laboratory’. Lab experiments became an essential part of the students work. In 1887 he was made Fellow of the Royal Society, was knighted in 1905, and elected President of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1906.
His designs include the steel arched pier at Trouville-sur-Mer, the concrete structure and steelwork of the rebuilt Alhambra Theatre and the steelwork of the first Hotel Cecil
In 1945 the Department of Civil & Municipal Engineering was established which later then in 1991 became the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering to reflect the increasing importance of environmental issues in society.

1947 - Formal graduate degrees in surveying

The department first ran a surveying programme in 1949, with the first graduates of that course leaving in 1950. Since that time, hundreds of students from around the world have followed them, and you will find our alumni working on every continent.

The equipment that our students use has changed enormously since the early years, and in most respects so have their careers. Once we trained students in the delicate arts of survey observation and they went on to map in detail part of the world that were sketchily known about. Now we build our program around our outstanding research work in areas such as Global Navigation Satellite Systems, Terrestrial Laser Scanning and GIS.

From this the Department of Photogrammetry and Surveying was established in 1961. In 1997 this became the Department of Geomatic Engineering.


                             The Tavistock Theodolite                                          Surveying on the Sydney Harbour Bridge 1923


1965 - Photogrammetric work at Petra

The historic Jordanian city of Petra has been described by UNESCO as "one of the most precious cultural properties of man's cultural heritage". Academics from the department, Parr, Atkinson and Wickens, used photogrammetric technology to map the topography of the area and the facades of the sites.

In 1991 the department became the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering to reflect the increasing importance of environmental issues in society. In 2007 the two Departments merged into the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering.

2003 - Construction begins at the PAMELA lab

Constructed between 2003 and 2006, the PAMELA laboratory is a novel and highly flexible facility allowing full-scale pedestrian infrastructure to be built and tested to enable thorough assessment and evaluation. Research conducted at the PAMELA facility includes work relating to the £3.5bn Thameslink 2000 railway line project. In 2008, Tyler and his team built a life-size train carriage to assess the boarding and alighting performance of the proposed trains, given predicted passenger numbers. In 2008, Tyler’s team conducted tests to evaluate potential safety issues on the humped sections of London Underground’s platforms. These included assessments of the risk of wheelchairs rolling down the ramps, the likelihood of trains not stopping precisely, and the ease with which visually impaired people could use them. The research showed that platform hump designs could in fact be more flexible than previously thought, allowing Transport for London to make multimillion-pound savings.

2011 - Research

In 2011 we received £17.2m of funding from the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, more than any comparable department. We are taking on the big issues that face our world, from city design, managing an ageing population and transport infrastructure, to water processing and energy and resource management.

The research carried out within the CEGE Centres reflects a broad multidisciplinary view of the engineering world – from navigation of space shuttles and control of observation satellites, to tunnelling beneath the planet's surface - with constant reference to the human needs which drive the requirement for engineering solutions. Our research projects and centres span disciplines and cross subjects to provide new and innovative solutions and thinking that refers back to the human and the applied. We're engineering a better world.

2017 - HereEast

The Department of Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering is inviting UCL students, from many different faculties, to join them at a new site in East London. Here students will enroll in new courses, combining both architecture and engineering. And they’ll use cutting edge technology to carry out new research, linking subjects from computer science to transport, from real estate to robotics.

This new site is UCL Here East. It’s daring, inspiring, and unlike anything else in the world. Here, we’ll address the most pressing issues of the post-industrial revolution. We’ll create new technologies, communities and opportunities. We’ll change the world.


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