The iron ring is a Canadian engineering tradition that reminds wearers that they have subscribed to a solemn obligation at the ceremony known as The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer. Iron ring ceremonies are usually held annually at Canadian universities having engineering schools.
Engineers who have not been obligated through attendance at a Canadian university may attend a ceremony and receive a ring, if they meet certain criteria. Engineers wanting to become obligated should contact their local camp.
To replace a lost iron ring, contact the secretary of the camp where you were obligated.
For a list of contacts at each camp, click here.
Fully registered Professional Engineers who did not attend a Canadian University and wish to know if they are eligible to take the obligation to receive an Iron Ring may contact the Secretary of the Camp of their choice.
Please note that the Iron Ring Ritual is not connected with any university or any engineering organization; the body that administers the Ritual, The Corporation of the Seven Wardens, is an entirely independent body.
Iron Ring Tradition
Many Canadians may be aware of the Iron Ring worn by friends, associates or family members who work or have practised in the field of engineering. To most, this singularly unusual adornment must appear to be some arcane sign - like the secret handshake, or the unusual headdress that signifies membership in a mysterious order. While this image has been perpetuated for many years by the privacy surrounding the Iron Ring, the reality is otherwise.
The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer, or Kipling Ritual, is a ceremony that was developed in 1923 for engineers graduating from Canadian universities. The post-war years were a time of growth and prosperity that fuelled the quest for greater engineering achievements. The accelerating pace of technological change called on engineers to push the bounds of applied science ever farther and farther. To remind young graduates of these obligations, which they were accepting upon entry into the hallowed halls of professional practice, the engineering leaders of the day called upon the celebrated author, Rudyard Kipling, to develop a ritual ceremony that would symbolize the responsibilities these young engineers were about to face.
The ceremony calls on all engineering graduates to undertake an obligation to strive to perform work and assignments to the best of their ability. A ring made of iron- one of the first modern materials used to forge a new world by our ancestors - is worn on the small finger of the working hand, and acts as a reminder of this obligation. This ceremony is performed across Canada each spring, marking the transition from student life to a career in engineering.
The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer marks the end of Stage One on the path towards full registration as a Professional Engineer in Canada. To become fully qualified and licensed as a Professional Engineer an engineering graduate must complete four years of practical work experience demonstrating ever-increasing responsibility and competence in professional practice. Only after undertaking this "apprenticeship" and demonstration of competence in front of one's peers can an engineering graduate become registered as a fully Licensed Professional Engineer and use the designation P.Eng. after his or her name. Only licensed members are entitled to practise professional engineering.
The Iron Ring
"Gold is for the mistress - silver for the maid!
Copper for the craftsman cunning at his trade."
"Good!" said the Baron, sitting in his hall.
"But Iron, Cold Iron -is master of them all!"
Towards the end of their final year in university, engineering students can attend the Ceremony of The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer. During the ceremony, graduating engineers make an obligation to carry out their work to the best of their abilities. They each receive an Iron Ring that they wear on the little finger of their working hand to remind them of this obligation. The ceremony and the symbolism of the ring date back almost 100 years.
The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer
The Calling of an Engineer dates back to 1922, when seven past-presidents of the Engineering Institute of Canada attended a meeting in Montreal. One of the speakers was Professor Herbert Edward Terrick Haultain, head of Mining Engineering at the University of Toronto. He felt that an organization was needed to bind all members of the engineering profession in Canada more closely together. He also felt that an obligation or statement of ethics should be developed. Prof. Haultain wrote to Rudyard Kipling, author of the The Jungle Books, asking him to help develop a ceremony. Growing up in India during the height of the British Empire, Kipling was very impressed by the dedication and camaraderie between officers and soldiers in the Royal Corps of Engineers, and had made references to the work of engineers in some of his writings. He agreed to help. Kipling wrote both an obligation and a ceremony formally entitled "The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer."
According to Kipling, the goal of the Ritual is the following:
"The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer has been instituted with
the simple end of directing the newly qualified engineer toward a
consciousness of the profession and its social significance and
indicating to the more experienced engineer their responsibilities
in welcoming and supporting the newer engineers when they are ready
to enter the profession."
The first ceremony was held on April 25, 1925 at the University Club in Montreal when six engineers took the obligation.
Today, the Ritual is administered by a body called The Corporation of the Seven Wardens Inc. The seven past-presidents of the Engineering Institute of Canada in 1922 were the original seven Wardens. The Corporation is responsible for administering and maintaining the Ritual. The Iron Ring has been registered and may be worn on the little finger of the working hand by any engineer who has been obligated at an authorized ceremony of the Ritual of the Calling of the Engineer. The Iron Ring represents pride and commitment. It is not a symbol of qualification as an engineer - this is decided by the provincial and territorial licensing bodies.
Other professions also have similar ceremonies. Even today graduating physicians take the Hippocratic oath, which is over 2000 years old.
The Myth of the Iron Ring
On August 29, 1907, as the Pont de Québec Bridge neared completion, it collapsed, killing 76 people. A Royal Commission set up to study the incident reported that this tragedy was the result of an error in judgment made by the bridge's principal engineers.
A second attempt to span the river resulted in another disaster. On September 11, 1916, the centre span of the bridge fell, killing ten more people. The bridge was finally completed in October 17, 1917. The story is that the early rings given to engineers during the Calling of an Engineer were made from the iron from the collapsed bridge. Today's iron rings are a reminder of the Québec Bridge that collapsed.
Another meaning for the Iron Ring can be found in Kipling's writings. Taking his cues from history, he saw iron as symbol of power. People that developed iron tools and weapons had an advantage over groups still using bronze or stone implements. An engineer wears the Iron Ring to symbolize his or her power and acceptance of the responsibility that comes with power.