Engineering is a profession that is based on tradition. When you become an engineer, you are becoming a part of a group of professionals who are expected to uphold a certain level of excellence. The iron ring is an embedded part of the profession and engineers wear it today as a reminder of their professional obligation and the potential repercussions when a job is not completed up to professional standards.
Here is a brief overview of the story behind the iron ring:
the origins of the iron ring
The iron ring is a tradition created by Canadian engineers. Its roots date back to 1922. It began when a group of Montreal engineers got together to create a code of ethics for the profession.
The ring has long been rumored to have been created in response to the collapse of the Quebec Bridge that cross the Saint Lawrence River. It collapsed twice and claimed 88 lives. The ring symbolizes the responsibilities that engineers have. The ring itself is made of stainless steel or iron.
the ritual of the calling of an engineer
In Canada, once you receive your engineering degree from an accredited university, you are then invited to a private ring ceremony which is called the ritual of the calling of an engineer. During the ceremony, all new engineers are given an iron ring as a symbol of becoming part of the profession.
The tradition dates back to 1925. The first ceremony was held at the University Club of Montreal. The idea was derived by University of Toronto professor, H.E.T. Haultain. He convinced the Engineering Institute of Canada there was a need for a ceremony for established engineers to welcome new graduates into the profession.
The ceremony is still done today by The Corporation of the Seven Wardens Inc. (Société des Sept Gardiens inc.) through regional branches, or camps. These are universities. In total, there are 27 camps across the country. There are 6 in Montreal and 4 in Toronto. There are also 3 in Quebec City and 3 in Vancouver. To commemorate its 75th anniversary, a stamp was issued in 2000 and circulated in Canada.
This tradition has also been adopted in the United States by the Order of the Engineer. They started using the tradition in 1970. Although, the US ring has a different design.
So, next time you see an engineer and notice the iron ring on their pinky finger, you will know why they are wearing it.