Prince Philip saved British engineering in the 1970s, says former BP boss John Browne, Baron Browne of Madingley (Lord Browne). According to Lord Browne, the Duke of Edinburgh was a key mover in creating the Royal Academy of Engineering, the UK’s national academy of engineering.
Lord Browne, guest editor at BBC Radio 4 Today programme, discussed engineering with Prince Philip on Friday, 2nd January, 2016. Queen Elizabeth’s husband said he believed engineering would solve the world’s problems, something it has frequently managed to do in history.
Problems caused by a growing global human population and its dependence on fossil fuels, which have led to climate change, will be solved by a major engineering breakthrough, he predicts.
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich, was born Prince of Greece and Denmark in Corfu on 10 June 1921. (Image: royal.gov.uk)
Everything that hasn’t been invented by God
Prince Philip said:
“The whole of our infrastructure, from sewers to power supplies and communication – everything that wasn’t invented by God – is invented by an engineer.”
Engineering was a crucial factor in getting the UK’s, Europe’s and the world’s economies back on their feet after the Second World War, Prince Philip pointed out, and it will likely come up with solutions for our current and future challenges.
Engineers perform such a key function that it is impossible to image this world without them, he added.
Prince Philip said:
“The human population of the world is growing and is occupying more space. It’s got to be accommodated somehow or another and I think most people would like to see that it accommodates a certain amount of the natural world as well as the human world and everything we require to keep it going.”
“But somehow or other that balance, to try and fit as many people onto this globe as comfortably as possible without doing too much damage, I think ultimately it’s going to be engineers that decide that.”
Prince Philip giving a speech after officially opening Prince Philip House at the Royal Academy of Engineering in London, 16 October 2012. During the visit, he unveiled a triptych-style painting of himself. (Image: royal.gov.uk. Credit: Royal Academy of Engineering)
Engineering helped drive post-war economy
The Duke, who has been keenly interested in technological and scientific R&D (research and development) throughout his life, said the UK was “completely skint and badly damaged” after the Second World War, and that engineering aided in the process of rebuilding the economy.
Regarding the problems we face today, with a growing global population, he commented:
“But somehow or other that balance to try and fit as many people onto this globe as comfortably as possible without them doing too much damage – I think ultimately it’s going to be engineers who are going to decide that.”
When asked whether researchers and scientists in other fields viewed engineering and engineers as second rate, he answered that there was some anxiety and jealousy, and believed much of it was because they feared that perhaps engineers might be at the top of the ladder.
The Duke of Edinburgh in the cockpit of a plane at White Waltham airfield, Berkshire, when he made his last three flights before qualifying for his RAF wings, 1953. (Image: royal.gov.uk)
Why is there no Nobel Prize for Engineering?
He said he found it ‘curious’ that there is no Nobel Prize for Engineering. After all, Alfred Nobel (1833-1896), who set up the annual international awards, was born into a family of engineers and was a chemist-engineer himself.
“His views are clear, forthright and, as usual, to the point. When I asked him about innovation, he tells me that engineering is the only way to make new ideas relevant.”
“When he talks of our planet he says that, in an increasingly crowded world, engineering is the only thing that can maintain the balance between nature and human ambition.”
Prince Philip with Lord Browne during the BBC Radio 4 Today programme. (Image: twitter.com/BBCr4today)
The Duke believes the purpose of engineering is “To make things better”.
He is President of the world’s oldest engineering society – the Smeatonian Society of Civil Engineers – founded in 1771.
Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering
Prince Philip also chairs the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering. The international £1 million prize is awarded once every two years to the person whose invention or breakthrough has been of enormous benefit to humanity.
In 2015, the prize was awarded to MIT Professor Robert Langer, the first individual to engineer polymers to control the delivery of large molecular-weight drugs for the treatment of a number of diseases and conditions, including cancer and mental illness.
The technologies created at Dr. Langer’s lab are said to have improved the lives of over 2 billion people worldwide.
Video – Interview with Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh