Engineering Feats (on a Finger)

A Ring Ritual

Quebec Bridge Collapse, 1907

Engineers in Canada wear an iron ring on the little finger of their working hand.

It's usually stainless steel these days, though a few are still made of wrought iron. When they get one, it's still sharp-edged and drags on everything, then smooths out over the years.

The legend is that the ring is meant to memorialize a bridge that collapsed twice, both times due to faulty calculations regarding the strength of iron.

More elaborate versions of the legend claim that the rings are all made of the steel of the bridge, and that the bridge had a gold bolt installed after the second collapse.

Specifically, this supposedly was the Quebec Bridge collapse in 1907, which killed 75 of the 86 workers working on the bridge at the time.

McCoy Fields, phoning it in

The Ritual of the Calling of My Accountant

In reality, the ritual was the brainchild of a group of Canadian engineers in 1922. They wrote to Rudyard Kipling—yes, the Rudyard Kipling who wrote The Jungle Book—for help in creating a suitably dignified ceremony for new engineers. Kipling loved the idea and created a ceremony called “The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer.”

The whole thing is meant to bind members of the profession together and remind them of the responsibilities of their work. The ritual is administered by seven Wardens, who are chosen from prominent Canadian engineers. There are seven Wardens because that was the size of the group that came up with the idea and administered it in the first place.

Every group has its rituals. So: what makes this one special?

Well, we commonly worry about the responsibilities of soldiers and doctors and people in other professions…and their potential to do harm by negligence. Engineers also frequently bear that kind of responsibility, but society doesn't seem to remind them quite so frequently of that fact.

Society wouldn't function without our engineers. That little reminder is important. And Canada has a ring reminder.



Oh, Yard Ramp Guythis quote-off is kinda like a ritual, yes?

“When you're writing, you're conjuring. It’s a ritual, and you need to be brave and respectful and sometimes get out of the way of whatever it is that you're inviting into the room.”

— Tom Waits

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