Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Political leaders from construction professions

In the Co-operative Network for Building Researchers, an international e-mail list of people in the same field as me, a question was raised by Leonhard Bernold: "...our profession lacks direct connections into the political sphere, despite our crucial roles everywhere you look. How many politicians are there in the country you live with an engineering education?"

That got me thinking, and I started to make a list, to which others then added, so (probably a pointless exercise) this is a place where I can maintain and edit a list of construction professionals who achieved political influence:

  • Boris Yeltsin, became president of Russia

  • Osama bin Laden is sometimes said to be have qualified as a civil engineer, but it is not too clear

  • Yasser Arafat (1929-2004), Palestinian Leader

  • Heberto Castillo Martinez, 68, Leftist Political Leader in Mexico

  • Ismail Abu Shanab: prominent leader, co-founder of Hamas

  • Hundreds of engineers and architects are challenging the official 9/11 Commission Report

  • Herbert Macaulay (1864-1945) was a Nigerian political leader. One of the first leaders of the Nigerian opposition to British colonial rule, he was also a civil engineer, journalist, and accomplished musician.

  • Mohamed Ahmad Mahgoub, Sudanese political leader, very interesting life. A poet, a lawyer, and a very active politician at the centre of the Suez crisis in 1956.

  • Robert Stephenson (1803-1859) Conservative Member of Parliament for Whitby 1847-59

  • Lee Myung-bak (b1941) President of South Korea since 2008. Although he ran Hyundai Construction, his University education was Business Administration, so maybe this does not count.

  • Ernest Marples, UK Minister of Transport

  • Sir Keith Joseph, Director of Bovis, UK Member of Parliament 1956-87, Secretary of State for Social Services 1970-4, Secretary of State for Industry 1979-81, Secretary of State for Education and Science 1981-6.

  • Paul Channon, UK Member of Parliament 1959-97,Minister for the Arts 1981-3, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry 1986–7, Secretary of State for Transport 1987–9.

  • Nick Ridley (1929-93), UK Member of Parliament 1959-92, Financial Secretary to the Treasury 1981–3, Secretary of State for Transport 1983–6, Secretary of State for the Environment 1986–9, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry 1989–90.

  • John Gilbert (b1927), UK Member of Parliament 1970-97, Financial Secretary to the Treasury 1974-5, Minister for Transport 1975-6, Minister of State for Defence 1976-9

  • Nasir El Rufai (b.1960) Director General of The Bureau of Public Enterprises, and former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja from 16 July 2003 to 29 May 2007. Member of the ruling People's Democratic Party.

  • President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran - A civil engineer with a PhD in civil engineering and traffic transportation planning. Also a lecturer and member of faculty at Iran University of Science and Technology.

We could go on and on with this, but I think the point is made that there are senior politicians all over the place who are engineers! What I don't understand is why people jump to conclusions like this without attempting to find out the truth of the matter first.


alanmossman said...

a number of chief Executives of Local Authorities in the SW are Civil Engineers - I was surprised at the proportion - there were three when I last counted - Gloucestershire, Devon and one other that I forget.

Alan Mossman

Will Hughes said...

Alan - that's excellent news! I would like to add them to this list, if I knew who they were...

Oranjepan said...

Nice one! RRL#21

Two suggestions for you from across the pond.

John Spencer was the Republican nominee for the New York Senate seat who lost to Hillary Clinton in 2006 and Bob Straub was the Democratic Governor of Oregon during the late 70's.

Adrian Windisch said...

While top level of the construction industry are accountants. What a world.

Iris Tommelein said...


Do include Fernando Flores whose work on language action is so relevant to lean construction! He's a CE grad. from the Univ. Catholica in Santiago, Chile, then went on to do a PhD in philosophy at UC Berkeley.

Iris Tommelein

Will Hughes said...

Oranjepan - I don't think these fine Americans make my list, as neither of them were qualified construction professionals, even though they had worked for or run construction firms. I can't see that Spencer had any qualifications, but Straub earned a bachelor of arts degree from Dartmouth College in 1943, and then a masters of business administration from the school in 1947. Not a construction professional in the sense of the original question, then.

Oranjepan said...

Hi there,
I think you open up an interesting distinction between those who are qualified in the science of the discipline and those who are practised in the art of it.

Looking at the more famous names on the list shows up some individuals who may have created some impressive buildings, but serious questions remain over the kind of societies they built.

On a slightly tangential note, we can see today's Britain is dominated by a surfeit of professional lawyers and PR people, yet our politics suffers from an over-abundance of new legislation and presentational issues which are detrimental to the overall effect.

So although I agree that a rebalancing is in order (and probably long past overdue), it remains an issue what that balance and the desired policy outcome should be.

On a more local level and in relation to practical moves I'd therefore be interested in your thoughts on the massive and multiple development proposals in housing and infrastructure which are currently being discussed for Reading and Berkshire.

I'm also sure your expert contribution the debate over the preservation of our heritage and the dilapidated King's Meadow pavilion would be highly valued.

I'd appreciate it if you could contact me at the email address on my profile page.

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