Sarah Farnfield

UK & Europe

I graduated from the University of Surrey in 2011 with a MEng in civil engineering and have spent the last few years working as a graduate within Atkins' UK design and engineering, cities and infrastructure business. My experience has ranged from ports and maritime design, structural concrete, site supervision and now feasibility design for smart motorway schemes.

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The Financial Times recently published its ‘50 Leading Business Pioneers’ list that featured leading figures from the past and present that worked in industries ranging from science and technology to fashion and sport. We asked graduate civil engineer, Sarah Farnfield, who she would pick as her top three pioneers in the engineering sector.

Sir Joseph Bazalgette (1819-1891)

Sir Joseph Bazalgette is sometimes referred to as the “Sewer King”. In 1858 the “Great Stink of London” overwhelmed the city and spurred MPs on to support Bazalgette and his plans. He developed designs for underground infrastructure which still exist today. When Bazalgette began his sewer development 30,000 Londoners had passed because of cholera and thousands more were dying throughout the country. Over 16 years he constructed 83 miles of main intercepting sewers, 1,100 miles of street sewers, four pumping stations and two treatment works reducing cholera outbreaks.

Sir John Fowler (1817-1898)

President of the Institute of Civil Engineers between 1865 and 1867, Sir John Fowler had a long career throughout most of the railway expansion in the 19th century. He worked on the Metropolitan Railway in London, a world first, built by the “cut and cover” method under the city’s streets. These tunnels now form part of the London Underground on the Circle and Northern Lines. He was also the chief engineer for the Forth Railway Bridge and designed Grosvenor Bridge, the first railway bridge over the River Thames.

Mary Fergusson (1914-1997)

Mary Fergusson was the first female fellow elected by the Institute of Civil Engineers in 1957. She worked on infrastructure projects inclusive of bridges in the highlands, water purification schemes and paper mills. Upon retiring from full time work in 1978 she continued working as a consultant, using her fees to create a fund providing support to engineering students. In addition she was an active member of the Women’s Engineering Society encouraging women to take up engineering careers. Mary received an OBE in 1979.

As a graduate civil engineer, I picked these three people because I feel they highlight the influential role civil engineers can play. Bazalgette used his capabilities to save thousands of lives, Fowler worked tirelessly to bring about innovation within the railways and Fergusson showed her passion for the industry by inspiring potential and existing female engineers.

I’d be interested to see who others might select for their top three influencing pioneers – so have your say in the comments below.

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