1880-1921: Our origins

The origins of IChemE are rooted in the professionalism of the chemical engineering discipline. As early as 1880 George E Davis, considered to be ‘the father’ of the profession, suggested that the group which became known as the Society of Chemical Industry, should be named the Society of Chemical Engineers. Spurred on by World War 1 and the need for a more scientific approach to the problems of the chemical plant, more standardised training for ‘chemical engineers’ was introduced, and the Institution was formed.


First public recognition of the term ‘chemical engineer’, when an attempt was made to establish a ‘Society of Chemical Engineers’ in London. It was soon found that membership of such a society would be too limited in its numbers, and the project was abandoned.

29 July 1918

Meeting held and decision taken to form, if possible, a subject group in chemical engineering within the Society of Chemical Industry (SCI).

9 November 1921

First meeting of those interested in forming a qualifying body for the profession of chemical engineering.

1921-1950: Building the foundations

On 2 May 1922, a group of gentlemen met at the Hotel Cecil in London inaugurating an organisation that became known as the Institution of Chemical Engineers. From these humble beginnings, this group set out to lay the foundations for the modern institution we have today. During these decades, an institutional structure was put in place, premises were secured, governance created, the first council elected, the benevolent fund set up, and professional membership grew to over 1,000 members. The Institution had a bright future to look forward to with the post-war boom in petrochemicals.

2 May 1922

Inaugural Meeting of the new Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) held at the Hotel Cecil in London.

21 December 1922

Institution of Chemical Engineers formally incorporated under the Companies Act, with its objects being set out in a Memorandum of Association.

10 January 1923

Sir Arthur Duckham elected as the Institution’s first President. 61 Members and 20 Associate Members were then elected into membership.

7 March 1923

Seal of the Institution, designed by Edith Hinchley, and representing the emblematic watering of the Tree of Knowledge from the Fountains of Chemistry and Engineering was approved by the Provisional Council and presented to the Institution by Sir Arthur Duckham as an enduring memento of his Presidency.

25 April 1923

The Institution occupied three rooms at Abbey House, Victoria Street, London, having made arrangements with the Chemical Engineering Group to secure joint office accommodation.

4 July 1923

First meeting of the Council held.


First issue of certificates made to Members, Associate Members and Honorary Members.

8 January 1930

The Benevolent Fund was approved and set-up.

March 1936

The Institution moved to new offices at 56 Victoria Street, London. This provided them with a more dignified Council room, a committee room and library as well as office and storage space.

31 December 1938

Total membership exceeded 1000 for the first time.

31 December 1949

Professionally qualified membership exceeded 1000 for the first time.

1950-1980: Broadening horizons

During the post-war years, fueled by the growth in petrochemical industries, IChemE’s membership grew significantly. Members were now joining from areas across the UK, and internationally. Most significantly the Royal Charter was secured, with HRH Prince Phillip becoming the first Royal Patron.

This period saw expansion of its communication to members through the publication of The Chemical Engineer, the election of the first non-British President, the relocation of the institutional headquarters to Rugby, and the inclusion of papers and thought leadership articles by related technologists presented at conferences for the first time. As a whole, the post-war years saw the organisation expand its boundaries to look beyond its origins and begin evolving into a body resembling that which we know today.

June 1956

The Institution’s regular bulletin was published for the first time as The Chemical Engineer.

8 April 1957

Royal Charter granted.


HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was pleased to become the first Royal Patron of the Institution.


Official seal bearing the Coat of Arms of the Institution was adopted by Council during the year.


Han Hoog became the first IChemE President elected from overseas.

21 April 1970

IChemE AGM was held in Birmingham: the first time that it had been held outside of London since its foundation.

1 March 1976

The Institution’s new administrative headquarters building was opened at Railway Terrace, Rugby.

1 January 1977

The Institution moved out of Belgrave Square and re-located the London office to 8-12 Old Queen Street, Westminster.


Establishment of the first subject group (now known as a special interest group) in separation processes.

July 1979

IChemE’s Northern Branch organised a successful initial conference on Major Loss Prevention in the Process Industries in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. This conference broke new ground in that papers were given not only by chemical engineers and related technologists, but also by those concerned with insurance and fire prevention.

1980-2021: Creating a sustainable organisation

In the latter part of the 20th century and the early 21st century, the organisation grew and diversified. Additional branches were opened in Australia and Malaysia, the premises in Rugby was expanded twice to provide further office and training accommodation, and importantly the Institution began to look at the wider chemical engineering ecosystem, supporting bioengineering, environmental sustainability, and demonstrating how chemical engineers make positive contributions to society.

With a focus on governance, the organisation grew to become the vibrant membership body of over 30,000 members across the globe today. In 2022, IChemE celebrates its centenary year honouring the work of chemical engineers, past and present, and begins laying the groundwork for a more sustainable future.


IChemE’s celebrates its Double Jubilee (60 years since foundation and 25 years since award of the Royal Charter).


Refurbishment completed of additional premises. This provided new accommodation for the Conference and Course Centre and was the main facility in Rugby for meetings of Council, committees and continuing education courses.

23 March 1994

First Awards Dinner held (in conjunction with the ET94 conference in Birmingham, UK).

10 January 1995

IChemE’s extended headquarters building in Rugby, formally opened by the Rt Hon David Hunt MBE MP.


IChemE celebrates its 75th anniversary.


Julia Stretton Higgins DBE becomes the first woman to be elected President of the Institution.

May 2019

Launch of Strategy 2024.

November 2020

IChemE issues its position statement on climate change.


IChemE celebrates its centenary.

September 2023

Strategy28+ is launched.