Mechanics Institute Worldwide 2021

On 16 October 1821, the world's first mechanics institute was inaugurated as the Edinburgh School of Arts. Its purpose was to provide practical, scientific education for working men through affordable evening classes.

From this start, grew a global movement that within a century could boast of over 9,000 mechanics' institutes around the world, training engineers for many different industrial revolutions in steam energy, electricity, rail, canal, civil infrastructures, fossil fuels and now renewable energies. The Edinburgh School of Arts began a global movement that has inspired generations of skilled engineers to deliver extraordinary innovations in science and technology – and continues to do so today.

The direct descendant institution of that first mechanics institute is Heriot-Watt University. So, it was particularly appropriate that in our bicentennial year we hosted the Mechanics' Institutes Worldwide 2021 conference – a unique and globally significant event to mark the 200th anniversary of the foundation of the mechanics' institute movement. Professor Patrick Corbett acted as the Conference Chair and was joined by friends and colleagues from institutes, colleges and universities across the world joined us to reflect on the historical impact of the movement, as well as current challenges and future opportunities.

The programme for the event is below and the programme schedule including papers is downloadable here. If you would like to watch any of the talks please click on the links below. We would like to extend particular thanks to Professor Corbett and his international advisory committee who worked tirelessly to make the event a success.

International advisory committee:

  • Lesley Scanlon - AUS
  • Joanna Bourke - England
  • Ellen Grandberg - USA
  • Steven Houston - Scotland
  • Tom Lonsdale - England
  • Roger Morris - Australia
  • Lynn Verge - Canada
  • David Verran - New Zealand
  • Martyn Walker - England
  • Lauren Weiss - Scotland
  • Sian Williams - Wales

Organising committee:

  • Alice Bracks - HWU
  • Patrick Corbett - HWU (Chair)
  • Jim Lowden - Victoria
  • Gavin Rennie – HWU
  • Aran Chandran - HWU
  • Sue Roaf – HWU

Conference Proceedings

View a detailed proceedings of the MIW 2021 Conference which also includes all the papers, talks and abstracts from the conference.

Session Recording

If you were unable to join the conference on the day or want to re-watch this commemorating conference we have created a YouTube playlist with the recording of each individual presentation which you can access via the links below.


Session 1:

Session 2:

Session 3:

Session 4: