John Bartlett CBE FREng

John Bartlett CBE FREng, founder member and former Chair of the BTS, was awarded the Sir Frank Whittle Medal on 18 September 2018. This prestigious Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) award honours engineers whose sustained achievements have had a profound impact on their engineering discipline.

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John's invention, The Bentonite Tunnelling Machine (patented in 1964) was the precursor to today's TBM and was the first machine to enable the excavation of non-cohesive soils safely, efficiently and on a grand scale. The far-reaching effects of his ingenuity and dedication were summarised by Lord Robert Mair CBE FREng FRS, President of the Institution of Civil Engineers, who said, "There can be no doubt that a major revolution in the worldwide tunnelling industry was triggered by John Bartlett's invention of the Bentonite Tunnelling Machine. It has enabled a rapid increase in tunnel construction around the world, particularly in urban areas, for water supply, sanitation and transport with remarkable benefit to humanity".

John was with Mott, Hay and Anderson for most of his career and, on receiving his award from RAEng President Professor Dame Ann Dowling OM DBE FREng FRS, he modestly acknowledged the team nature of civil engineering, thanking those who had put him forward.

An article by Hugh Ferguson, Tunnelling Over Time, covering John's career and the impact of his invention on modern tunnelling methods, was published in issue 76 of Ingenia, the RAEng quarterly magazine (

With thanks to the ICE and the RAEng for permission to use the article and photograph.