Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

The Royal Industrial Institute of Madrid (1850-1867). A Historical Overview

Jose Manuel Cano Pavón


This paper reviews the history, structure, evolution and salient activities of the
Royal Industrial Institute of Madrid. This was the first higher engineering school
established in Spain and also the key to the teaching system devised by Spain's
moderate liberal government of the 1850s to gather the human resources (engineers, intermediate technicians and skilled workers) needed to face the industrialization process under way in the country.
The Royal Industrial Institute was founded with the teachers and material resources of the former Arts Conservatory. Its consolidation was a gradual process. The
staff consisted of a little under thirty teachers and assistants including several engineers trained abroad (particularly in France and Belgium), as well as some architects, pharmaceutists and mathematicians of diverse origin. The Institute taught the three industrial education levels available at the time, and also a business curriculum. In addition, it trained craftsmen, and provided advice on and issued so-called “industrial privileges” (patents and trademarks). The Institute possessed its own industrial museum, with model machines and number of product samples. In its late years, the Royal Institute had few students owing to the existence of several competing higher industrial engineering schools in Spain and the scarcity of public and private jobs for industrial engineers at the time. This led to its closure in 1867 -a time of economic and political crisis-, the Industrial School of Barcelona remaining the sole teaching institution that trained industrial engineers in Spain until 1899.
The Royal Industrial Institute was studied from a broad perspective almost forty years ago by Alonso Viguera in his work on Spanish industrial engineering in the XIX
century.1 The human and material resources of the institution were examined in a
subsequent publication,2 with special emphasis on the teaching skills of its staff and the adequacy of its means as appraised from the closure inventories.

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