This weekend, I pottered down to the Kirkaldy Testing Museum. Kirkaldy was an engineer who back in 1874 opened a “Testing and Experimenting Works” in Southwark, London for materials testing.
It’s a really interesting place to see. It was a global centre for testing materials for over 100 years (every link in the Hammersmith Bridge was tested to proof load there, the Enquiry into the Tay Bridge Disaster asked the Works to test recovered girders, etc. etc.) and the main testing machine is kept in working order. In addition to the machines and history, a couple of interesting points came out of the tour which chime with software testing Today.
Trust and Integrity
Over the 100 years it was in operation, the Kirkaldy family never made the works incorporated, so they were personally liable for any consequences of their output. This was part of their developed reputation for integrity. The issue of people wanting to or being pressured into giving the bill-payer the “right” answer has been an important problem since long before software test teams were invented! The works motto “Facts not Opinions” chimes exactly with the need for testers to hold true to their integrity Today.
At the point that Kirkaldy originally set up his works, most/all engineering works had their own testing sites (they had to!) However, from the start, Kirkaldy’s Works were inundated with work orders from other major engineering works, whose owners knew the problem of vested interests above and were therefore keen to get independent testing. These weren’t just UK firms – Krupps steel used Kirkaldy’s as independent testers from 1874 through until 1914.
If you’re around London, although it’s only open occasionally (there’s a volunteer force who run it) it’s definitely worth a look!