British Engineering and Water Treatment in Colombia in early 20th century

 

Academic Series (2024): Trade, Technology and Politics: Creating an enduring link between Colombia and the United Kingdom

In the third of these three presentations, Edisson Aguilar, from King’s College London (KCL) will discuss the connection of British Engineering in the water treatment technologies in Colombia in the early 20th century.
 
The moderator of this presentation will be Dr Andrés Guiot- Issacs, LSE Fellow of the Department of Economic History, London School of Economics.
 
The event will be held at the Colombian Consulate, 35 Portland Place, London W1B 1AE on Wednesday 6th of March 2024 from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm
 
Schedule:
 
6:00pm – Doors open
6 :30pm – Talk starts
7 :00 pm – Q & A session
7 :30pm -8:30pm – Networking reception.
 


 
In this talk, Edisson Aguilar will explore how Colombian doctors and engineers made decisions about the adoption of new water treatment technologies at the beginning of the 20th century, and its connection to British engineering. The drinking water conditions in Bogotá at that time were critical.
 
In the absence of sewage or filtration systems, typhoid fever and gastroenteritis spread, leading to alarming rates of infant mortality. Bogotá tried to modernise its water supply system, but different economic and legal obstacles prevented it from doing so. In 1907, the city decided to look at British engineering for solutions and hired a London-based company, Pearson & Sons, involved in engineering projects around the globe, to conduct a study and offer an upgrading plan. Pearson proposed a comprehensive transformation of Bogotá’s water and infrastructure, including the adoption of water treatment technologies like the ones existing in London at the time. However, the project was too expensive and, lacking options, in 1917, Colombian doctors and engineers turned to the United States, which had then begun to use a cheap and efficient method: water chlorination.
 
Colombian experts in the 1910s were quite familiar with the most up-to-date engineering and medicine of their time. The problem was not about knowledge, but a simpler one: costs. Developing countries such as Colombia face heavy budgetary restrictions when it comes to adopting new technologies and often have to choose the cheapest, not the most complete options. The moderator of this presentation will be Dr Andrés Guiot- Issacs, LSE Fellow of the Department of Economic History, London School of Economics.
 

About the Speaker

Edisson Aguilar Torres studied sociology and a Master’s in social studies of science at the National University of Colombia, a Master’s in Modern History at King’s College London and is currently a PhD candidate in History at King’s College London. His research focuses on the history of water supply in Colombia in the 20th century.