Lady Godiva is a historical figure who is honoured by engineers as the patron saint of engineering. She is heralded as such a saint due to her willingness to sacrifice for the sake of public good, and for her humility and dedication to society.
In the 11th century, the people of Coventry were under the rule of Earl Leofric and were being taxed harshly. In those days, the feudal system was the means of government in England, and the Lord ruled over the town and set taxes for the townspeople. The rulers taxed their people to pay for their luxuries while the taxes made the peasants' lives miserable. In addition, the taxes increased every year.
During one harvest season, the taxes had reached such a high level that it threatened the livelihood of the townspeople.
Lady Godiva, Earl Leofric's wife, took pity on the townspeople and repeatedly asked him to lower the taxes. He eventually agreed to doing so only if she rode through the streets of town naked on a horse.
Out of respect, the townspeople averted their eyes while she rode through town, except for one man, who could not resist the temptation. This is to be said as the origination of the word ‘Peeping Tom’.
After her valiant ride through the town, Earl Leofric kept his promise and lowered the taxes.
Godiva’s story is one of self-sacrifice and devotion to the benefit of society. She is the epitome of the character traits that are required of every Engineer. She understood that her duty to her citizens was more important than her own feelings and desires. Now, the Engineer’s integrity must be maintained because in this day and age, money is too often taking precedence over safety and public good. She embodies the spirit of our noble profession, and we should take heart from her story to stand up for what is right in the face of adversity, instead of being passive spectators. And thus she has become an icon for Engineers everywhere.