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Short biographies of our Honorary Fellows can be read from the menus below.

1866 - Sir William Fairbairn

Sir William Fairbairn was born in Kelso in 1789.

At the age of sixteen he was apprenticed to Percy Main Colliery, near Newcastle-on-Tyne.  In 1811 he moved to London, where he worked for Rennie and Penn.  In 1817 he set up in business with a former shop-mate, James Lillie.   

Fairbairn was involved with many of the major technological advances of his day.  Some of the areas he was involved with include bridge building, machinery manufacture, investigation into the strength of materials and the construction of boilers, as well as the prevention of boiler explosions.  He was also one of the first to experiment with shipbuilding in iron, and his shipyard at Millwall was the earliest iron-shipbuilding establishment of any great size in England. 

He died in 1874.

1866 - Samuel Downing

Samuel Downing was born on 19 July 1811 at Bagenalstown, County Carlow, Ireland.  He was the second son of Rev. Samuel Downing, the rector of Fenagh, in the diocese of Leighlin.

Downing studied at Kilkenny College, and from January 1829, at Trinity College, Dublin.  He received his BA in Spring 1834.  At that time it was not possible to study engineering at Trinity College, so he travelled to Edinburgh, and studied engineering there from 1834-1835.  At the same time he spent much of his leisure time in an architect’s office.

After completing his studies, Downing became the pupil of Mr Bushe, and later became his assistant.  He was employed on dock works in South Wales, and also designed and executed a road bridge from the Isle of Portland to the mainline.  He later worked as resident engineer of the London and Birmingham Railway, and the Taff Vale Railway.

In 1846, Downing was appointed assistant professor of engineering at Trinity College, Dublin, under Sir John MacNeill.  MacNeill held the purely honorary post of professor, from which he resigned in 1852.  On MacNeill’s resignation, Downing was appointed to the chair of the Practice of Civil Engineering.  

His favourite subject was hydraulics.  He carried out many experiments in this area, funded by a grant by the Royal Irish Academy.  In 1855 he published a treatise on ‘Elements of Practical Mechanics’.  In 1875, he published the first volume of ‘Elements of Practical Construction’, and he was working on the second volume at the time of his death.

Downing was made an Honorary Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineering in 1865, after the Summer Meeting of that year was held in Dublin.  He acted as Honorary Local Secretary for the Meeting, and was largely responsible for its organisation.

Samuel Downing died on 21 April 1882.

1867 - General Arthur Morin

General Arthur Morin was born on 17 October 1795 in Paris, France.  As a young boy he studied in Italy but returned to Paris by 1814, where he completed his studies in mathematics at the Ecole Polytechnique. After this, he joined the artillery service and in 1823 was appointed lieutenant in the Spanish Civil War. He then assumed the role of Assistant Professor of Mechanics in the Artillery and Military Engineering School at Metz, where he edited the first publications of Jean-Victor Poncelet. Soon afterwards he succeeded Poncelet as Professor of Mechanics.                        

At Metz, he carried out experiments on friction, slipping, rolling, traction, and belts. He created and used different forms of dynamometer and this was the main factor in the success of his research. In 1839, he was made Professor of Applied Mechanics, a position specially created for him, at the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers Paris.  In 1849 he was appointed the Director of this institute.

In 1844, he was elected into the Academy of Sciences of the Institute of France.  He was juror in the London Exhibitions of 1851 and 1862, and a general commissioner for the Paris Exhibition of 1855.

Of French works known in England, his “Aide Mémoire” is one of the most popular. In addition, his treatises on practical mechanics, steam engines, pumps, hydraulics, motors, strength of materials and ventilation and warming are considered to be standard works. He set up the ventilation of the Corps Législatif, Opera, Châtelet, Gaieté, Lyrique and Vaudeville theatres in Paris. He was also the director of the Northern Railway of France for several years.

In 1867, at the first meeting of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers held in Paris, Morin was made an Honorary Member of the Institution.  This was partly because of the valuable contributions he made to the meeting as Director of  the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers. At the meeting he contributed a paper on the ventilation of public buildings, using the Conservatoire, Theatre Lyrique and one of the public schools as case studies in the description of his system of ventilation. In 1878, the Paris meeting of the Institution was repeated and Morin and the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers rendered the same good services.

General Arthur Morin died on 7 February 1880. 

1867 - Henri Edouard Tresca

Henri Edouard Tresca was born on 12 October 1814 in Dunkerque, France.  He gained a place at the Ecole de Saint-Cyr in 1832 but his love of science led him to transfer to the Ecole Polytechnique in 1833, and in 1835 he continued his studies at the Ecole de Ponts et Chaussées.

In 1841, he started as a civil engineer, constructing works for the manufacture of steric acid and the distillation of mineral oil. In 1851, at the Exhibition in London, he was in charge of the classification of the French productions. In 1852, General Morin invited him to take the post of engineer in the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers. In 1854, he succeeded Morin in the chair of mechanics. That same year he was appointed inspector of the industrial schools throughout the country and was a member of the committee that selected teachers for the respective schools.  

He published his various experiments on mechanical subjects in the Annales du Conservatoire (a work originated by himself), which were rapidly recognised as authoritative in and beyond France. 

He devoted the last twenty years of his life to what he considered to be his most important work of all, his investigations into the ‘flow of solids’. He gave a paper on this subject at the first meeting of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in Paris in 1867, and produced a further paper at the second meeting of the Institution in 1878. The work he undertook as secretary of the Metre Commission resulted in the adoption of the form designed by him for the metre standards, by which strength was combined with lightness. 

Tresca attended the Electrical Exhibition in Paris in 1881 and although he had a limited knowledge of this department of science, he nonetheless took the lead in conducting the trials there made of various apparatus exhibited, and became an authority in experiments on electric lighting and the transmission of power by electricity.  

During his lifetime he held many titles both of French and of foreign distinction.  Some of the most notable include Honorary President of the French Institution of Civil Engineers, Member of the French Academy of Sciences, Professor and Chairman of Council in the College of Arts and Manufacture, Professor of Mechanics in the Agricultural Institute, Member of the Council of Technical Education, Vice-President of the Society for Encouragement of National Industry, and Vice –President of the International Society of Electricians, of which he was also a founder. In 1867, he was nominated by the Council of the Institution an Honorary Member, and he was present at the summer meeting in Belgium in 1833. 

Henri Edouard Tresca died on 21 June 1885.

1876 - James Ludovic Lindsay, Lord Lindsay of Balcarres

James Ludovic Lindsay was born at St Germain-en-Laye, in France, on 28 July 1847.  He was the son of Alexander, the 25th Earl, whom he succeeded in 1880, and his wife Margaret.  He was educated at Eton and at Trinity College, Cambridge.  He married Emily Florence Bootle-Wilbraham in 1869, and they had a daughter and six sons

He devoted himself to astronomy, and soon gained distinction in his chosen field.  With the help of his father, he built an observatory at Dunechet, Aberdeenshire, which he presented to the nation, along with its equipment and library of mathematical and astronomical works.  Crawford made several astronomical expeditions, including expeditions to Cadiz in 1870, to observe the solar eclipse and to Mauritius in 1874, to observe the transit of Venus.  In 1878 and 1879 he was President of the Royal Astronomical Society.  He became a fellow of the Royal Society in 1878.

Crawford had many other interests.  He made a scientific expedition during 1905 and 1906 in his steam yacht, ‘Valhalla’.  He visited South America, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Madagascar, and brought back a collection of rare birds which he presented to the Zoological Society.  Another of his passions was stamp-collecting, and he formed one of the most valuable stamp-collections in England.  The Royal Philatelic Society London, of which he was President, established the Crawford Medal in his honour.  This medal, awarded annually, is given for ‘the most valuable and original contribution to the study and knowledge of philately published in book form during the two years preceding the award’.  Crawford was also named as one of the ‘Fathers of Philately’ by the Philatelic Congress of Great Britain.

Lindsay’s English seat was at Haigh Hall, Wigan, and he had strong links with the local community.  He served as MP for Wigan between 1874 and 1880, when he was elevated to the peerage.  He was chairman of the Wigan Coal and Iron Company for many years, and also served as President of the Wigan and District Chamber of Commerce.  

He was created a Knight of the Thistle in 1891 and was a Knight of Grace of St John of Jerusalem and a Commander of the Legion of Honour.  He was made an Honorary Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1878.

He died on 31 January 1913 at the age of 66.

1876 - John William Strutt, Lord Rayleigh of Terling Place

John William Strutt was born at Langford Grove, Essex, on 12 November 1842.  Educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, he was awarded the Sheepshanks Exhibition in astronomy, and in 1865 he was Senior Wrangler (the highest scoring student gaining a first-class honours in the third year of the mathematical tripos) and the first Smith’s Prizeman. He was elected a Fellow of Trinity College the following year. After graduating he developed his laboratory and experimental work at Terling Place, the family seat at Witham in Essex.

In 1871 he resigned his Fellowship to marry Evelyn Georgiana Mary, sister to Arthur James Balfour, later Earl of Balfour and Prime Minister. He succeeded his father as Third Baron Rayleigh in 1873, the same year that he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.

He was a founder members of the Society for Psychical Research, but was never a convinced follower, declaring in his presidential address to the Society in 1919 that he had “no definite conclusions to announce” after “45 years of hesitation”.

During the 1870s he undertook significant work in the fields of acoustics and optics, and in 1871 he proposed a solution to one of the then most puzzling questions in optics: why is the sky blue? His Theory of Sound, published in 1877 was for many years the standard work on the subject.

In 1879 he succeeded James Clerk Maxwell as Cavendish Professor of Physics, where he systematised laboratory instruction in elementary physics in a way that later became the basis for physics education in many other institutions of higher education. He also initiated the research programme that led to the redetermination of the ohm, the ampere and the volt.

He was elected Secretary of the Royal Society in 1885, a position he held until 1896, and in 1887 he succeeded John Tyndall as Professor of Natural Philosophy at the Royal Institution.

Following painstaking research during the 1880s and early 1890s, Rayleigh, latterly with William Ramsay, professor of chemistry at University College London, was responsible for the discovery of argon in the atmosphere. For this they received the Smithsonian Hodgkins prize and, in 1904, the Nobel Prizes for physics (Rayleigh) and chemistry (Ramsay). Rayleigh donated the cash award from the Nobel Prize to the University of Cambridge.

He was chairman of the Treasury committee which recommended the establishment of the National Physical Laboratory, and he subsequently presided over its executive committee. He was Chief Gas Examiner under the Metropolitan Gas Acts, and he was chairman of the explosives committee of the War Office. From 1896 to 1911 he was chief scientific adviser to Trinity House.

Rayleigh was one of twelve upon whom King Edward first conferred the Order of Merit in 1902. In 1905 he became President of the Royal Society, and a Privy Councillor that same year. In 1908 he was elected Chancellor of the University of Cambridge.

The recipient of many honorary degrees and awards, he was made an Honorary Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1896. 

He died at Terling Place on 30 June 1919 at the age of 76.

1883 - Sir Frederick Augustus Abel

Frederick Augustus Abel was born on 17 July 1827 at Woolwich, England.  He was the son of the late Mr. Johann Frederick Abel of Woolwich. He decided to pursue a career as a chemist, beginning his studies in 1844 at the Royal Polytechnic Institution.  In 1845 he gained entry to the Royal College of Chemistry, which had recently been founded with a temporary laboratory in George Street, Hanover Square. 

In 1846, he became assistant to Professor Hoffman, who had founded the College. After five years in this position, he was appointed to succeed Michael Faraday as Professor of Chemistry at the Royal Military Academy.  He held this post until 1854, when he was appointed Chemist to the War Office. He remained in this position until 1891, serving as an adviser on all matters relating to ammunition and explosives. He was also President of the Explosives Committee from 1889-91.

Sir Frederick Abel and Professor Dewar were both members of a Select Committee set up by the Government in 1888 to examine the various kinds of smokeless powder in existence, and together they patented the substance now known as cordite. 

In conjunction with Sir Andrew Noble he carried out investigations into the processes that aided the firing of black powder.  He made important contributions to the theory of detonation.  He was also interested in the construction of electrical and other fuses. In 1879, he was appointed member of the Royal Commission on Accidents in Mines and his knowledge of blasting powders was invaluable.  He contributed much on the subject of the flash-point of petroleum, resulting in the legislation of his open-test apparatus in 1868. Later, when it proved subject to manipulation, the close-test instrument was designed and legalised in 1879.

In 1881, he undertook for the Research Committee on the Hardening etc. of Steel, experiments on the condition in which carbon exists in steel, following this up with a second report in 1883 and the final report in 1885. He was elected an Honorary Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1883 and served as an Honorary Secretary until his death. He retired from his appointment at the War Office in 1888. From 1887-1900 he acted as Organising secretary of the Imperial Institute.

He was made a Companion of the Bath in 1877, knighted in 1883, promoted to the rank of Knight Commander of the Bath in 1891, and created a Baronet in 1893, after the opening of the Imperial Institute.  In 1901 he received the honour of the Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order. He also held the Albert, Royal, Telford and Bessemer Medals.

He was a Fellow of the Royal Society, D.C.L. of Oxford, and D.Sc. of Cambridge. Amongst his various achievements, he had been President of British Association, the Iron and Steel Institute, the Chemical Society, the Institute of Chemistry, the Society of Chemical Industry, the Institution of Electrical Engineers and Chairman of the Society of Arts, and had published several books chiefly associated with explosives.

Sir Frederic Augustus Abel died on 6 September 1902. 

1883 - Sir Alexander Blackie William Kennedy

Sir Alexander Kennedy was born in Stepney in 1847, and died in 1928.

He served his apprenticeship of four and a half years with J & W Dudgeon, shipbuilders and marine engineers at Millwall.  He then took up a position as leading draughtsman in the engine department of Palmers' Shipbuilding and Iron Company at Jarrow-on-Tyne.  In 1871 he commenced practice as a consulting engineer in Edinburgh and Glasgow, in partnership with H O Bennett.

At the age of 27, he became Professor of Engineering at University College, London.  Here he established the first college engineering laboratory.  He continued to take on a great deal of consulting engineering work however, and in 1889 he resigned the professorship and devoted himself entirely to design and constructional work.

He carried out a large number of experiments on concrete beams, and designed the steel and concrete structure of the Alhambra Theatre.  He increasingly concentrated on electrical engineering, and became Chief Engineer of the Westminster Electric Supply Company, Central Electric Company and the St James's and Pall Mall Electric Supply Company.  He designed many provincial electricity generating stations, and was also associated with related undertakings such as the London County Council Tramways, the Waterloo and City Tube Railway, the electrified lines of the Great Western Railway and Southern Railway and the formation of the London Power Company.

As well as his technical papers, he also published several books of wide interest, including 'Ypres to Verdun', a series of lectures and photographs depicting the devastation caused by the First World War, and 'Petra: its History and Monuments'.  The latter was an account of a journey of exploration undertaken at the age of 75, accompanied by photographs which he had taken.

He also had a great love of music and was a talented amateur musician.

He died in 1928.

1883 - Jean-Louis Trasenster

Jean-Louis Trasenster was born on 10 February 1816 at Beaufays, near Liége, Belgium.  He was educated at the Liége public school and then studied science in the University, where in 1836 he and one other were the first students in the newly established department of mining engineering.

In 1838, he gained by examination the rank of mine manager, and in 1842 was the first to be awarded the title of government mining engineer. In 1840, before he had completed all his diplomas, he was placed in charge of the class of elementary statistics at the University of Liége. In 1844, he was appointed lecturer on mining and held this post till 1879. In 1845, he became inspector of the junior department of the Mining school.

He was made inspector of the practical department and professor of the faculty of science in 1846.  He rose by successive promotions to the highest rank in 1855.  Meanwhile. in 1849 he was also appointed secretary to the University. In 1880 he was made Rector of the University and in 1883 this appointment was renewed for a further three years.

When the Association des Ingénieurs sortis de L’École de Liége was founded in 1847 by twenty-nine of his former pupils, he was elected their first president. He was re-elected annually for thirty-nine consecutive years until 1886 when he retired. 

At the start of his career, he acted as consulting engineer to the John Cockerill Company, Seraing. He was also chairman of the Ougrée Coal and Iron Works, near Liége, being re-elected for thirty-eight years. He was also a director of the Alstaden Collieries in Prussia, the Maestricht Paper Mills, and the Herve Railways near Liége.

In 1844 his treatise on ventilating machines was published and in 1852 his treatise on rotary ventilators followed suit. In 1848 and 1872 he produced his works on the draining of mines, and in 1872 and 1878 his works on the use of compressed air and water pressure. It was at his instigation that dressed stone was first used as tubbing for lining the shafts of coal-pits at Alsatden and Seraing.  He facilitated improvements, both in the employment of compressed air for sinking pits through watery measures, and in the construction of man engines.

He was part of the editing committee of the “Annnales des Travaux Publics,” and of the “Revue Universalle des Mines,” and contributed important articles to both of these publications. He introduced public baths and wash houses to Liége

At the International Exhibitions of 1862 in London, 1867 in Paris, and 1873 in Vienna, he was juror.

He was made an Honorary Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers at the Summer Meeting of the Institution in Belgium in 1883.  He died on 1 January 1887.

1888 - Lawrence Parsons, Earl of Rosse

Lawrence Parsons was born on 17 November 1840 at Birr Castle, Parsontown, Ireland, and succeeded to the title of 4th Earl of Rosse when his father died in 1867. The following year he was elected a Representative Irish Peer. He was the eldest brother of the Hon. Charles A. Parsons, C.B., F.R.S., who is largely responsible for the modern development of the turbine. 

He accomplished much in the scientific field and subsequently received a number of honorary degrees including: the honorary degree of D.C.L from the University of Oxford (1870), the degree of LL.D. from Dublin University (1879) and the same latter honorary degree from Cambridge. He succeeded Earl Cairns as Chancellor of Dublin University in 1885.

In 1890, he received the knighthood of the Order of St. Patrick. In addition to acting as Lord Lieutenant for King’s County, he occupied several Government and municipal positions, and the London County Council appointed him chairman of the committee that dealt with gas-testing.  He was very popular in Birr, which was practically founded by his ancestors, and which he developed considerably. 

He was Fellow of the Royal Society, and an Honorary Member of the Institution from 1888. At the Dublin meeting held in that year at Birr Castle, he contributed a Paper on a 'Balanced or Automatic Sluice for Weirs.'  He maintained the observatory established at Birr Castle by his father, including the famous Rosse reflector and always took a keen interest in astronomical research.

Amongst other matters, he himself carried out a series of investigations of the temperature of the moon at different periods of lunation. These investigations were still in progress when he died on 30 August 1908, and were yielding some interesting results.

1888 - Reverend Samuel Haughton

Samuel Haughton was born on 21 December 1921 in Carlow, Ireland.

He was educated at the Carlow Diocesan School, where he gained knowledge of Hebrew, botany, chemistry, astronomy and the geology of Leinster coalfield, under the guidance of Rev. John Emerson.  Contemplating a clerical life, he attended the county infirmary as a pupil of Dr. Thomas Rawson. He was also interested in mechanics and assisted his cousin, Mr. S Wilfred Haughton in constructing a model steam engine. Aged seventeen, he gained a place at Trinity College, Dublin. In 1843, aged twenty-two, he obtained the first senior moderatorship in mathematics, gaining the gold medal. together with his degree.  Dr. Salmon, his tutor, advised him to compete for a fellowship, which he obtained in 1844, within a year of completing his degree, an act that was unprecedented. 

He was ordained deacon in 1846 and priest in 1847. Retaining his fellowship, he set up a class with his colleague, the Rev. Joseph Galbraith, for the preparation of students seeking commissions in the Royal Artillery and the Royal Engineers. In 1862, he obtained the degree of Doctor of Medicine of Dublin University, and was appointed successively registrar, and in 1879 chairman of the medical school. He was also made a governor of Sir Patrick Dun’s Hospital.

He was joint author of the Galbraith and Haughton series of manuals. In 1851 he became professor of geology and held this post till 1881, when he was co-opted to the Board of Senior Fellows. He represented the University of Dublin on the General Medical Council from 1878 to 1896 and effectively advocated the Dublin schools of medicine.

In 1873 he produced a book on Animal Mechanic, in which his early mechanical tastes are shown in combination with his surgical, physiological and mathematical knowledge. He was president of the Royal Irish Academy from1886 to 1891 where he published a work on the tides of the Irish Seas. He was honorary secretary at the Royal Zoological Society of Ireland for several years. He became a fellow of the Royal Society in 1858, and received the degrees of D.C.L. of Oxford in 1868, LL.D. and M.D of Cambridge in 1880, LL.D of Edinburgh in 1884, and honorary M.D of the University of Bologna in 1888. He was also honorary fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland. 

Haughton was made an Honorary Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1888, after the Summer Meeting of that year was held in Trinity College, Dublin.

Samuel Haughton died on 31 October 1897.

1889 - Gustave Alexandre Eiffel

Gustave Alexandre Eiffel was born on 15 December 1832 at Dijon, France. He received his elementary education in Dijon and at the Lycée Ste. Barbe, Paris. He went on to study civil engineering courses at the École Centrale des Arts et Métiers which he completed in 1855. In 1857, he became a member of the Société des Ingénieurs Civils de France.

In 1858, he became resident engineer on the construction of the iron bridge over the River Garonne at Bordeaux. He then engaged in various contractual works, including the designing, building, and testing of the structure forming the machinery hall for the Paris International Exhibition of 1867. Up until 1887, when he began construction of the Paris 300-metre tower, Eiffel had built iron and steel bridges amongst other things which had a total weight of over 100,000 tons.

The Eiffel Tower, whose weight is 7,800 metric tons, served its purpose during the Exhibition of 1889, and since that period, particularly during the war, it proved a most invaluable building owing the introduction of wireless telegraph and telephony. Eiffel relinquished his active participation in structural engineering due to old age, but continued a practical interest in the experimental side of aerodynamics, setting up a laboratory for this near the Tower, and later on Auteuil.

Eiffel was president of the French Society of Civil Engineers in 1889, and welcomed the members of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers on their visit to the Eiffel Tower at the Summer Meeting in that year. As a result of that visit, the Council nominated Eiffel an Honorary Member of the Institution. Also at the Summer Meeting in Paris in 1922 he received the members at the Tower, and honoured the Institution by attending the Banquet in June of that year. He achieved a number of distinctions for his work. He was an Officer of the Legion of Honour, Officer de l’instruction Publique and was a Knight and Commander of many foreign orders. He also received the Langley gold medal of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington.

He died on 28 December 1923.

1890 - HRH Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (later His Majesty King Edward VII)

Born at Buckingham Palace on 9 November 1841, the first son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, he became Prince of Wales at the age of one month. Educated privately, he subsequently attended Oxford and Cambridge, following a period spent cramming at Edinburgh in 1859. He enjoyed his studies at Oxford, and performed satisfactorily in his examinations. In 1860 he travelled to the USA and to Canada, the first heir to the throne to visit either country. Naturally good humoured and genial, his visit was very successful. He returned to continue his studies at Oxford, and at Trinity College, Cambridge.

The death of the Prince Consort in 1861 delayed his marriage to Princess Alexandra of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, but they were eventually married at Windsor on 10 March 1863. Between 1864 and 1871 they had seven children; their second son, George, born on 3 June 1865, subsequently became King George V. Alexandra took great pleasure in her children, and did not attend public events frequently, whereas the Prince was very much committed to a vigorous social round. Although they managed these differences successfully, there was much criticism of their different lifestyles, and he was sometimes booed in public. However towards the end of 1871 he almost died of typhoid.  When he recovered there was widespread celebration and his popularity was ensured.

He took his seat in the House of Lords in February 1863, and set up his London home at Marlborough House in Pall Mall. He also bought Sandringham House in Norfolk. At this time he did not take on any official duties, and neither did he represent the Queen at public occasions. He did take on a number of public responsibilities, playing a significant part in the planning of the Royal Albert Hall and the Royal College of Music. He was also President of the Society of Arts in 1863 and of the 1851 Commissioners in 1870, and he was the Chairman of the Governors of Wellington College in 1864.

During the 1870s, however, he was increasingly the official representative of the Head of State, and he fulfilled this role with great success, becoming known for his ability to speak fluently from very brief notes. In 1875 he made an official visit to India which was seen as very successful, his easy manner with people at all levels of society being particularly helpful in easing the racial tensions evident in colonial India. Indeed, he was very critical of the way some British political office holders dealt with the Indians, and new instructions on this were subsequently issued by the Secretary of State, Lord Salisbury. On his return from India he was awarded several honorary degrees and the freedom of several cities.

In 1881 he became a trustee of the British Museum.  In 1884 he was a member of the Royal Commission on the Housing of the Working Classes – the first heir to the throne to serve on such a commission – and in 1891 he served on the Royal Commission on the Aged Poor. In 1897 he established the Prince of Wales’s Hospital Fund for London, which in 1902 became King Edward’s Hospital Fund for London. He was elected an Honorary Life Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1890.

As international relations deteriorated during the 1890s he formed the view that Britain was becoming dangerously isolated, and he worked to strengthen links with Portugal and the USA. During the Boer War, while travelling in Denmark, he was the target of an unsuccessful assassination attempt, and on his return to London he was greeted by huge crowds, reflecting the extent to which his popularity had grown.

When Queen Victoria died on 22 January 1901 he ascended to the throne, announcing at once that he should be known as Edward VII. His Coronation, originally arranged for 26 June 1902, was postponed when he was diagnosed with appendicitis and peritonitis. Following a successful operation on 23 June he was crowned on 9 August 1901.

He was enthusiastic about being King, and this rather than duty informed his reign. He set about reorganizing the Royal Palaces and finances, and he revived the practice of the monarch personally opening Parliament. Early in 1902 he proposed an Order of Merit, which would mark distinction in the arts, sciences, literature, and the armed forces, keeping appointment to this Order very much in his own hands. He saw that style was critical to the public perception of the monarchy, and his court set the tone for the ‘Edwardian period’ as it came to be known. At the time it symbolized energy and change, although it subsequently came to be seen as a sort of ‘golden age’ before the First World War.

Much more of the political centre than his mother, he enabled the Monarchy to retain its popularity through a politically difficult period. In 1902 Lord Salisbury was replaced as Prime Minister by A J Balfour. Although he thought that Balfour’s resignation in 1905 was unnecessary, he formed a good relationship with Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, who won a striking victory in the General Election of 1906. After Campbell-Bannerman resigned in 1908 his relationship with Herbert Asquith was much more formal. Conflict between the House of Commons and the House of Lords was growing during this period, and it was brought to a head by the Finance Bill of 1909, which the Lords rejected. The King acquiesced to Asquith’s request for him to dissolve Parliament, and the Government won a substantial majority in the subsequent election. The reintroduced Finance Bill was eventually passed into law on 14 April 1910.

The King travelled to Biarritz in March 1910, where he became ill, returning to Buckingham Palace on 27 April. He travelled to Sandringham on the 30 April, and Queen Alexandra returned from a visit to Corfu to be with him on 5 May. He died the following day, 6 May 1910, at the age of 68. 

1892 - Field-Marshal HRH Prince George, Duke of Cambridge

Field Marshal Prince George, Duke of Cambridge was born on 26 March 1819 at Cambridge House, Hanover, the son of Prince Adolphus Frederick, First Duke of Cambridge and his wife, Princess Augusta of Hesse-Cassel.  He was privately educated. He was made a Knight of the Order of the Garter in 1835 and embarked on a military career.

In 1837, after serving for a short time in the Hanoverian army, he returned to the England and became a Colonel in the British army. From October 1838 to April 1839 he was attached to the staff at Gibraltar, and after serving in Ireland with the 12th Royal Lancers, he was appointed Colonel of the 17th Light Dragoons in April 1842. From then until 1845 he served as a staff colonel in the Ionian Islands, where he received the Grand Cross of St Michael and St George. In 1850 he succeeded his father as Second Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Tipperary, and Baron Culloden.

He became inspector of cavalry in 1852, holding that post until the outbreak of the Crimean War, when he received the command of the First Division (Guards and Highland Brigades) of the British Army in the East. In June 1854 he was promoted to Lieutenant-General, and he was present at the battles of Alma, Balaclava, and Inkerman, and at the siege of Sevastopol. In July 1956 he was appointed General Commanding-in-Chief of the British Army, and became a member of the Privy Council; his post was re-titled Commander-in-Chief by Letters Patent in 1887. He served as the chief military advisor to the Secretary of State for War, with responsibility for the administration of the army and command of forces in the field. He was promoted to the rank of Field-Marshal in November 1862, and was the longest serving head of the British Army, being Commander-in Chief for 39 years. He had a reputation for being old-fashioned and resistant to change, although he was deeply concerned about the welfare of soldiers and took a keen interest in army reform. He was involved in the creation of the army Staff College, and was Governor of the Military Academy, Woolwich.

Following the Prussian victory in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71 the Secretary of State for War in W. E. Gladstone’s Liberal Government, Edward Cardwell, called for major army reforms.  The Duke of Cambridge firmly but unsuccessfully opposed his proposals. The impetus for reform continued in the War Office Act of 1870, which formally made the Commander-in-Chief of the army subordinate to the Secretary of State for War, and he opposed this and many other subsequent reforms. He resigned on 1 November 1895.

In 1840 he had met the actress, Sarah (Louisa) Fairbrother, daughter of a theatrical promoter, and the couple had two sons before marrying on 8 January 1847, in defiance of the Royal Marriages Act. They subsequently had a third son.

He received many honours and awards, including the Order of the Thistle in 1881, and he was elected Honorary Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1892.

He died on 17 March 1904 at Gloucester House, Park Lane, at the age of 84.

1896 - Sir Professor William Cawthorne Unwin

Professor William Cawthorne Unwin was born in Coggeshall, Essex, in 1838.  He was educated at the City of London School and New College, St. John’s Wood.  He served his pupilage with Sir William Fairbairn from 1854 to 1861, and during this time attended the University of London in the evenings, graduating with a BSc in 1861. 

At the age of 23 he became works manager for Williamson and Brothers of Kendal.  After six years, he was appointed Instructor in the Royal School of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, South Kensington.  He was then appointed Chair of Hydraulic Engineering at the Royal Indian Engineering College, Cooper’s Hill, and in 1884 became the first Professor of Civil and Mechanical Engineering at the City and Guilds of London Central Technical College, South Kensington.  He was widely acknowledged as a leading authority on technical education.

One of his interesting activities was his work as Secretary of the International Commission on the Utilization of the Niagara Falls, which was formed in 1890 under the chairmanship of Lord Kelvin.  He was concerned with thorough investigations in different countries on hydraulic and electrical developments, and played an important part in the selection of the Niagara plant.

He was a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1886, and served on its Council in 1894.  He was President of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1911.  He was President of the Engineering Section of the British Association in 1892 and served for lengthy periods on the Senate of the University of London on the main Committee of the British Engineering Standards Association, and, during the First World War, on the Metropolitan Munitions Committee Management Board. 

He died on 17 March 1933, at the age of 95.

1897 - Sir Professor William Chandler Roberts-Austen

Sir William Chandler Roberts-Austen was born on 3 March 1843 in London. Aged eighteen, he accepted a place at the School of Mines.  He initially intended to become a mining engineer but when he obtained the associateship of the school he was employed by Professor Graham, then Master of the Mint.

When Professor Graham died in 1869 Roberts-Austen was appointed assayer and was promoted in 1882 to the position of Queen’s Assay-Master. He was put in charge of all the scientific, as distinguished from the mechanical, operations of coinage and until his death he was responsible for the standard fineness of about one hundred and thirty million gold coins.

In 1880 he succeeded Dr. Percy as Professor of Metallurgy at the Royal School of Mines, while still occupying his post at the Mint. From 1880 onwards, he engaged in a long series of experimental research on the atomic theory of metals, and of the influence of traces of impurities on the whole mass. In 1889 the Alloys Research Committee of The Institution of Mechanical Engineers was appointed and Roberts acted as Reporter to it, carrying out many of the tests. This Committee made five Reports and the sixth and final one was in draft form before his death.  By means of photography, he introduced his automatic recording pyrometer in order to record temperatures automatically.

Alloys formed the topic of his lecture to the British Association at their Newcastle Meeting in 1889, dealing with the hardening and tempering of steel, by which means he struck up a long association with the French metallurgist, M. Osmond.

He worked on several Government committees. In 1893 he was chairman of the committee appointed to enquire into the laboratory arrangements of the Customs and Inland Revenue Departments. In that same year he served on a committee appointed to consider the best means of utilising for metallurgical purposes the water power available on the completion of the Periyar Water Works in India.

In 1896 he served on a Board of Trade Committee on the loss of strength of steel rails through use on the railways, in connection with which he conducted an elaborate research and produced a report of great industrial importance.

He was also a member of the Explosives committee of the War from its inception.  He was elected an Honorary Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1887 in recognition of his valuable work on the Alloys Research Committee, and was President of the Iron and Steel Institute in 1899-1900. He was also elected an Honorary Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1901.  He was one of the founders of the Physical Society of London, serving as secretary for a while and then vice-president. He acted as an honorary secretary of the British Association of for the Advancement of Science. In 1875, he became a Fellow of the Royal Society, and served on the Council.  He was also a vice-president of the Chemical Society and of the Society of the Arts.

In 1890 he was created a Companion of the Bath, and was promoted to be a Knight Commander in 1899. He was given the title of D.C.L by the University of Durham in 1897, and he was doctor of Science of Victoria University, Manchester. He had served on the Government Commission in connection with the Exhibitions of Paris in 1889, and in Chicago. He was Knight of the Legion of Honour, and in 1893 he was elected a member of the Athenæum Club for distinguished eminence in Science. 

He died on 22 December 1902.

1899 - HRH George Duke of York (later His Majesty King George V)

George Frederick Ernest Albert was born on 3 June 1865 at Marlborough House, London.  He was the second son of the Prince and Princess of Wales, later King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra.

He spent his early life at Sandringham, and from the age of 12 he served in the Royal Navy with his older brother, Albert. In 1883 he was posted as a Sub-Lieutenant to HMS Canada, before attending the Royal Naval College at Greenwich and HMS Excellence at Portsmouth. In 1889 he took command of a torpedo boat, and in 1890 the gunboat HMS Thrush, being promoted to Commander in 1891. His active Naval career ended after a brief command of the Cruiser HMS Melampus, when in 1892 he was created Duke of York by Queen Victoria, taking his seat in the House of Lords the same year. However, he became a captain in the Royal Navy in 1893, then Rear-Admiral and Vice-Admiral in 1901 and 1903 respectively, Admiral in 1907, and finally Admiral of the Fleet in 1910.

After the death of his elder brother, Albert, at the beginning of 1892 he was second in line to the throne, and in July 1893 he married Princess Mary of Teck. The couple lived at York Cottage on the Sandringham estate, and had six children, the first being the future Edward VIII, and the second the future George VI. He was a keen sportsman and also developed a strong interest in stamp collecting, building up a collection of over a quarter of a million stamps.

On the death of Queen Victoria on 22 January 1901 his father ascended the throne as Edward VII, and he became Duke of Cornwall and Duke of Rothsay. He and Mary toured the British Empire, visiting Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Canada, and on his return he was created Prince of Wales. In 1906 he toured India, and, like his father, was shocked by the discrimination meted out by the colonial civil service to the Indian population, and he campaigned for greater involvement of Indians in the running of the country. When Edward VII died on 6 May 1910 he ascended the throne as King George V. He and Queen Mary were crowned at Westminster Abbey on 22 June 1911. Later that year they travelled to India where they were present at the Delhi Durbar, where they were presented to an audience of Indian Princes and dignitaries as the Emperor and Empress of India, George wearing the newly-created Imperial Crown of India.

He had opened Parliament for the first time in February 1911, in the midst of what was a very turbulent period for the constitutional position of the monarchy. The rejection by the House of Lords of the 1909 Finance Bill had led to moves to limit the power of the Lords to over-turn the will of the House of Commons on financial matters, through the introduction of the Parliament Bill. This was eventually passed into law in 1911, the King having ultimately agreed to back the government of the day, and so the House of Commons. The introduction of the Home Rule Bill for Ireland in 1912 marked further turmoil in Parliament, and this again directly involved the King. These years, between his accession to the throne and the start of the First World War, marked the most challenging constitutional experience of a British monarch since the time of George III.

On the outbreak of war in 1914 there was much concern about the close family ties between the British royal family and the German Kaiser Wilhelm II, who was the King’s first cousin. As a consequence, on 17 July 1917 he issued an Order in Council that changed the name of the British Royal House from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to Windsor, and he, and all of his relatives who were British subjects relinquished the use of all German titles and styles, and adopted British-sounding surnames. During and after the First World War the monarchies that had ruled most of Europe fell; many, including Russia, to revolution and war. In 1922 a Royal Navy ship was sent to rescue the King’s cousin, Prince Andrew of Greece and his wife, Princess Alice of Battenberg; their children included Prince Philip, who would later marry Princess Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth II). 

He took an interest in the turmoil in Ireland, and during the General Strike of 1926 was offended by the suggestion that the strikers were ‘revolutionaries’, saying “Try living on their wages before you judge them”. He was also concerned by the rise of the Nazi Party, warning the British Ambassador in Berlin to be wary of the fascists.

In 1932 he agreed to deliver a Christmas speech on the radio, paving the way for what was to become a major annual fixture in the Royal calendar in subsequent years. 

In 1884 he became a Knight of the Garter, and in 1893 a Knight of the Thistle and Royal Fellow of the Royal Society. He received many other honours and awards, and he was elected an Honorary Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1899.

He was seriously ill from 1928, and his eldest son Edward took over many of his duties. He retired for a brief spell to the house of Sir Arthur du Cross at Bognor, where the myth of his remark, “Bugger Bognor” grew.  He celebrated his Silver Jubilee in 1935 to great popular acclaim. He died on 20 January 1936 at Sandringham House at the age of 70.

1901 - William Thomson, Lord Kelvin of Largs

William Thomson was born in Belfast on 26 June 1824. His father, James Thomson, was a teacher in the Royal Academic Institute of Belfast. In 1832, James Thomson was appointed to the Glasgow College chair of mathematics, and the family moved to Glasgow. William and his elder brother James attended their father's junior class as listeners, and in 1834 both matriculated. William was then just ten years old.

In 1841, William became an undergraduate at St Peter's College, Cambridge. During his time as an undergraduate he became keen on rowing. In his second year he joined the college eight, and in 1843 he won the Colquhoun silver sculls for single-seat boats. He was also a keen musician, and became a founder member of the Cambridge University Music Society in 1844. In 1845, he was second wrangler (the second highest scoring student gaining a first-class honours in the third year of the mathematical tripos) and Smith's Prizeman. In the same year he was elected a Fellow of Peterhouse, as well as taking over editorship of the Cambridge Mathematical Journal.

He soon travelled to Paris, where he studied under Victor Regnault, who was then making accurate measurements on the properties of steam and other gases. In 1846, he was offered the University of Glasgow's vacant chair of Natural Philosophy. He accepted this position, and remained in the chair until 1899.

He was involved in many areas of science, including kinetics and the kinetic theory of matter; elasticity and hydrodynamics; electricity; magnetism; waves; telegraphy; and the development of accurate scientific instruments. He was knighted in 1866 in response to his work on the laying of the transatlantic telegraph.

He was involved with a wide range of scientific and learned societies, including the Royal Society of London, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Institution of Electrical Engineers and the Faraday Society. He was elected an Honorary Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1901, after serving as President of the Glasgow Engineering Conference of that year, of which the Institution took charge of Section III (Mechanical).

He died on 17 December 1907 at the age of 84.

1911 - Professor Dr Aurel Stodola

Aurel Stodola was born in 1859 in the Slovakian town of Lipstovský St.Mikuláš. He studied at the Realschule at Levoča and Košice in Slovakia, and at the Budapest Polytechnic, where he obtained a scholarship. At 21 years and two months he was awarded the Diploma of Mechanical Engineering with Distinction from the Polytechnikum in Zurich.  This distinction was an honour reserved for students of exceptional ability.

After obtaining practical training and further study in Berlin and Paris, Stodola accepted a position as engineer in the Prague works of Ruston and Company, a firm which had introduced the Corliss engine into Austria and would ultimately offer him the opportunity to develop his abilities as a designer.

In 1892, aged 33, he accepted the Professorship of the Mechanical Department of the Polytechnikum in Zürich, a post he held until his retirement in 1929. He remained at Zürich until his death, Switzerland having become his second home. Zürich presented him in 1905 with its Honorary citizenship. During his professorship, he received a number of accolades, including the degree of Doctor of Philosophy by the University of Zürich and an Honorary degree of Doctor of Engineering from the Technische Hochschule of Hanover and Brünn.  In 1908 the Society of German Engineers presented him with the Grashof Denkmünze, its highest distinction. He was also appointed a Corresponding Member of the French Academy of Science.

The position in the engineering world held by the small country of Switzerland at that time, and the eminent positions held by many of his students in other parts of the world, are evidence of Stodola’s teaching success.

Although he had a wide range of engineering interests, his most important contribution was his work on the steam turbine. In this field his earliest work dealt with the stability of governing turbines by means of servo-motors, but it was his first lecture on the theory of the steam turbine, given in 1902 before the Society of German Engineers in Düsseldorf, that marked the beginning of his great work on this subject. In 1903, this lecture was published in an expanded form in the Zeitschrift, and was shortly followed by his first volume published under the title of “The Steam Turbine”. 

In subsequent editions his work expanded until in 1922, when his sixth edition was published, it covered some 1,150 pages, and including 1,200 figures. This edition was translated into English and was universally accepted as the key reference work for turbine designers. 

Professor Stodola was firmly convinced that the development of this promising prime mover should be based in scientific knowledge, and in formulating a basis for design, he endeavoured to substantiate his mathematical approach by experiment. He demonstrated by tests the false notion that supersonic steam velocities were impossible, or at least impracticable, and did valuable pioneering work in the design of divergent and convergent nozzles. He laid down methods of calculating disk stresses and methods of arriving at shaft critical speeds and the gyroscopic effect on turbine disks. As early as 1914, he developed the theory of disk and blade vibration, ignorance of which had at the time led to many failures. 

Stodola was also greatly interested in gas and diesel engines and he envisaged the practical possibility of the gas turbine, his theory of which appeared as an appendix to the second edition of his book on the “Steam Turbine” in 1904. His last work on this subject dealt with the tests on a 4,000 kW commercial gas turbine unit, the results of which were published in England in January 1940.

Stodola was fluent in English and read a great deal of English and American literature. He also had a great interest in music, playing both the piano and organ. He was familiar with the works of the great scientists and philosophers, which was demonstrated in a book published after his retirement. During his professorship Stodola took a keen interest in educational problems, and in his book revealed the ideals upon which his perception of the duty of professorship was based, and dealt with the importance of the character of the engineer.

Stodola was highly revered beyond his native land, symbolized by the James Watt International Medal presented to him by the Institution of Mechanical engineers. He was elected a Member of the Institution in 1902, and an Honorary Member in 1911.

Stodola died in 1942.

1916 - Erasmus Darwin Leavitt

Erasmus Darwin Leavitt was born at Lowell, Massachusetts, United States on 27 October 1836. He was educated at local public school, and aged sixteen began work in the machine shops of the Lowell Manufacturing Co., where he was an apprentice for three years.

He spent a year with Corliss and Nightingale, and was later assistant foreman of the City Point Works in South Boston, where he was in charge of the construction of the engine of the U.S.S. “Hartford.” From 1859-61 he was chief draughtsman for Thurston, Gardner and Co., of Providence, Rhode Island, leaving there to join the United States Navy as assistant engineer.

He served through the Civil War and during that time he was part of the Eastern Gulf Squadron. Afterwards, he was engaged on construction duty at Baltimore, Boston, and Brooklyn. Two years later he was assigned to the Naval Academy at Annapolis as an instructor in steam engineering, specialising in pumping and mining machinery. In 1867 Mr. Leavitt resigned from the naval service and became a consulting engineer. From that time, he began to be well known, and became probably the most prominent mechanical engineer in consulting practice in the United States. He first found fame as an engineer with the installation of the pumping engine at Lynn, Massachusetts, which embraced his ideas about engine economy. This engine marked an era in the economy of pumping engines throughout the world.

In 1874, he was appointed consulting and mechanical engineer to the Calumet and Hecla Mining Co., a position he held until he retired in 1904. During that period, he designed and superintended the building of the enormous equipment that was used at Calumet. Up to 1886 Mr Leavitt’s standard steam pressure was 135 lb per square inch, but in that year he began the design of the triple-expansion steam engines, and adopted 185 lb pressure. He also changed the construction of sand-wheels from wood-which was used in the Lake Superior region- to metal, and he designed wheels of 50 and 60 feet diameter using the principle of the bicycle wheel. 

During his time at Calumet and Hecla, Leavitt was frequently engaged by other companies and municipalities, namely working as consulting engineer for Henry R. Worthington of New York, the Dickson Manufacturing Co., the City of Boston and the City of Cambridge, Massachusetts. As advisory engineer, he designed machinery for the Bethlehem Steel Co. and for South African mining companies. He was an ardent supporter of the locomotive type of boiler and used it almost exclusively, the diameter of the shell measuring about 90 inches.

In 1884 Leavitt received the honorary degree of Doctor of Engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology. He held a prominent position amongst the most eminent engineers of the world, and was a recognised authority on steam engineering.

He was elected a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1883, and was later made an Honorary Member of the Institution. He was a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, and was one of the thirty mechanical engineers who organized The American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1880, and became its president during 1882-3.  He was also a member of the American society of Civil engineers and other technical societies.

Leavitt died in 1916.

1916 - Richard Price Williams

Richard Price Williams was born on 22 November 1827 in London, a son of Doctor John Morgan Williams, of Bridgend, Glamorgan. He was educated in London. He went on to become a pupil of George Heald, who was Thomas Brassey’s engineer on the construction of the Lancaster, Carlisle, and Caledonian Railways in 1845-6.

Afterwards, he was an apprentice in the locomotive works of Kitson, Thomson and Hewitson of Leeds. From 1854-1860 he designed and prepared plans of girder bridges and carried out other works whist resident engineer on the Great Northern Railway.

Subsequently he acted as Consulting Engineer for the proposed Metropolitan Outer Circle Railway, and in the preparation of plans and estimates for a number of other railways, both in this country and in the Colonies. From 1866 the Royal Commission on Coal supplies appointed him to prepare evidence of their duration, and in 1868 the Royal Commission on Irish Railways appointed him Chief Engineer to examine and value them. He helped the principal railway companies in the UK prepare and advocate their claims against the Government for purchase of the telegraphs in 1871. In 1889 he made reports on the conditions of the railways in New South Wales and Tasmania, and afterwards acted as arbitrator on behalf of the Tasmanian Main Line Railway Co. for the disposal of the railway to the Tasmanian Government. Subsequently he was appointed Consulting Engineer by the Governor.

His early connection with the construction of railways impacted on his decision to make railway engineering his own particular branch from the start of his practice.

His name will always be associated with the introduction and development of the Bessemer process in this country. He encouraged British railway engineers to try out the Bessemer steel rails in place of the iron rails, which were unable to withstand heavy traffic. Sir Henry Bessemer appreciated his service, and appointed him a manager at the first Bessemer steel works established at Greenwich. Besides his engineering activities, Richard Price Williams did a large amount of statistical work on a variety of subjects, and was a Member of Council of the Royal Statistical Society for several years.

He became a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1859 and served as a Member of Council from 1880-7. He was later made an Honorary Member of the Institution in recognition of his services in connection with railways. In 1879, he presented a Paper to the Institution on “The Economy of Railway Working,” but most of his Papers on this question were read before the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Royal Statistical society. He became a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1861 and was awarded the Telford, Watt and Stephenson gold medals. The Iron and Steel Institute awarded him the Bessemer gold medal in 1898 on the recommendation of Sir Henry Bessemer.

Williams died in 1916.

1917 - Sir Alfred Fernandez Yarrow

Sir Alfred Fernandez Yarrow was born in 1842. At an early age he took out a number of patents with a boy named James Hilditch, the most notable of which were connected with improvements in ploughing machinery, which were very successful in manufacture. The two also installed between their homes the first overhead telegraph line in London and had a keen interest in the use of steam on roads. In 1861 T W Cowan built some machines at Greenwich to their design. At this time, Yarrow and Hilditch in conjunction with other young engineers founded a Civil and Mechanical Engineers Society, of which Mr Yarrow was the first vice-president.

When Hilditch left London for the North with his father, Yarrow founded the firm Yarrow and Hedley in partnership with Joseph Hedley.  They created a small works for the repair of boats on the Isle of Dogs, Poplar.

At first progress was slow but eventually the firm established a name as builders of steam-launches. During the seven years of partnership with Hedley, 350 boats of various types and sizes were built. Hedley retired from the partnership in 1875.

In 1876 the first specially designed torpedo boat was built for Argentina, and this event, together with the construction of the shallow-draught vessel for the Nyassa Mission, marked the start of the great development in shipbuilding which the firm’s activities subsequently brought about.

Some of the most notable features of that development were: the careful speed trials and towing experiments which Sir Alfred Yarrow was one of the first to carry out; the introduction of the Yarrow-Schlick Tweedy system of balancing for high-speed reciprocating engines; and the development of the Yarrow straight-tube water-tube boiler. The works were moved from Poplar to the Clyde in 1907. Sir Alfred had retired from active control of his business some years before World War I but resumed his participation in its affairs when the War broke out. He was awarded a baronetcy for the invaluable services he gave in the design and production of urgently needed vessels. 

He donated large amounts of money to various organizations including, a £100,000 grant to the Royal Society (of which he was made fellow in 1922) for the foundation of research professorships, a sum of £20,000 towards the constructionof the National Tank at Teddington by the National Physical Laboratory, and a sum of £10,000 to the British Association. He was elected a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1889 and was made an Honorary Member in 1916.  He was also a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, and a Vice-President of the Institution of Naval architects in 1896.

Yarrow died in 1932.

1918 - William Douglas Weir, Lord Weir of Eastwood

William Douglas Weir was born on 12 May 1877 in Glasgow. He was the eldest child of James and Mary Weir. James Weir and his brother George had launched a marine engineering and maintenance company in 1873, G. and J. Weir becoming a limited company in 1895. William was educated at Allan Glen’s school and Glasgow High School, leaving to enter an apprenticeship in the family firm at the age of 16.

He was made a director of the company in 1898, becoming Managing Director in 1902, and Chairman from 1910.  The company thrived under his control. On the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 he was invited to join the Central Advisory Committee on Munitions by Lloyd George. He was appointed director of munitions in Scotland in July 1915. He urged Lloyd George to create a single Air Board to supersede the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air service, and he became a member of the resulting Air Board in 1916, the same year being appointed controller of aeronautical supplies. He was knighted in 1917. He was Director-General of Aircraft Production and a member of the Air Council from 1917, becoming its president in 1918, the same year that the Air Ministry and the Royal Air Force were established. He became a member of the Privy Council in April 1918, and was created Baron Weir of Eastwood, Renfrewshire. He was elevated to a Viscountcy in 1938.

He continued to be a valued advisor to government, chairing committees on: civil aviation (1919–20); the amalgamation of the armed services (1922–23); and economies in the armed services (1923). He also served on the committees on co-ordination between the armed services and on the desirability of a Ministry of Defence in 1923.

Although a great believer in free enterprise, he recognised the place for state intervention where private capital had failed. The Committee on Electricity Supply which he chaired between 1924 and 1925 recommended the establishment of a government-appointed Central Electricity Board to build a national grid and to standardize frequencies. Similarly he recommended state subsidies to British North Atlantic shipping (1932).

He was an industrial advisor to the British delegation at the Imperial Conference in Ottawa in 1932, and served on a number of government committees. He played a critical role in the re-armament crisis in the 1930s, working closely with Viscount Swinton. In 1939 he became Director-General of Explosives at the Ministry of Supply, and for some months in 1940 he was Chairman of the Tank Board.

He was Chairman of the Anglo-Scottish Sugar Beet Corporation and held a number of directorships, including Lloyds Bank and Imperial Chemical Industries. He received an honorary doctorate from Glasgow University and was a freeman of the City of London. He was elected and Honorary Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1918.

He married Alice Blanche, née MacConnachie, in 1904, and they had two sons and a daughter. He died on 2 July 1959 at Eastwood Park, Giffnock, Renfrewshire at the age of 82.

1919 - HRH Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor (later His Majesty King Edward VIII, abdicated)

Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David was born on 23 June 1894 at White Lodge, Richmond Park, the first child of the Duke and Duchess of York, later King George V and Queen Mary. Initially educated at home, he was sent in 1907 to the Naval College at Osborne, and in 1909 to the Royal Naval College on HMS Britannia, Dartmouth.

On the death of Edward VII in May 1910 he became, at the age of fifteen, heir to the throne, and on his sixteenth birthday he was created Prince of Wales, being Invested at Caernarfon Castle on 13 July 1911.

He almost immediately began his naval career, serving on HMS Hindustan.  On his return to port he was sent to Oxford University, matriculating in 1912, where he resided as an ordinary undergraduate in Magdalen College. He left Oxford in 1914 at the start of the First World War, beginning army life in July that year. He was commissioned in the Grenadier Guards, and he played a valuable role in the following years; although as heir to the throne there was no question that he would see real action, he was several times in real danger, and his driver was killed by shrapnel.
After the War he became a leader of fashionable London society, and in spring 1918 he began a liaison with Mrs Winifred Dudley Ward which was to last until 1934. She was the wife of William Dudley-Ward, MP and Chamberlain to the Royal Household, whom she divorced in 1931. He first met Wallis Simpson, wife of American businessman Ernest Simpson, in 1931 at the home of Lady Furness, with who he was at that time also having a liaison. By 1934 he had transferred all of his affections to Wallis Simpson, and although it seems clear that he expected that one day she would become Queen, he seems not to have discussed the implications of this with anyone at this time.
When George V died on 20 January 1936, he was proclaimed King Edward VIII the following day, having flown from London to Sandringham, the first British monarch to travel by air. A colourful figure that brought modernity and flair to the monarchy, he was not really interested in the business of government, and was consequently largely unaware of the constraints upon him as a constitutional monarch. This was especially apparent in foreign policy, where his sympathetic view of Nazism was in marked contrast to the Baldwin Government’s view of the real nature of Hitler’s Germany.
Socially his behaviour changed little from his time as Prince of Wales, and his affair with Mrs Simpson was undisguised, although little reported in the British press. However, the Cabinet and the Archbishop of Canterbury were well aware of the coverage of the affair in the foreign newspapers, and Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, realising only late in the day that he intended to marry Mrs Simpson, requested a meeting in October 1936. Baldwin felt it necessary to let the King know that the self-imposed embargo on the reporting of the affair by the British press would breakdown when news got out about Mrs Simpson’s divorce, which was to be heard in Ipswich (she was granted a decree nisi on 27 October). However, Baldwin did not get a meeting until 16 November, when for the first time the King stated his intention to marry Mrs Simpson, telling Baldwin that if the Government opposed him, he would abdicate; he later gave the same news to his mother, brothers, and sister. Reports about the affair with Mrs Simpson began to appear in the press at the beginning of December, but by this time it was pretty well agreed by all concerned that there was little option but for the King to abdicate, and on 5 December he told Baldwin that that was his intention. 
The instrument of abdication was signed on 10 December, witnessed by his brothers, and he ceased to be King on 11 December 1936. 
For his broadcast to the Nation that evening he was introduced as His Royal Highness, Prince Edward. He was later styled His Royal Highness, the Duke of Windsor, although after he married Wallis Simpson she was prevented from using the title ‘Her Royal Highness’.  Although a traumatic time for the monarchy, the abdication had no great constitutional implications, as the workings of the system were seen to be effective. He was succeeded by his brother, who became King George VI, quickly re-establishing normality. 
Immediately following his abdication he and Mrs Simpson moved to France, where they were eventually married on 3 June 1937; they had no children. In October of that year he and the Duchess visited Germany, an unwise move which was a propaganda gift for the Nazis. A supporter of Neville Chamberlain, he was pessimistic about Britain’s chances of survival in 1940, and he favoured a negotiated settlement with Hitler, a common view in some circles. Although there is some later evidence that the Nazis thought that they would be able to offer him a role in the event of Britain’s defeat as a sort of substitute King, it is fairly clear that he had no ambitions in that direction.
On the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 he and the Duchess returned briefly to England, but returned to France when he was made a member of the military mission. At the fall of France they went first to Spain, and then to Lisbon, before he was offered the Governorship of the Bahamas, which he accepted. Their time there was broadly a success, but they found the Bahamas tiresome, and he resigned as Governor in 1945, having turned down the Governorship of Bermuda. Thereafter they spread their time between France and the USA.
He attended the funeral of King George VI in 1952, and he visited his mother, Queen Mary, before she died in 1953, although he was not invited to attend the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II that same year. However, in 1966 he and the Duchess were invited to attend the unveiling of plaque to his mother. In 1972, when he was terminally ill, he was visited by Queen Elizabeth on her state visit to France. 
He was elected an Honorary Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1919.
He died on 28 May 1972 at his Paris home at the age of 67.

1919 - Sir Richard Tetley Glazebrook

Richard Tetley Glazebrook was born on 18 September 1854 at West Derby, Liverpool.   His father, Nicholas Smith Glazebrook, was a surgeon.  He attended Dulwich College, Liverpool College and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he took the mathematical  tripos.  After graduation, he studied physics in the Cavendish Laboratory under James Clerk Maxwell.  

In 1880, Lord Rayleigh became director of the Cavendish Laboratory, and Glazebrook was appointed a demonstrator.  He also held a college lectureship in mathematics and physics, and a university lectureship in mathematics.  Rayleigh retired in 1884, and although Glazebrook was Rayleigh’s choice to succeed him, instead Sir J J Thomson was appointed instead.  Glazebrook remained at Cambridge, despite his disappointment, and was made assistant director in 1891, and bursar of Trinity College in 1895.

He was offered the position of principal of University College, Liverpool, in 1898.  The following year he was offered the role of director of the National Physical Laboratory, which was then being created.  It was under the control of the Royal Society, but funded by the Treasury. His first challenge in this position was to find a location for the NPL, as the initial plan for it to be located at Kew had to be dropped due to public opposition.  Bushy House, Teddington was offered as a site, and Glazebrook oversaw its conversion.  The early years of the NPL was spent struggling to persuade the Treasury to provide sufficient funding to allow a balance between lucrative but routine testing work, and more explorative research. 

By the outbreak of the First World War, the NPL had made great strides in a range of activities, electrical work, metrology, optics and metallurgy, and was able to make great contributions to the war effort, despite loosing one quarter of its staff in the first few months of the war.  By the end of the war, its activities had grown to the extent that it was no longer feasible for the Royal Society to remain financially responsible for it.  After negotiation it was decided that the Royal Society would continue to oversee its scientific programme, but the NPL would sit under the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.  

Glazebrook retired in 1919 from his position at the NPL, but he continued to work.  He moved back to Cambridge to edit the Dictionary of Applied Physics.  Later he moved to London where he was appointed Zarahoff professor of aviation at Imperial College.  He retained an interested in the NPL for much of the rest of his life, serving on the general board, and as chairman of the executive committee from 1925 to 1932.  

He was also very involved with the Royal Society, and served as vice-president on two occasions (1919 to 1920 and 1924 to 1928).  He was also active in other scientific societies, serving as President for bodies such as the Institute of Physics, the Institution of Electrical Engineers (now the Institution of Engineering and Technology), the Faraday Society and the Physical Society.  He was honoured with the CB in 1910, knighted in 1917, awarded the KCB in 1920 and the KCVO in 1934.  He was made an honorary fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1919.

Sir Richard Tetley Glazebrook died in 1935.

1919 - Sir Rajendranath Mookerjee

Rajendranath Mookerjee was born on 23 June 1854 in a small village called Bhabla, in Barasat, near Kolkata.  When he was only six years old, his father died, and he was brought up by his mother.  He showed signs of an interest in engineering early on in life, and went on to study engineering at the Presidency College, although he was unable to take the exams due to ill health.

He initially turned down a job working as surveyor for a large waterbody, as he refused to serve under anybody, but was later awarded the contract for laying out the Palta Waterworks by the Chief Engineer to the Corporation of Calcutta.  He went on to receive similar contracts at Agra, Allahabad, Benares and other cities.  

He then encountered Sir T A Martin, and the two men went into partnership under the name T A Martin & Co.  They undertook many public work projects, such as the laying of a 40 inch main from Palta to Kolkata, and building large buildings and mansions such as the Chartered Bank Buildings, Esplanade Mansions and the Mysore Memorial.   The company is best known for building a network of light railway lines from agricultural areas into Kolkata. 

Later, he worked with G H Fairhurst to found the iron works of the Indian Iron and Steel Company at Burnpur.  

In 1908, Mookerjee was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire (CIE).  He served as sheriff of Kolkata in 1911.  In 1919 he was elected an Honorary Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.  Mookerjee was knighted in 1922 as Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO), and in the same year come over to London as Chairman of the Engineering Committee which recommended the construction of the Howrah Bridge.  He received an honorary doctorate in engineering from the University of Kolkata in 1931.

Sir Rajendraneth Mookerjee died on 15 May 1936.

1921 - Ambrose Swasey

Ambrose Swasey was born on 18 December 1846 in Exeter, New Hampshire.  The American mechanical engineer, inventor, manager, astronomer, and entrepreneur is best known as co-founder of the Warner & Swasey Company of Cleveland, Ohio.

He began his training in the machine tool industry in 1864 at the Exeter Machine Tool Works, where in 1869 he met Worcester R. Warner. Shortly afterwards both men moved to Hartford, Connecticut, where Swasey was placed in charge of the gearing department of Pratt and Whitney Company.  Here he developed a new technique for making gear-tooth cutters. 
He and Warner formed their eponymous company in 1880, and specialized in the manufacture of machine tools and the structural parts for astronomical telescopes. The firm introduced several new methods for securing precision and accuracy in their products, which included the parts for many of the largest telescopes in the world. In 1885 they completed work at McCormick Observatory on the 45-foot dome, which was then the largest in the world, with a unique three-shutter design. In 1887 they built the mount for the 36-inch refracting telescope at Lick Observatory. In 1898 they manufactured a dividing engine for the US Naval Observatory that was used to make the meridian circles. 
He was an Honorary Member and, in 1904/5, President of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and in 1936 they awarded him the Hoover Gold Medal for his distinguished public service. He was elected to the Machine Tool Hall of Fame of the American Precision Museum in 1982. 
He joined the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1898, and in 1921 he was elected an Honorary Member.
In 1914 he established the Engineering Foundation to further research into engineering science, and he remained a major contributor to its funds throughout the rest of his life.
Both he and Warner were keen amateur astronomers, and in 1920 they made a joint donation to the Case Western Reserve University to fund the construction of an observatory, which is still known as the Warner and Swasey observatory. The chair of ‘Ambrose Swasey Professor of Physics’ was named for his endowment.
The moon crater Swasey is named after him, as is the asteroid 992 Swasey.
He died at the age of 90 at his summer home in Exeter, New Hampshire, on 15 June 1937.

1922 - Senator Guglielmo Marconi

Senator Guglielmo Marconi was born at Palazzo Marescalchi, Bologna, Italy, on 25 April 1874.  He was the second son of Giuseppe Marconi, a landowner, and Annie Jamieson, granddaughter of the founder of the Jamieson Whiskey distillery. He was educated in the laboratory of Augusto Righi, and at the Istituto Cavallero in Florence, and, later, in Livorno.
He began his experiments when only 20 years old, building much of his own equipment at his home, the Villa Griffone in Pontecchio. He started by improving the coherer of Branly and Lodge, but his goal was to use radio waves to create a practical system of ‘wireless telegraphy’. Although not a new idea, previous attempts had not proved commercially viable. Marconi’s skill lay in taking existing technologies and adapting them to his own system. 
Finding little interest in his ideas in Italy, he moved to London, where he gained the support of Wiliam Preece, Chief Electrical Engineer of the Post Office. In 1896 he conducted successful tests between St Martin’s-le-Grand and the Thames Embankment, and he was granted the world’s first ‘wireless telegraphy’ patent. During the following years he transmitted signals over increasing distances, and in 1901, after many attempts he succeeded in sending a signal across the Atlantic, from Poldhu in Cornwall, to St John’s, Newfoundland. In January 1903 American President Theodore Roosevelt was able to send a greeting to King Edward VII in London. A regular transatlantic radio service was eventually established between Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, Canada and Clifden, Ireland.
He was appointed a lieutenant in the Italian army in 1915, but later was transferred to the Navy with the rank of Commander. He was appointed a Plenipotentiary Delegate to the Paris Peace Conference, in which capacity he signed the peace treaties with Austria and Bulgaria. In 1919 he was awarded the Italian Military Medal.
After the First World War his most important work was the development of short-wave transmission, and in 1931 he began to investigate the transmission of very short waves – microwaves. He was able to demonstrate that such waves were not affected by the curvature of the earth, and this led to the opening, in 1932, of the world’s first microwave radio telecommunications link, between the Vatican City and the Papal summer palace at Castel Gandolfo.
In 1909 he shared the Nobel Prize for Physics, and he has been awarded many honorary doctorates, including those from the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. His honours and awards include the Albert Medal of the Royal Society of Arts and the Kelvin Medal. He was made an Honorary Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1922. 
In 1905 he married Beatrice, daughter of Edward Donough O’Brien, 14th Baron Inchiquin, and they had three daughters and a son. They divorced in 1924, and in June 1927 he married Maria Cristina Bezzi-Scali, and they had one daughter. In 1929 he received the honorary title ‘Marchese’.
He died in Rome at the age of 63 on 20 July 1937.

1922 - HRH Prince Albert, Duke of York (later His Majesty George VI)

Albert Frederick Arthur George was born on 14 December 1895 at York Cottage, Sandringham.  He was the second son of the Duke and Duchess of York, later King George V and Queen Mary. He was privately educated, and in 1908 passed the entrance examination to the Royal Naval College, Osborne. In 1911 he progressed to the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth. Following the death of King Edward VII in 1910 he became the Prince of Wales, second in line to the throne.
He first went to sea on the training ship HMS Cumberland, and was commissioned as a Midshipman aboard HMS Collingwood in 1913, seeing action as a turret officer at the Battle of Jutland. In 1918 he was posted to the Royal Naval Air Station, HMS Daedalus, at Cranwell, where he was appointed Officer Commanding Number 4 Squadron of the Boys’ Wing. In the final weeks of the First World War he served with the Independent Air Force at Nancy, and remained there after it became the Royal Air Force.
In October 1919 he went to Trinity College, Cambridge, where for three terms he studied history, economics, and civics. He was created Duke of York in June 1920, the year in which he first met Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. After a protracted courtship the couple were married on 26 April 1923. Although she was a descendant of James I of Scotland and of Henry VII of England, she was, according to British law, a commoner, and the marriage was seen as very ‘modernising’. They had two children, Elizabeth (‘Lilibet’ to the family), who would succeed her father, as Elizabeth II, and Margaret. The family lived quietly, initially at White Lodge in Richmond Park, then at 145 Piccadilly.
He became prominent philanthropist, and through his Industrial Welfare Society he gained a wide knowledge of industrial developments, and met and mixed with people from all walks of life. From 1921 he established the Duke of York’s Camps, which brought together boys from working class and public school backgrounds – a bold move in social integration. He was elected an Honorary Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1922.
When King George V died on 20 January 1936 his brother became King Edward VIII, making Albert the first in line to the throne. Less than year later, on 11 December 1936, Edward abdicated in order to marry Mrs Wallis Simpson.  Albert assumed the throne as King George VI.  He conferred upon his brother the title His Royal Highness, the Duke of Windsor, although the Letters Patent creating the Dukedom prevented his wife or children bearing any Royal titles. 
His Coronation was on 12 May 1937 and was the first to be broadcast by the BBC, although only the procession was televised, and he made a Coronation radio broadcast that evening which was transmitted around the world.
The growing likelihood of war in Europe dominated his early reign. In 1939 the King and Queen undertook an extensive tour of Canada, and although the tour was primarily intended to shore-up Atlantic support for Britain in any future war, the King and Queen were enthusiastically received by the Canadian public, and the visit was a huge success. They also made a warmly received visit to the United States of America, visiting the New York World’s Fair and staying with President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the White House.
Following the outbreak of the Second World War the King and Queen decided to stay in London, remaining at Buckingham Palace throughout, although after the Palace was bombed they spent the nights at Windsor Castle, travelling back into London daily. Having been bombed themselves, they were able to visit bombed areas without appearing condescending or patronising – as the Queen said at the time “We can now look the East End in the face”. Although, of course, they lived very differently from the rest of the population, their position, subject to rationing like everyone else, was probably closer to the lives of ordinary people than at any time before. In 1942, on his own initiative, the King awarded the George Cross to the people of Malta for their heroism, and in 1943 he awarded a sword of honour “to the steel-hearted citizens of Stalingrad”, a high point in Anglo-Russian relations. In 1945, during the Victory in Europe Day celebrations, the crowds in front of Buckingham Palace shouted “We want the King”, a sign of his great popularity.
The collapse of the Coalition Government at the end of the War and the overwhelming victory of the Labour Party in the subsequent general election caused little disruption to the position of the Monarchy, although at this time the dissolution of the British Empire was proceeding apace. That the policies of the Labour Party in this area were supported by the King played an important part in the successful development of the British Commonwealth. 
On 20 November 1947 his eldest daughter, Princess Elizabeth, married Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, who was created His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh, although he was not made a Prince, popular usage notwithstanding.
The King became ill during 1948, and a planned visit to Australia and New Zealand in 1949 had to be postponed. He resumed limited official duties, opening the Festival of Britain in May 1951, but his health continued to deteriorate. He made his last Christmas Day broadcast that year. 
He died on 6 February 1952 at Sandringham at the age of 56.

1924 - Frederick Rollins Low

Frederick Rollins Low was an important figure in engineering journalism. He edited the journal Power from 1888 to 1930, after which he was made editor emeritus.

He was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, in 1860 and became a telegraph clerk in a Western Union office at the age of 14. In 1880 he joined the staff of the Boston Journal of Commerce as secretary to the editor and took a keen interest in the department of the journal devoted to the technical problems of textile mill power plants. Six years later he became engineering editor of the journal. Around this time, he brought out several inventions in connection with power plant. 

His long connection with Power started with his appointment as the fifth editor. During his leadership he succeeded in extending the scope of the journal, whilst maintaining a practical point of view within the articles that appeared in it. Low was the editor of four technical books dealing with power plant, which were published between 1898 and 1906. 

In 1918 he was elected vice–president of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, becoming president in 1924. He attended the 1924 World Power Conference in London as a delegate of that Society. In recognition of his services in this area the Institution of Mechanical Engineers elected him Honorary  Member in 1924. He was awarded an honorary degree of doctor of engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He was chairman of two committees of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, dealing respectively with the codification of safety rules for the construction of steam boilers and unfired pressure vessels, and with the rules for testing boilers, turbines, engines, and other power equipment. He continued as chairman of these committees until his death.

He died in Passaic, New Jersey on the 22 January 1936.

1925 - Sir Charles Algernon Parsons

Charles Algernon Parsons was born into one of the most prominent scientific families of his day. His father, the 3rd Earl of Rosse, was a leading astronomer and President of the Royal Society. Parsons was educated in Dublin and at Cambridge, and chose to enter engineering over pure science. He gained early experience at the Elswick works of W G Armstrong & Company, where he worked on torpedoes.

By 1884, Parsons had become a partner in the Electrical Department of Clarke Chapman & Company in Gateshead. He had been interested in steam power since his University days, and was soon making rapid progress developing turbines for ship and shore-based electrical lighting. In placing multiple blades on a single shaft (rotor) and driving high velocity steam through a fixed casing and vanes (stator), Parsons achieved rotor speeds of well over 15,000 rpm. He designed complementary dynamos to be directly-driven from his turbines, commencing with a unipolar machine in 1885. Combined steam turbine and turbo-electric generator sets became a practical working proposition and by 1888 about 200 sets were in marine service. Parsons gave an early description of his breakthroughs in the Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

The success of Parsons’ designs, culminating in the first use of a steam turbine in a public power station (Forth Banks, Newcastle-upon-Tyne) led him to dissolve the Clarke-Chapman partnership and start his own firm, C A Parsons & Company, in 1889. Disputes over patent rights halted some research until 1894, but Parsons began exploring other ideas. His first condensing turbine was supplied to the Cambridge Electric Lighting Company in 1891, and sets of increasing power and efficiency were made at his Heaton Works.

Parsons’ original 1884 patents had noted the potential for using turbines in marine propulsion, and in 1894 he became free to explore this. He formed the Marine Steam Turbine Company to construct a demonstration vessel, the Turbinia. This 100 foot, 44 ton displacement steam yacht caused a sensation at the 1897 Naval Review at Spithead as the fastest vessel afloat. Turbines were soon adopted for Navy ships (Viper and Cobra, 1899) and passenger ships (King Edward, 1901 and Mauretania, 1906). With the development of reducing gears for cargo vessels (Vespasia, 1909) Parsons’ dominance of the waves was complete.

Although best known for his work on turbines, Charles Parsons also continued his family’s devotion to optical matters. Searchlight reflectors were being produced at Heaton from 1899, and from 1921, Parsons began purchasing optical instrument and glass companies. His purpose was to transform the British optical industry. The 1925 acquisition of Sir Howard Grubb and Sons, renamed Grubb, Parsons and Company, allowed Parsons to produce large telescopes for the world’s great observatories. A 74-inch reflector made for Toronto was at the time of its construction the largest such instrument made in Europe, just surpassing his father’s 72-inch telescope at Birr Castle, but Parsons did not live to see the triumph.

At the time of his death, 1931, Parsons held over 300 patents. His work in power generation alone had transformed society – his earliest 7.5kW generator led to sets of 200,000 kW output within his lifetime. Parsons and his companies had effectively switched on the lights of the 20th century.

1926 - Sir John Isaac Thornycroft

Sir John Isaac Thornycroft was born in Rome, Italy, on 1 February 1843.  He was the eldest son of Thomas and Mary Thornycroft, both of whom were sculptors. However, his father was also an amateur engineer, and it was in his workshop that John found his talent.
He studied under Lord Kelvin and Professor Macquorn Rankine at Glasgow University, and between 1866 and 1870, at the Royal School of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering in South Kensington. In 1870 he married Blanche, daughter of Frederick Coules of Gloucester, and they had two sons and five daughters.
In 1866 he established the Thornycroft works in Chiswick. He built the Gitana in 1873, the first torpedo boat, which is said to have reached 20.8 knots. This boat, commissioned by the Norwegian Government, became the model for the first torpedo boat for the British navy. It was called the Lightning and built in 1877. Switching to water tube boilers in his designs, Thornycroft went on to produce many torpedo boats, and in 1892 he built two of the first vessels in the new torpedo-boat destroyer class.
He worked constantly to refine and improve both hull shape and propeller design, and engine development; ultimately to produce a light, fast-running, reciprocating, triple-expansion engine, which became widely used, until it was superseded by the Parsons turbine. When the Thornycroft works moved to Southampton in 1904 – necessitated by the increasing size of torpedo boats and destroyers – the opportunity was taken to equip the new works for turbine construction.
While still at Chiswick Thornycroft began building commercial road vehicles. Originally steam-driven, he later developed an internal combustion engine. The vehicles were built at a separate plant in Basingstoke.
He built an experimental water tank at his home at Bembridge on the Isle of Wight, from which many of his most important innovations in hull design originated, and which played a major role in the development of the fast, surface-skimming, coastal motor boats (CMBs) developed for the Admiralty in 1916. 
He became a Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1876, was a Member of Council from 1897 to 1911, and was elected an Honorary Member in 1926. He served on the councils of the Institute of Naval Architects and of the Institution of Civil Engineers. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1893, and was awarded the honorary degree of LLD in 1901 by Glasgow University. He was knighted in 1902.
He died at Steyne, near Bembridge, Isle of Wight, on 28 June 1928.

1926 - Sir George G Goodwin

Sir George G Goodwin was born in 1862 and became an apprentice at HM Dockyard at Portsmouth, where he attended the Dockyard School. He gained the highest grade in the Cambridge Local Examinations in all of England. He was offered a scholarship at Cambridge but opted instead to become an assistant engineer at the Royal Navy in 1882.
After taking a course at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, in 1885 he joined his first ship, HMS Malabar, as an assistant engineer. From June 1886, he served almost continuously at the Admiralty or in Chatham Dockyard and was promoted to engineer in 1887, and chief engineer in 1891. His only service afloat was in the second-class cruiser Bellona, from 1894 to 1897. In 1898 he was posted to the Admiralty Dockyard Branch and was promoted to fleet engineer. He returned to Chatham in 1904, as chief engineer of the Dockyard, holding this post for two years. He was then reappointed to the Admiralty as assistant to the Director of Dockyards and a year later he was promoted to engineer captain and appointed Deputy Engineer-in-Chief of the Fleet under Sir Henry Oram.
During this period, great changes in the propelling machinery of British warships were taking place. Sir George was closely identified with these developments, being largely responsible for the rapid transition from coal, Scotch boilers, and triple expansion engines to oil fuel, water-tube boilers, and geared steam turbines. 
In 1917 he became Engineer-in–Chief and remained at the head of his branch for five years, before retiring in 1922. He was made a C.B. in 1913 and was advanced to K.C.B. in 1918. Shortly after his retirement he joined the board of J Samuel White and Company Limited, and occupied the chair from 1932 to 1935. Sir George was a keen supporter and a valued Member of the Institution of Mechanical engineers, which he joined in 1922.  He served on the Council for several years and was made vice-president in 1925 and an Honorary Member in 1926 when he retired from the Council. However, he returned to the Council in 1931 as first chairman of the newly formed Southern Branch and presided over it for the first three years of its existence. 
He was an active member and chairman of the Marine Oil Engines Trials Committee and in 1924 he delivered the Thomas Hawksley Lecture on “The Trend of Development of Marine Propelling Machinery”. He was a president of the Institute of Metals and the Institute of Marine Engineers. In addition he was a Member of the Institution of Naval Architects and served on the Council and as vice-president. He was made an honorary LLD of Birmingham University in 1919. Sir Goodwin received a number of honours for his services in WW1 including, the Russian Order of St. Stanilas, first class, the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Sacred Treasure, the Distinguished Service Medal of the United States of America, and was made Commander of the Order of the Star of Rumania.

Goodwin died in 1945.

1927 - Sir Robert Abbott Hadfield

Sir Robert Abbott Hadfield is best known for being the head of the eminent firm bearing his name and is well known for his researches in metallurgy. His two most notable inventions, manganese-steel and low-hesteresis steel were an invaluable aid to the world of engineering. He was the author of several books. His most important was published in 1925 and was called “Metallurgy and its influence on modern progress”.
He recorded in 1924 that “during the past forty years or so, more than 3,000 different steels had been made and tested under his supervision and careful records of their properties and behaviour have been preserved.” 
The production and success of steel casting owes much to his labour and research. He was made a Knight in 1908 and a Baronet in 1918. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society, an honorary Doctor of Science of Oxford and Leeds, a D.Met. of Sheffield, a Freeman of London and Sheffield. America, France, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Russia and Japan all honoured him amongst the pioneers of England. He was elected an Honorary Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1929.

Hadfield died in 1940.

1928 - Sir John Audley Frederick Aspinall

Sir John Audley Frederick Aspinall was born in Liverpool in 1851.  He received his education at Beaumont College, Berkshire, and in 1869 he became apprenticed to John Ramsbottom, another Past-President of the IMechE, at the Crewe works of the London and North Western Railway.  After completing his training with F W Webb, he was made assistant manager of the steelworks at Crewe.

In 1875 he was appointed works manager of the Great Southern and Western Railway at Inchicore, and became locomotive engineer in 1883.  At this time, he made important contributions to the development of the vacuum brake.  In 1886 he became chief mechanical engineer of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, during which time he was responsible for the establishment of the new works at Horwich.  He also founded the Mechanics’ Institute there.

He took a keen interest in engineering education.  He helped to establish the Chair of Engineering at the University of Liverpool, where he was Associate Professor of Railway Engineering, and in 1908 he was appointed chairman of the Faculty of Engineering. 

Sir John’s locomotive policy at the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway was to build a large number of engines to a few simple designs, applying the principles of standardisation.  In 1899 he was appointed general manager of the company.  He held this position for twenty years, during which time he introduced electric traction for some suburban services.  The first of these was the Liverpool and Southport line in 1904.  He also developed the steamship services of the company, both from Liverpool to Ireland and from Goole and Hull to various ports in Northern Europe.

In 1919 he resigned his position as general manager, and became a director.  He was also appointed consulting mechanical engineer to the Ministry of Transport.  He was often involved with the passage of Railway Bills through Parliament.  He held this position when the grouping of the railways took place.  According to his Memoir, published in the IMechE Proceedings in 1937, at the time of Aspinall’s eightieth birthday, three of the four chief mechanical engineers of the great railway groups had received their training from him.

He was President of the IMechE in 1909-1910, and was made an Honorary Life Member in 1928.  He died on 19 January 1937.

1930 - Henry Selby Hele-Shaw

Henry Selby Hele-Shaw was born in Billericay, Essex, in 1854.  He was educated privately, and at the age of 17 he was articled to firm of Roach and Leaker at the Mardyke Engineering Works, Bristol.  After completing his apprenticeship in 1876 he gained the Senior Whitworth Scholarship, which enabled him to study at the University of Bristol.  He also gained various Whitworth Prizes during the course of his study, which helped him become appointed assistant to the Professor of mathematics and engineering.

He was promoted to be first professor of engineering at the University of Bristol in 1880, but left four years later to take up the Harrison Chair as first professor of engineering at Liverpool University College.  He worked hard to set up the engineering faculty on a more permanent basis, and was instrumental in setting up and equipping the Walker Engineering Laboratories. 

It was in Liverpool that he carried out his famous experiments in the streamline flow of liquids, based on investigations of liquid flow between parallel glass plates.  In 1899 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society for this work.

Shortly after relinquishing his position at the University of Liverpool in order to spend more time on consulting work, and the development of his own inventions, he began to devote his attention to mechanically propelled vehicles.  In 1897 he organized a series of trials for heavy commercial vehicles for the Liverpool Automobile Club.  He was a founding member of the Royal Automobile Club.

In 1903, Hele-Shaw was appointed the first Professor of Civil, Mechanical and Electrical Engineering at the Transvaal Technical Institute.  He became the Principal of the Institute the following year.  In 1905, he was appointed Organizer of Technical Education.  Two years later he returned to England to return to consultancy work.

He was elected President of the IMechE in 1922.  One of the most important events during his Presidency was the establishment of the Student class of members, and the foundation of the Whitworth Society, of which Hele-Shaw became the first President.  He considered that his most important service was the establishment of the National Certificates in Mechanical Engineering, in conjunction with the Board of Education.  These National Certificates became a pattern for similar schemes in other branches of technology and commerce, and in Northern Ireland and Scotland.  Hele-Shaw became the first chairman of the Joint Committee appointed by the Board and the Institution to administer the scheme, and held this position until 1937.

Hele-Shaw continued to work on his own inventions almost to the end of his life.  One of the most significant was the variable-pitch airscrew, in which the inclination of the blades could be varied to assist an aeroplane when quick starting and climbing in needed.  The inclination of the blades can be reduced for economical cruising at high speed.  This invention was acquired by the Government, and in October 1940, after the Battle of Britain, Dr. Hele-Shaw received commendation on the material way in which his variable-pitch airscrew had contributed to the British success in the aerial war.

Dr. Hele-Shaw died on 30 January 1941.

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