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

1962-George Horatio Nelson, First Baron Nelson of Stafford

George Horatio Nelson was born in 1887 in Islington, London.  He was educated at the City and Guilds Technical College, where he gained a diploma.  He received a Brush studentship to the Brush Engineering Company at Loughborough.

He then joined British Westinghouse Company in Manchester.  In 1911 he became Chief Outside Engineer at Trafford Park, and was made Chief Electrical Superintendent in 1914.  He was responsible for the manufacture and installation of steam and hydro-electric power equipment and electric traction equipment.  The company joined with the Metropolitan Vickers Group, and in 1920 Nelson became Manager of the Sheffield Works of the Metropolitan Vickers Electrical Company.  He remained in this position for ten years.

His former manager, Sir Holberry Mensforth, had been appointed Chairman of the English Electric Company, and in 1930 he persuaded Nelson to join him there as managing director.  When Mensforth retired, in 1933, Nelson became chairman and managing director of the company.  During Nelson’s time at the company he instituted a massive development of the company, for example, building up the number of employees from 4,000 to 80,000.  When, in preparation for the Second World War, a policy of rearmament was being followed, Nelson worked very hard to get the English Electric Company involved.  In 1938 he was successful in obtaining a training contract for 75 Hampden bombers, although he was told that these were already obsolete.  The order was fulfilled successfully, and was followed by orders for 2,470 Halifax bombers and 2,730 tanks.  By the end of the war, the company was developing the Canberra bomber, one of the most successful military aircraft of the time, to its own designs.

Nelson was also active in public work, and was a member of many important committees such as the Heavy Bomber Group Committee of the Air Ministry from 1939-1945 and the Reconstruction Joint Advisory Council from 1943 to 1944.  He was also Chairman of the United Kingdom Tank Mission, which went to the United States and Canada in 1942 to discuss a joint policy for tank production. 

He received a knighthood in 1943, a baronetcy in 1955, and was made first Baron Nelson of Stafford in 1966.  He was President of the Institution of Electrical Engineers in 1955, and was President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1957. 

He died in 1962.

1962-Sir Frank Ewart Smith

Frank Ewart Smith was born on 31 May 1897 in Loughton, Essex.  After the family moved to Hastings in Sussex he was educated at Uckfield Grammar School.  He won a scholarship to Christ’s Hospital and then in 1815 another scholarship to read natural sciences at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge.  However, this was delayed until 1919 by the First World War, during which he served in the Royal Artillery at both Messines and Ypres. At Cambridge he achieved first class honours in mechanical engineering, and continued to do post-graduate study into phase changes in iron, for which he was awarded the John Wimbolt Prize.

He served an apprenticeship with Palmers Shipbuilding Company at Jarrow-on-Tyne before joining Synthetic Ammonia and Nitrates Ltd in 1923.  Here he held a series of different posts, including Research Engineer, Design Engineer, Deputy Chief Engineer, Deputy Works Manager of the Nitrogen Division, and Chief Engineer of the Oil Division. As Chief Engineer of the Oil Division he was responsible for the engineering work involved in developing the process for the production of petrol by the high-pressure hydrogenation of coal.

IN 1932 Smith moved to Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) as Chief Engineer of the Billingham works of Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd (ICI).  From 1942 to 1945 he served as Chief Engineer and Superintendent of Armament Design for the Ministry of Supply at Fort Halstead, where he played a leading role in the development of armour-piercing ordnance. In 1945 he was appointed to the board of ICI Ltd, and subsequently became deputy chairman until he retired in 1959.

After his retirement he was asked to serve on the Stedeford Committee which was looking into possible solutions to the financial problems facing British Transport. He instead recommended that they appoint an able metallurgist from ICI – Dr Richard Beeching – who infamously went on to recommend the closure of some 30 per cent of Britain’s railway stations

He was a Member of the Northern Ireland Development Council and of the Scientific Council of the Ministry of Fuel and Power. He was a member of the Société des Ingénieurs Civils de France, a member of the Institution of Chemical Engineers, and served on the Committee on Scientific Manpower. He played a major part in the formation of the British Conference on Automation and Computation.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1957. He was a Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers from 1944.  He served on Council as a Member from 1945 to 1952 and as Vice-President from 1952 to 1958. He was awarded the James Clayton Prize in 1958, and elected an Honorary Member in 1962.

He died on the 14 June 1995 at the age of 98.

1963-Alexander Fleck, Lord Fleck of Saltcoats

Alexander Fleck was born on 11 November 1889 in Glasgow, he was the only son of Robert Fleck, a coal merchant, and his wife Agnes. He was educated at Saltcoats public school and Hillhead High School. He entered Glasgow University as a laboratory assistant, and through attending first evening and then full-time classes, he gained an honours degree in chemistry in 1911, and, after joining the staff of the Glasgow and West Scotland Radium Committee, a DSc.

In the First World War he was Chief Chemist at the Castner Kellner Alkali Company, which was associated with Brunner, Mond, & Company, manufacturing a range of chemicals for wartime industry. In 1926 Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) was formed, incorporating Brunner, Mond with the United Alkali Company and the British Dyestuffs Corporation, concentrating a significant amount of the work of all three companies at a new site at Billingham, where Fleck was responsible for the planning and operation of the new works. Following the reorganization of ICI in 1931, he was appointed Managing Director of the General Chemicals Division in Liverpool, returning to Billingham as chairman in 1937. Although Billingham was a major target throughout the Second World War, he managed to keep the plant open and operational. He was appointed to the ICI Board in 1944, and was made Deputy Chairman in 1951 and Chairman in 1953, which post he held until his retirement in 1960.

He was chairman of Scottish Agricultural Industries, and chairman of the Coal Board Organization Committee, appointed by the Minister for Power. In 1957 and 1958 he was chairman of the committee investigating the Windscale accident, and from 1958 to 1965 he was chairman of the Advisory Council on Scientific Research and Development. In 1958 he was also President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. He had honorary degrees from the universities of Glasgow, Durham, Nottingham, Oxford, London, and from Trinity College, Dublin, and he received the Castner and Messel Medals. He was Vice President of the Royal Society in 1960, and he was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and of Manchester College of Science and Technology. He was President of the Society of the Chemical Industry, and from 1960 to 1965 was chairman of the Nuclear Safety Advisory Committee. He was President of the Royal Institution in 1963.

He was appointed KBE in 1955 and created Baron in 1961, and he was elected an Honorary Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1963.

He married Isabel Mitchell in 1917; they had no children.

He died on 6 August 1968 at Westminster Hospital at the age of 78.

1964-Sir Harold Hartley

Harold Hartley was born on 3 September 1878 in London.  He was the only son of Harold Thomas Hartley and his wife Katie, née Brewer. He was educated at Mortimer College and then at Dulwich College. He won a scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford, and in 1900 he graduated with a first-class honours degree in natural sciences, being appointed tutorial fellow of Balliol in 1901, an association with the college that was to last more than 60 years.

In the First World War he joined the 7th Leicestershire regiment, where he was promoted to Captain and given the job of chemical adviser to the Third Army. He was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel and in 1917 was made Assistant Director, Gas Services. He won a Military Cross in 1916, and was appointed OBE and then CBE. He was promoted to Brigadier General in 1918, and was made Controller of the Chemical Warfare Department of the Ministry of Munitions. In 1919 he was a member of the Holland Committee, advising the government on the future of chemical weapons, and he remained an advisor to the government on related issues right up to the 1950s.

Returning to Oxford, he continued to teach with great success, introducing summer schools for science teachers which were very successful in raising the standards of science teaching throughout the country. In 1922 he joined the Society of Chemical Engineers, and in 1926 was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. In 1929 he joined the Fuel Research Board of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, and was Chairman from 1932 to 1947.

In 1930 he left his teaching post at Balliol and took the full-time post of Vice President and Director of Research of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company (LMS).  In 1934 he was appointed Chairman of the newly-established Railway Air Services. He was subsequently Chairman of British European Airways (1946–47) and of the British Overseas Airways Corporation (1947–49). In 1949 he become the first Chairman of the Electricity Supply Council, where he remained until 1954. He was later a consultant to the Central Electricity Generating Board.

He was knighted in 1928, and in 1957 was appointed Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order. He was made a Companion of Honour in 1967.

He was President of the Institution of Chemical Engineers in 1954–55 and President of the Society of Instrument technology from 1957 to 1961. He was elected Honorary Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1964.

In 1906 he married Gertrude Mary Forster, née Smith.  They had one son and one daughter.

He died on 9 September 1972 in London at the age of 94.

1965-Professor Sir Owen Alfred Saunders

Owen Saunders was born in Streatham, London in 1904.  His father was an engineer, and was the inventor and designer of the Beckmeter petrol pump, which was widely used in British petrol stations.

Saunders attended Emmanuel School, Wandsworth Common, from 1913 to 1919.  After a period of home study, he enrolled at Birkbeck College, in the Chemistry department.  In June 1923 he achieved a first-class pass in the London University external general science degree.  He then attended evening classes in physics, and won a scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he began studying in 1923. 

In 1927 he began working at the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research’s Fuel Research Station, as a scientific officer.  He continued his studies at this time, and gained a BSc in special mathematics with first-class honours, and an MSc in physics.

In 1932, Saunders was appointed a lecturer in applied mathematical physics at Imperial College.  Five years later he became the first Clothworkers’ reader in thermodynamics.  He was seconded to the Directorate of Turbine Engines (Ministry of Aircraft Production) in 1942 and remained there until the end of the war.

In 1946, Saunders returned to Imperial College, and was appointed Chair of Mechanical Engineering and Head of the Department.  In this position he oversaw a period of considerable re-building.  He remained in this position until 1964, when he was elected Pro-Rector of the College.  When the Rector, Sir Patrick Linstead, died suddenly, Saunders acted as Rector from 1966 to 1967. He then became Vice-Chancellor of the University of London, overseeing the merger of Bedford College and Royal Holloway College and becoming the first Chairman of the council of the combined college.  He retired from the Vice-Chancellorship in 1969.

Saunders was also a full member of the Magic Circle.

He was President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1960, and was made an Honorary Fellow in 1965.  He died in 1993.

1965-Dr Franciscus Querien den Hollander

Franciscus Querien den Hollander was born in Goes on 31 May 1893.  He was the son of Francis Clement Querien den Hollander, a shopkeeper, and Catharina Johanna Sandijck. He was educated at Goes Grammar School and Delft University, graduating with honours in Mechanical Engineering in 1916. He married Afitha Schutel in October that same year, and they had one daughter.

After graduating he trained with the Dutch Iron Railway Company and in 1918 was appointed to the staff of the Netherlands Indies State Railways. He was Chief Engineer of the main Java workshops in 1933, Traffic Superintendent for South Sumatra in 1936, and Operating Superintendent Western Lines in 1937. He returned to the Netherlands as Assistant Manager of State Workshops in 1938, becoming General Manager in 1940.

In 1945 he became Permanent Under-Secretary to the Ministry of Economics, and later that year became General Managing Director of Transport for the Ministry of Transport. In 1946 he was appointed General Manager of the Netherlands Railways, becoming President the following year. From 1959 to 1961 he was President of the Federation of Netherlands Industries.

He did much to further international cooperation between the national railways of Europe, including the introduction of the Trans Europe Express trains, connecting at their peak some 130 cities, and the international standardization of rolling stock. This work was largely undertaken between 1949 and 1960, while he was President of the Office for Research and Experiments of the International Union of Railways.

In 1955 he was awarded the George Stephenson Medal by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and from 1955 to 1959 he was a member of the British Transport Commission’s Technical Development and Research Committee.

He was elected Honorary Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1965. He held an honorary doctorate in the technical sciences from Delft University, and he was an Honorary Member of the Institute of Transport, an Honorary Life Fellow of the Permanent Way Institution, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He was a Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion, a Grand Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau, and an Officer of the French Legion of Honour.

He died on 18 August 1982 at Maarn, Utrecht, at the age of 89.

1965-Dr Barnes Neville Wallis

Barnes Neville Wallis was born on 26 September 1887 at Ripley, Derbyshire.  He was the second child of Charles George Wallis, a GP, and his wife Edith. After the family moved to south London in 1891 he attended Haberdashers’ Aske’s School and later Christ’s Hospital school. He excelled in mathematics, English, and the sciences, and learned mechanical drawing. In 1904 he was indentured as a marine engineer to the Thames Engineering Works, transferring his articles to J S White & Company of Cowes, where he soon moved into the drawing office.

In 1913 he was appointed Assistant Chief Design Engineer at Vickers Ltd in the Airship Department. He served for a period in the First World War in the Royal Artists’ Rifle Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service, returning to Vickers as Chief Designer in 1916, where he remained until 1921.

In 1923 he became Chief Engineer of the Airship Guarantee Company Ltd, and his work on airships culminated in the successful flight of the R100.

From 1930 to 1937 he was Chief Designer (Structure) with Vickers Aviation Ltd, where he initiated the geodetic construction of the ‘Wellesley’, which flew to Australia and held the world’s long range record for eleven years, and the ‘Wellington’, the famous Second World War bomber.

Between 1937 and 1945 he was Assistant Chief Designer of Vickers–Armstrong’s Aviation Section, engaged in the development of geodetic structures, and is perhaps best known for his development of the special weapons – the ‘bouncing bombs’ - which were used during the Second World War against the Moehne and Eder dams in the Ruhr valley, and which were immortalised in the film The Dam Busters. His specially-developed weapons were also instrumental in the sinking of the battleship Tirpitz, and the destruction of the Bielefeld viaduct, and the Arnsberg, Arbergen, and Nienberg bridges. At the end of the War he was awarded with the Ewing Medal of the Royal Society, who also elected him a Fellow.

From 1945 to 1971 he was head of the Vickers’ Department of Aeronautical Research and Development at Weybridge, where he successfully developed his ideas for variable geometry aircraft.  These culminated in the revolutionary ‘Swallow’, which was never developed by Vickers. He was knighted in 1968. His last professional work was on the design of nuclear cargo submarines. He retired from Vickers in 1971 at the age of 84.

He died on 30 October 1979 in Leatherhead at the age of 92.

1967-Sir Charles Kenneth Hague

Kenneth Hague was born in Leeds in 1901.  He attended New College School, Oxford, before studying at Leeds University.  He joined Babcock and Wilcox Ltd. in 1924, and stayed with this company for the whole of his working life.

He rose through various positions at Babcock and Wilcox, becoming Managing Director in 1950 and Chairman in 1960.  His main interests were in steam engineering and nuclear engineering.  He was also actively involved with industrial labour relations, and served as a member of the UK Management Labour Delegation to the United States, and as British Representative on the Public Utilities Committee of the Combined Production and Resources Board in Washington.

Perhaps his most important contribution was his work towards the unification of the engineering profession.  He took an active part in the formation of the Engineering Institutions Joint Council in 1961, and served as the first Chairman of its Council.  He held this position until the reorganization in 1965, when it was renamed the Council of Engineering Institutions, and was granted a Royal Charter. 

He was President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1961, and was made an Honorary Fellow in 1967.

He died in 1974.

1967-Sir Arnold Alexander Hall

Arnold Alexander Hall was born in Liverpool on 23 April 1915; he was the son of Robert Alexander Hall and his wife, Ellen Elizabeth, née Parkinson. He was educated at Alsop High School where he gained a scholarship to Clare College, Cambridge, gaining first class honours in the engineering tripos in 1935.

After Cambridge he was appointed as a Principal Scientific Officer at the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) at Farnborough. Here he worked first on the design of an advanced electronic gun sight, later collaborating with the team at British European Airways who were working to bring into service the first turbo-prop engine – the Rolls Royce Dart – on the Vickers Viscount airliner. Between 1945 and 1951 he was Zaharoff Professor of Aviation at London University and Head of the Department of Aeronautics at Imperial College London. In 1951 he was appointed as Director of RAE Farnborough, where he remained until 1955. This was at the time of the early fatal crashes of the Comet, the first jet airliner, and the RAE was charged with investigating the causes. Hall built a full-size water tank to hold the entire Comet fuselage, and in this way they discovered the causes of the accidents – structural fatigue due to repeated pressurization. Rebuilt Comets were subsequently brought back into service without further serious problems. In 1967 he became Chairman of Hawker Siddeley Aircraft, holding the position until he retired in 1986. Between 1966 he held directorships of Lloyds Bank, Rolls-Royce Ltd, and ICI, and he was Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Science Museum.

He was knighted in 1954, having been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society the previous year. He received the Gold Medal of the Royal Aeronautical Society in 1962 and in 1963 the Albert Medal of the Royal Society of Arts. He was elected an Honorary Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1967.

He was married twice. On 29 November 1946 he married Moira Constance Dione Rathmell, née Sykes, and they had three daughters; she died in 1966. He later married Iola Nealon.

He died on 9 January 2000 at Wexham Park Hospital, Slough, at the age of 84.

1968-Philip Sporn

Philip Sporn was born on 25 November 1896 in Folotwin, Austria.  He moved to the United States with his parents, Isak and Rachel, in 1907. He was educated at New York city schools and graduated from Columbia University School of Engineering with a degree in electrical engineering.

He joined the American Gas and Electric Company – later the American Electric Power (AEP) Company – in 1920 and became Chief Engineer in 1933. He was President of the company from 1947 until his retirement on 1961, thereafter serving as a director and consultant until 1967.

Under his leadership AEP received the Edison Award twice: in 1954, for the development of the first US transmission line to operate at 345,000 volts, and in 1957 for the “imaginative, courageous and successful … engineering” which lead to system-wide transmission at 345,000 volts.

He devoted much of his time to the application of nuclear energy in the field of power generation. In 1955 he was a member of the US delegation to the United Nations Geneva Conference on ‘The Peaceful use of Atomic Energy’, and in 1958 he was an accredited observer. In 1967 he served on the Panel on Stopping the Spread of Nuclear Weapons, and he also served on the National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council Committee on the Disposal and Dispersal of Radioactive Wastes.

He was President of Nuclear Power Group, Inc., a non-profit making company engaged in atomic power developments. He was a trustee and member of the Policy Committee for Economic Development, a Governor of the Weizmann Institute of Science and Director of its American committee. He was a visiting Professor at Cornell, and a member of the Visiting Committee of the Department of Electrical Engineering at Princeton.

He is the author of numerous books and has been awarded many honorary doctorates, including from the University of Grenoble, Columbia University, Ohio State University, Haifa Technion, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He has received many awards, including in 1956 the John Fritz medal, the highest engineering award in the USA. In 1957 he became a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honour, in 1960 he received the American Conservation Service Award, and in 1962 was awarded the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Medal. He was elected Honorary Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in July 1968.

He married Sadie Posner on 10 September 1923, and they had two sons and a daughter.

He died in New York City on 23 January 1978 at the age of 81.

1968-Sir William Godfrey Agnew

William Godfrey Agnew was born on 11 October 1913 at Tunbridge Wells, Kent.  He was the only son of Lennox Edelstein Agnew and Elsie Blyth, née Nott.

He was educated at Tonbridge School and qualified as a solicitor in 1935.  The following year he entered the Public Trustee Office. During the Second World War he served with the Royal Artillery and with the Surrey and Sussex Yeomanry.

After the War he returned to the Public Trustee Office, where he was appointed Senior Clerk to the Privy Council in 1946. In 1951 he was became the Deputy Clerk, and then, in 1953, Clerk to the Privy Council.

In 1953 he was made a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in recognition of the considerable work he had done in preparation for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Twelve years later he was made a Knight Commander of that same Order for his services to the Queen and Her Majesty’s Privy Council.

During the many years he was at the office of the Privy Council he gave distinguished services both to the engineering profession as a whole and to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in particular. He was especially helpful during the formation of the Council of Engineering Institutions (CEI) in 1965.  This embodied the growing unity of the engineering profession, which he always encouraged.  Prince Philip was the founder President of the CEI.

He was well regarded by the Queen and her Household. She knew him well because his first wife was the daughter of the famous Charles Moore, who was her father's and her racing trainer.

Sir Godfrey Agnew was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1968.

He married Ruth Mary Moore in 1939, and they had three sons and three daughters. She died in 1962, and in 1965 he married a second time, to Nancy, Lady Tyrwhitt.

He died on 10 December 1995 at the age of 82.

1968-Baron Donald Gresham Stokes

Donald Gresham Stokes was born in 1914 and received his technical education at the Harris Institute of Technology in Preston. He apprenticed at Leyland Motors and was to spend a long career with the company.

During the Second World War he served as Assistant Director of Mechanical Engineering with the Central Mediterranean Forces and by its close had attained the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. After the war he returned to Leyland as Exports Manager and was appointed to the Board in 1953.

In the mid to late 1950s Leyland acquired a number of companies, including Triumph and Rover.  Stokes became a director of many of the companies and during his appointment as Sales Director the Leyland Motor Corporation was formed. He had achieved the positions of Chairman and Managing Director by the early 1970s.

During the 1980s he became involved in working with international automotive companies, such as Empresa Nacional de Autocamiones and Beherman Auto-Transport in Spain. His many years of experience led to presidential appointments with the Engineering Employers Federation, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders and the Motor Industry Research Association.

In addition to industry appointments Stokes was bestowed with honorary titles from many universities including Keble College at Oxford, Lancaster, Loughborough, Southampton and Salford. His professional membership began with the Institution of Automobile Engineers in 1935. He joined as a graduate and when the IAE merged with the IMechE he was automatically made an Associate Member. He was elected as an Honorary Fellow in 1968 and became President in 1972.

1968-Sir John Fleetwood Baker

John Fleetwood Baker was born on 19 March 1901 at Liscard, Cheshire.  He was the only son of Joseph William Baker and Emily Carole Fleetwood. He was educated at Rossall School in Lancashire and Clare College, Cambridge, where he read mechanical sciences.

After a period of practical training and experience he joined the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research with whom he remained until 1933, conducting pioneering work into the design of steel-framed buildings.  This work was recognised in 1932 when he was awarded the Telford Gold Medal of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

He was appointed Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Bristol in 1933, where he realised that the elastic method of structural analysis could never serve as the basis of a rational design method for steel structures.  From 1936 onwards his work was directed towards the plastic methods of design.

In 1939 he was seconded from Bristol to the Ministry of Home Security, where he was responsible for the design of all public air raid shelters, including the Morrison indoor shelter.

He became Professor of Mechanical Sciences and Head of the Department of Engineering of Cambridge University in 1943, and remained in that post until his retirement in 1968. Here he built up a substantial research team to continue his work on plastic theory and method – work which was to revolutionise the design of steel-framed buildings throughout the world. At the same time he completely revised both the undergraduate curriculum and post-graduate engineering courses. New buildings were constructed, and Chairs in Electrical Engineering and Applied Thermodynamics were established.

He served on the Civil Defence Research Committee, the Advisory Council to the Military College of Science, and the University Grants Committee. He was awarded honorary degrees by the universities of Wales, Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester, Edinburgh, Aston, Leicester, Liverpool, and Ghent. He was a fellow of the Institute of Welding, and he played a prominent part in the establishment of the British Welding Research Association. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1956, and a founder FEng in 1976. He was a Fellow and Vice-President of the Institution of Civil Engineers, and he was elected Honorary Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1968. He received an OBE in 1946, was Knighted in 1961, and made a life peer in 1977

He married Fiona Mary MacAlister, daughter of John Walker of Liverpool in 1929, and they had two daughters.

He died in Cambridge on 9 September 1985 at the age of 84.

1969-Henry George Nelson, Lord Nelson of Stafford

Henry George Nelson was born on 2 January 1917 in Manchester, only son of George Horatio Nelson, First Baron Nelson of Stafford, and Florence Mabel, daughter of Henry Howe, JP. He was educated at Oundle School and King’s College, Cambridge, graduating in mechanical sciences in 1937.

He worked in France and Switzerland before joining the English Electric Company in 1939 as superintendent of their Preston works. He oversaw the change from locomotive to aircraft production for the Second World War, and was involved in the production of the ‘Hampden’ and ‘Halifax’ bombers for the Air Ministry. In 1942 he was appointed Managing Director of D Napier & Sons Ltd, Acton when they were taken over by English Electric.

He became Executive Director of the Marconi Company in 1946, and Deputy Managing Director in 1949, before becoming Managing Director of English Electric in 1956, succeeding his father as Chairman and Chief Executive in 1962. He oversaw the development of the ‘Canberra’ bomber and ‘Lightning’ fighter, as well as moving the company into civil nuclear power as part of the consortium that built the Sizewell A and Hinckley Point power stations On the amalgamation of the General Electric Company (GEC) with English Electric in 1968, he assumed the office of Chairman, which he held until he retired in 1983. He was a deputy chairman of the British Aircraft Corporation from its formation until 1977.

He served on many governmental advisory committees, and was a member of the Engineering Advisory Council, the Engineering Employers Federation, and the British Electrical and Allied Manufacturers Association. In 1966 he was President of the Advisory Council on Technology, and in 1970 was President of the European Engineering Industries Association.

A director of the Bank of England, he was Lord High Steward of the Borough of Stafford, and the first Chancellor of the University of Aston in 1966. He has honorary degrees from Aston and Keele universities, and was made an Honorary Fellow of Imperial College London in 1969. He was Vice-President of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, and was made on Honorary Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1969.

He married Pamela Roy-Bird of Skipton in 1940, and they had two sons and two daughters. He succeeded his father as Second Baron Nelson of Stafford in 1962.

He died in Stafford on the 19 January 1995 at the age of 78.

1969-Sir James Denning Pearson

James Denning Pearson was born on 8 August 1908 in Bootle, Lancashire.  He was the son of James and Elizabeth Pearson. His father died when he was twelve, and he moved with his mother to Cardiff. Educated at Canton Secondary School, he was apprenticed to a local shipyard. He studied part-time at Cardiff Technical College, and was awarded a first class honours degree by the University of London. After a year of postgraduate study he received a senior Whitworth scholarship, which he used for turbine research at Metropolitan Vickers in Manchester.

He joined Rolls-Royce in 1932 where he worked on aero-engine design and development. During the Second World War he was in charge of the technical department of the company in Glasgow, later being appointed Chief Technical Production Engineer. After the War he moved to Canada when the ‘Merlin’ engine was selected to power a Canadian-built version of the Douglas DC-4 airliner.

He returned to the UK as General Sales and Service Manager, later Managing Director, of the Aero-Engine Division. He concentrated on developing the civil aviation business, selling Rolls-Royce engines to airlines all over the world. He was appointed to the board of Rolls-Royce in 1949.

In 1957 he succeeded Lord Hives as Chief Executive and Deputy Chairman of Rolls-Royce Ltd, and in 1959 he set up Rolls-Royce & Associates to supply pressurized water reactors for the Royal Navy’s nuclear submarine programme.

In the early 1960s he saw the need to develop engines to power the new wide-bodied ‘jumbo’ jets that were being developed in the USA. Work began on the RB211 engine, but ran into serious financial problems, necessitating a bail-out by the British Government. He had succeeded Lord Kindersley as Chairman in 1969, but following the financial difficulties with the RB211 he resigned in 1970. In 1971 Rolls-Royce was taken into state ownership. The motor car division was sold off in 1973. The RB211 was subsequently a highly successful engine.

He was President of the Society of British Aircraft constructors and a member of the National Economic Development Council (‘Neddy’) from 1964-67. He was a member of the Universities/Industry Joint Committee of the Confederation of British Industry, a governor of the London Graduate School of Business Studies, and a member of the council of Manchester Business School. He received honorary doctorates from the universities of Brunswick, Nottingham, and Wales, and was a Fellow of Imperial College London. He was knighted in 1963.

He joined the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1947, and was elected an Honorary Fellow in 1969.

In 1932 he married Eluned, daughter of Edward Henry of Glamorgan, and they had two daughters.

He died on 1 August 1992 at his home in Holbrook, Derbyshire, at the age of 83.

1970-Sir Ralph Freeman

Ralph Freeman was born on 3 February 1911 in London. He was the eldest son of Sir Ralph Freeman and his wife Mary, née Lines. His father was the consulting engineer for the Sydney Harbour Bridge. He was educated at Uppingham School and Worcester College, Oxford, where he graduated in engineering science.

He began work in 1932 with Dorman, Long & Company in South Africa, working on the construction of a new steel works in Pretoria. He was then employed on the construction of three major bridges: the Otto Beit and Birchenough bridges in Southern Rhodesia, and the Storstrøm bridge in Denmark. Returning to the UK, he worked for a short time for Braithwaite & Company on an oil pipeline jetty in the river Medway. In 1939 he joined the staff of Freeman, Fox and Partners to work on the design and construction of the Caerwent Royal Naval propellant factory. He was commissioned in the Royal Engineers in 1943 and worked on the development of military bridging techniques at the Experimental Bridging Establishment, Christchurch, Hampshire. In 1944 he was seconded to the Twenty-First Army Group as bridging adviser for the allied advance into northern Europe, and he was appointed MBE in 1945.

He returned to Freeman, Fox and Partners after the War, becoming a partner in 1947. The company were appointed to engineer the Dome of Discovery, part of the Festival of Britain exhibition on the South Bank, and  in spite of a very tight timetable, he managed to complete the work in time for the opening of the exhibition in 1951, for which he was appointed CBE in 1952. During the 1950s Freeman, Fox and Partners expanded considerably, working in the fields of thermal and hydro-electric power stations and road and railway construction, as well as their main area – bridges. Here, under Freeman’s leadership, they were responsible for the Auckland harbour bridge (1959), the Forth road bridge (1964), the first Severn road bridge (1966), the Erskine bridge over the river Clyde in Scotland (1971), the Bosphorus bridge (1973), and the Humber bridge – for 17 years the longest single-span suspension bridge in the world – which opened in 1981. He was also appointed consulting engineer for the Sandringham Estate by George VI, and as a consequence he used to describe himself as “the Queen’s plumber”.

He was a Fellow of the Institution of Civil engineers from 1946, and was President in 1966/67. He was Chairman of the Association of Consulting Engineers and President of the Smeatonian Society of Civil Engineers, and he served on the Ministry of Defence Advisory Council on Scientific Research and Development – later the Defence Scientific Advisory Council. He was created a CVO in 1964 and knighted in 1970, the same year in which he was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

In 1939 he married Joan Elizabeth, daughter of Colonel J G Rose, of Wynberg, South Africa, and they had two sons and a daughter.

He died on the 24 August 1998 at Ballards Shaw, his home near Oxted, Surrey, at the age of 87.

1970-Brian Hubert Robertson, Lord Robertson of Oakridge

Brian Hubert Robertson was born on 22 July 1896 at Simla, India.  He was the oldest child of Field Marshal Sir William Rober Robertson, First Baronet, and his wife Mildred Adelaide, née Palin. He was educated at Charterhouse School and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, and was commissioned in the Royal Engineers in 1914.

He served in France during the First World War, where he won the Military Cross and was appointed to the DSO, before joining King George’s Bengal Sappers and Miners at Peshawar. In 1926–27 he attended the Camberley Staff College before joining the staff of the Geneva Disarmament Conference.

In 1935 he took up the post of Managing Director of Dunlop (South Africa), but in 1940 was recalled as a reserve officer in the South African forces. He later became Brigadier in charge of administration for the Eighth Army in North Africa, where he proved himself to be a very skilled and creative administrator. Following the fall of Sicily to the Allied forces in 1940 he became, as Lieutenant General, to Field Marshal Alexander, Commander-in Chief, Allied Forces, in Italy. In 1947 he became Commander-in Chief and Military Governor of the British Zone in Germany, and in 1949–50 was U.K. High Commissioner to the Allied High Commission, where he was instrumental in organizing the Berlin Airlift. In 1950 he became Commander-in-Chief of Middle East land forces for the British Army.

He retired from the Army in 1953 to become Chairman of the British Transport Commission, a post he held for over seven years, during which time the railways were substantially re-organized and modernized, with the switch to diesel traction from steam being commenced during his tenure.

In 1961 he was created Baron Robertson of Oakridge, having succeeded his father to the Baronetcy in 1933. He received many honours and awards, including CBE (1942), KCVO, (1944), and KCMG (1947), and he was Aide-de-Camp General to King George VI and to Queen Elizabeth II. He was Colonel-Commandant of the Royal Engineers and of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, and Honorary Colonel of the Engineer and Railway Staff Corps. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by Cambridge University, and was appointed to the Légion d’Honneur and the U.S. Legion of Merit. He was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1970.

In 1926 he married Edith Christine, née Macindoe, and they had two sons and a daughter.

He died on the 29 April 1974 at Far Oakridge, Gloucestershire, at the age of 77.

1970-Dr Charles Stark Drape

Charles Stark Draper was born on 2 October 1901 in Windsor, Missouri, where he received his early education. He entered Stanford University in 1919, graduating in psychology in 1922. Later that year he entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he remained for the rest of his life. He had three degrees from that institution – a BSc in electro-chemical engineering, an unspecified MSc, and a ScD in physics.

He has been called ‘Mr Gyro’ because of his success in developing gyroscope navigation systems and gun sights, and because of the fundamental improvements he made in gyroscope instruments themselves. During the Second World War his work resulted in the development of the Mark 14 gun sight by the US Navy to deal with aircraft attacks. After the War, with associates at MIT, he developed the stellar–inertial guidance system known as FEBE (from Phoebus, god of the sun). The success of this system led to work on inertial navigation for ships and, later, for submarines; in the 1950s he was asked to design the inertial guidance system for ‘Polaris’. At this time he was also researching a guidance system for inter-continental ballistic missiles, and this led to designs for the ‘Thor’ and ‘Titan’ missile systems.

In 1961 the USA began their programme of manned exploration of the moon, and at the request of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Draper and his team designed the automatic guidance system for use on the Apollo spacecraft. MIT Instrumentation Laboratory designed the guidance and navigation systems for all of the Apollo flights, which successfully guided both unmanned and manned flights to the moon and back again.

His work on inertial navigation systems led to the design of an outstandingly successful lightweight system for commercial aircraft. In 1970 he received the Sperry Award of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) for the development of the Carousel IV inertial navigation system for the Boeing 747.
As head of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT he was responsible for an extended curriculum of courses in the fields of instrument engineering and fire control. He has written extensively in the field of instrumentation and control, and has been a consultant to many aeronautical companies and instrument manufacturers. He holds a number of patents for measuring and control equipment.

He has three exceptional Civilian Service Awards from the US Air Force, two Naval Distinguished Public Service Awards, the Guggenheim Medal, and two NASA Awards. He served on many US government bodies, and was Chairman of the National Inventors Council. He was President of the International Academy of Sciences, an Honorary Fellow of the AIAA, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. In 1970 he was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and an Honorary Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

He was married to Ivy Hurd Willard, and they had three sons and one daughter.

He died in Cambridge, Massachusetts on the 25 July 1987 at the age of 85.

1971-Sir Christopher Hinton, Lord Hinton of Bankside

Christopher Hinton was born in Tisbury, Wiltshire, where his father was the village schoolmaster.  At sixteen he was apprenticed to the Great Western Railway’s Swindon Works, spending six ‘unnecessarily long and wearisome’ years there.  In 1923 he received the William Henry Allen grant from the IMechE and went to Trinity College, Cambridge.

After graduation, Hinton was turned down by his former employer.  One of his professors, Sir Charles Edward Inglis, was told that ‘Hinton would have been a good engineer if he had stayed with us, but now he has had three years at Cambridge we wouldn’t dream of taking him.’  Instead he went to the Brunner Mond Company, which soon became the Alkali Division of Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI).

At 29 Hinton became Chief Engineer at ICI, just before the 1930s Depression.  While there, he learned much about standardisation, management programming and other techniques of financial control.  Under Hinton, the company made great progress in mechanical handling of raw materials and in process plant reconstruction.

Christopher Hinton’s ICI experiences in large-scale organisation became important to Britain’s war effort.  From 1941 Hinton was Deputy Director-General of the Royal Filling Factory organization, overseeing the operations of nine major plants, each employing 20,000-30,000 workers.  Hinton later wrote that ‘size alone does not constitute a difficulty provided that the management is not afraid and knows how to create structures appropriate to the size’.

Post-war, Hinton became head of the Atomic Energy Authority’s industrial production base at Risley, effectively creating an entirely new industry by building Britain’s nuclear infrastructure.  Although early UK research reactors such as the British Experimental Pie (BEPO) provided important technical information, Hinton’s team lacked sufficient resources to build pilot plants.  They built plants for uranium enrichment, fuel rod production, plutonium separation and the nuclear reactors themselves without such pilots.  The Windscale piles, described by Hinton as ‘monuments to our initial ignorance’, went critical between 1950 and 1952, but Windscale pile no.1 was the site of one of the world’s worst nuclear accidents in 1957.

Although the application of nuclear technology to civil power stations was delayed by the government’s weapons procurement priorities, Hinton was a successful project manager, and brought all his projects in on time and on budget.  By 1956, Calder Hall power station had become the first nuclear power station to supply electricity to the National Grid.

In 1957 Sir Christopher Hinton was appointed Chairman of the new Central Electricity Generating Board.  He moved the industry from entirely coal-based to a more diverse mixture of coal, oil and nuclear power stations.  Although his appointment may have been intended to bolster the new nuclear industry, Hinton believed that nuclear electricity generation should be judged on commercial and engineering grounds.  He did not lose his faith in nuclear power but felt that the industry had been expanded too quickly.

Before leaving the CEGB Hinton was responsible for major conventional plant construction and an upgrading of the grid.  The new ‘supergrid’ was planned so as to cause as little environmental impact as possible.

Upon his retirement Baron Hinton of Bankside took on several different roles, including advising the World Bank on energy matters, and serving as President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.  A Fellow of the Royal Society and awarded the Order of Merit, he was one of the most honoured engineers of his generation.

Hinton died in 1983.

1973-Vice-Admiral Sir Frank Trowbridge Mason

Frank Trowbridge Mason was born in Ipswich in 1900.  He was educated at Ipswich School, and entered the Royal Navy in 1918.  He served for two years as a cadet and midshipman on the HMS Collingwood and HMS Queen Elizabeth, before volunteering to specialize in engineering.  Under the Selborne-Fisher scheme of 1903, which aimed to put engineers into the mainstream of naval life, he received special training at the Royal Naval colleges at Greenwich and Keyham. 

In 1928, Mason was appointed to HMS Rodney, which was a new battleship which was encountering severe problems with her 16 inch guns.  Mason’s experiences with these guns led him to specialize in ordnance engineering.  He was appointed for a time to the firm of Vickers at Elswick, and served for three years in the naval ordnance department.

After a series of promotions, and more spells with the Naval Ordnance Department, he was appointed Fleet Gunnery Engineer Officer to the Home Fleet in Scapa Flow, and was promoted to Captain (E).  The following year he returned to the Naval Ordnance Department in the Admiralty, and in 1947 he became Chief Gunnery Engineer Officer and Deputy Director of Naval Ordnance.  He was promoted to Rear-Admiral (E) and from 1950 to 1952 held the position of Deputy Engineer-in-Chief of the Fleet.  He was promoted to Vice-Admiral (E) in 1953 and was made Engineer-in-Chief of the Fleet.  In 1953 he was appointed CB and in 1955 KCB. 

The Selborne-Fisher scheme under which Mason trained was ended in 1923, leaving the navy at a technological disadvantage with the outbreak of the Second World War.  Mason and others put much effort into reinstating it, and in 1956 a new scheme was implemented. 

Mason was President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1964, and was President of the Institute of Marine Engineers in 1967.  He was made an Honorary Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.  He died in 1988.

1974-Sir Arnold Lewis George Lindley

Arnold Lindley was born in London in 1902.  He attended Woolwich Polytechnic, and was apprenticed at the Fraser and Chalmers Engineering Works of the General Electric Co., Erith, which manufactured steam turbines, compressors and heavy mining plant.  In the fourth year of his apprenticeship he entered the drawing office, and later the design department for steam turbine, generating and mining equipment.

In the course of his work he travelled to Belgium, Holland and France, and in 1933 was transferred to South Africa as resident engineer for the GEC of South Africa.  He remained there for 16 years.  In 1940 he became a Director of the South African GEC.  He took a leading role in establishing the manufacture of heavy equipment in South Africa, and the creation of the establishment known as Vecor, the centre of heavy engineering there.  He became a member of the South African Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and served as a member of Council from 1940, and Vice-President in 1948.

In 1949 he was recalled to England to become General Manager of the Turbine Engineering Works at Erith, and to re-equip and expand the factory to meet the demand for the large turbo-generating units which were then coming into being.  He became responsible for the establishment and development of the nuclear energy interests of the GEC, building two nuclear power stations and setting up extensive research facilities.

He became a Director of GEC in 1953 and was later appointed Chairman and Managing Director.  He was knighted in 1964 for services to industry, and in the same year, after retiring from GEC, he was appointed Chairman of the Engineering Industry Training Board.  In 1970, he was an Associate Consultant on the Thames Barrier.  He was Chairman of the Council of Engineering Institutions from 1972 to 1973.

He was President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1968 and was later elected an Honorary Fellow.

He died in 1995.

1974-Sir Eric John (Jack) Callard

Eric John (Jack) Callard was born on 15 March 1913 in Torquay.  He was the son of Frank Callard, a baker, and Ada Mary, née Fawkes. He was educated at Queen’s College, Taunton, and St John’s College, Cambridge, where he graduated in mechanical engineering.

In 1935, after working at the Vickers Armstrong shipyard in Barrow in Furness, he joined Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) at Billingham on Teesside. He was to remain with ICI for the rest of his professional working life, except for a short period during the Second World War when he was seconded to the Ministry of Aircraft Production factory at Heysham.

After the War he returned briefly to Billingham before being appointed, in 1947, Deputy Chief Engineer at ICI’s Paints Division in Slough. He became Engineering Director of the Division in 1951, Production Director and then Joint Managing Director in 1955, and Chairman in 1959.

He was appointed to the ICI Board as Engineering Director in 1964. He was also the first Chairman of ICI Europa, formed in 1965 to develop the company’s business in Europe, and he quickly moved its headquarters to Brussels. Soon ICI was selling more in Europe than it was in the UK, and he gained a reputation as a ‘safe pair of hands’.

He was appointed Deputy Chairman of ICI in 1967, and Chairman in 1971 – the first engineer to hold the position. He almost doubled company profits between 1972 and 1974, which made ICI Britain’s largest exporter. However, this success masked a concurrent failure to move into new technologies, and an unsuccessful attempt to break into the North American market. He was knighted in 1974, the year before he retired from ICI, joining the board of British Home Stores, where he served as Chairman from 1976 to 1982.

He was Vice-President of the Combustion Engineering Association, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and a Member of the Royal Institution of Great Britain. He was Vice-President of the Manchester Business School Association, President of the Industrial Participation Association, a governor of the London Graduate School of Business Studies, and member of the council of the Institute of Management Education. He sat on the governing body of the British Shippers’ Council, was a trustee of the Civic Trust, and a director of the former Midland Bank. He has an honorary science degree from Cranfield Institute of Technology. He was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1974.

He married Pauline Mary, daughter of Charles Pengelly, a Methodist minister, in 1938, and they had 3 daughters.

He died at Fairford, Gloucestershire, on the 21 September 1998 at the age of 85.

1974-Sir Stanley George Hooker

Stanley George Hooker was born on 30 September 1907 at Eastchurch, Kent.  He was the youngest of nine children. He attended Borden Grammar School and won a royal scholarship to Imperial College London to read mathematics. He won the Busk studentship in aeronautics in 1928, the Armourers and Brasiers research fellowship in 1930, and gained his DPhil at Brasenose College, Oxford, in 1935.

From 1936 he worked at the Admiralty’s Scientific and Research Department, before moving, in 1938, to Rolls-Royce at Derby. He was put in charge of supercharger development, and the dramatic improvements made to the performance of the ‘Merlin 60’ engine in the ‘Spitfire’ aircraft was instrumental in enabling the success of the RAF against the German air force in the Second World War.

He was Chief Engineer at Barnoldswick after Rolls-Royce took over work on the Whittle jet engine, and he successfully developed the B37 turbo-jet and the ‘Nene’ and ‘Derwent 5’ centrifugal jet engines. Believing that axial flow jet engines would be unsuitable for civil aviation, he initiated work on turbo-prop engines, with the ‘Trent’ engine being the first to fly in 1944. He became Assistant Chief Engineer at Derby in 1946, but was unable to resolve the problems with the ‘Avon’ axial flow engine. He left Rolls-Royce at the end of 1948.

Joining Bristol Siddeley in January 1949, he was responsible for the ‘Proteus’ turbo-prop engine for the ‘Britannia’ aircraft. The engine was also developed for use by the Navy and by the Central Electricity Generating Board. He was Chief Engineer of the Engine Division in 1951, when the ‘Olympus’ turbo-jet began testing, later powering the ‘Vulcan’ bomber and ‘Concorde’. In 1953 Bristol started work which would lead to the development of the ‘Pegasus’ turbo fan engine, used in the ‘Harrier’ VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) aircraft.

When Rolls-Royce took over Bristol Siddeley in 1966 he became Technical Director of the Bristol Engine Division, and was appointed Group Technical Director in 1970, but the insurmountable financial problems associated with the RB211 engine bankrupted Rolls Royce in 1971.

During the 1960s, through the supply of jet engines to Romania, he gained an entrée into China, and in 1973 was awarded an honorary professorship at the Peking Institute of Aeronautical Sciences, of which he was extremely proud. He received many medals - from the Royal Aeronautical Society, the Swedish Aeronautical Society, the Society of Engineers, and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He was awarded an OBE (1946) and a CBE (1964), having been made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1962. He was knighted in 1974

He was elected to the Council of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1958, and was made an Honorary Life Fellow in 1974.

He married the Honourable Margaret, daughter of John Swanwick Bradbury, First Baron Bradbury, in 1937, and they had one daughter. The marriage was dissolved in 1950, and the same year he married Kate Maria Garth, née Pope, and they too had one daughter.

He died in Bristol on the 24 May 1984 at the age of 76.

1974-Sir William Lyons

William Lyons was born on 4 September 1901 in Blackpool, the only son of William and Mary Jane (Minnie) Lyons. He was educated at Poulton-le Fylde Grammar School and Arnold House.

His first job was as a trainee with Crossley Motors, and he also worked as a Sunbeam salesman. As a motorcycle enthusiast he came into contact with William Walmsley, who built the highly stylized ‘Swallow’ side-cars, and together they formed the Swallow Sidecar Company in 1922. This expanded into the Swallow Sidecar and Coachbuilding Company, building special bodies for Austin Seven chassis. Success brought a need to expand, and the company moved from Blackpool to Coventry in 1928. Changing from Austin to Standard chassis, Lyons was able to develop his own car – the famous SS1 sports car – which was a great success, although the Standard saloon car engine gave only mediocre performance. In 1933 he established SS Cars Ltd to develop suitable engines from the Standard designs, which he did successfully for his new ‘Jaguar’ saloon car.

After production was interrupted by World War Two, he devoted his efforts to developing a completely new engine, and this resulted in the famous XK engine. He managed to acquire the rights and tooling for this engine from Standard, and so established Jaguar Cars Ltd.

The XK120 sports car, launched in 1948, was the real start of the company’s sales success, especially in the USA. At his instigation the model entered and won the Le Mans 24-hour race four times between 1953 and 1957, establishing an enviable racing pedigree for the company, and generating huge export success.

Jaguar Cars took over the Daimler factory at Browns Lane, Coventry, and from here they produced a long line of successful saloon and sports cars based on the XK engine, including the E-type sports car and the long-running XJ6 saloon. However, in spite of their success, Jaguar Cars was not able to resist a take-over by the British Motor Corporation in 1966. Two years later Jaguar became part of the British Leyland group, of which Lyons was Deputy Chairman until he retired in 1972.

He was knighted in 1956 and awarded an honorary doctorate from Loughborough University in 1964. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a Royal Designer for Industry. He was President of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the Motor Industry Research Association, the Motor Trades Benevolent Fund, and the Fellowship of the Motor Industry

He was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1974.

He married Greta, daughter of Alfred Jenour Brown, in 1924, and they had two daughters and a son, who was killed while driving a Jaguar at Le Mans in 1956.

He died at Wappenbury Hall, Warwickshire on the 8 February 1985 at the age of 83.

1975-William George Penney, Lord Penney of East Hendred

William George Penney was born on 24 June 1909 at the Naval Hospital in Gibraltar.  He was the eldest of the three children of William Alfred Penney, a Sergeant-Major in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, and his wife Blanche Evelyn, née Johnson. He attended a variety of schools, including technical schools at Colchester and Sheerness, where he won a scholarship to the Royal College of Science.  In 1929 he graduated with a first in mathematics after only two years.  He was awarded his PhD in 1931 and an MA from the University of Wisconsin in 1932. In 1933 he returned to Trinity College Cambridge, and for a short time in 1936, Pembroke College, before moving full-time to Imperial College London, where he was Assistant Professor of Mathematics.

In the Second World War he was recruited to Sir Geoffrey Taylor’s physics of explosions committee, known as Physex, where he became an authority on blast waves. This led to his recruitment in 1944 to the Manhattan Project in the USA, working on the development of a nuclear fission bomb, in the Los Alamos laboratories in New Mexico. Due to his expertise on blast, and as a consequence on the effects of such weapons, he became a very important figure, and was a member of the committee which chose the cities in Japan that were to be attacked. He was aboard the plane shadowing the Nagasaki mission, and was also on the ground in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki soon afterwards, studying the effects of the two explosions.

After the War, in 1946, he became Chief Superintendent of Armament Research. The same year he was also adviser to the US government on the nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll. In 1947 he set up his own secret research programme – known as the Basic High Explosive Research Programme – to develop the Britain’s own nuclear bomb, and the first bomb was tested successfully in the Monte Bello islands off north-west Australia in 1952.

When the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) was created in 1954 he was the member for weapons development, turning to the development of the hydrogen bomb. This proved to be another resounding success, being achieved with remarkable speed and at a fraction of the cost of similar earlier developments in both the USA and the USSR. In 1958 he led a British delegation to the first test ban conference in Geneva in 1958. He subsequently put a huge amount of effort into trying to secure a verifiable and comprehensive treaty, and was hugely disappointed when the 1963 treaty was only partial. In 1961 he became Deputy Chairman, and in 1964 Chairman of the UKAEA. When he retired from this position in 1967 he was created Baron Penney of East Hendred. He was subsequently rector of Imperial College London, remaining so until 1973; the College’s Penney Laboratory is named after him.

He received many awards and honours, including honorary degrees from the universities of Durham, Bath, Reading, Oxford, and Melbourne, and from the City and Guilds of London Institute. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society, and an Honorary Fellow of St Catherine’s College, Oxford, Manchester College of Science and Technology, and Trinity and Pembroke Colleges, Cambridge. He was awarded the Rumford Medal, the Glazebrook Medal, The Ewing Medal, and the Kelvin Gold Medal. He was appointed OBE in 1946 and KBE in 1952. He was made a Member of the Order of Merit in 1969. He was elected and Honorary Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1975.

He was married twice. On 27 July 1935 to Adele Minnie, née Elms, and they had two sons; she died on 18 April 1945. On 3 November 1945 he married Eleanor Joan, née Quennell; they had no children.

He died on the 3 March 1991 at Orchard House, East Hendred, Oxfordshire, at the age of 81.

1975-Sir George Robert Edwards

George Robert Edwards was born in Walthamstow on 9 July 1908. He attended the Walthamstow Technical Institute Engineering and Trade School, and followed this with a part time University of London engineering degree course. From 1928, he worked as a technical engineer in the London docks, whilst studying at the West Ham Municipal College.

In 1935, Edwards went to work for Vickers (Aviation) Limited at Weybridge, Surrey. An early aircraft type with which he was involved was the Air Ministry G4/31 prototypes, which developed into the Wellesley bomber for the RAF. He became a group leader, and was tasked with the design of the tail unit on the Vickers B9/32 prototype, which led to the Wellington and Warwick bombers of the Second World War.

In 1939, soon after the outbreak of war, Edwards was given responsibility for designing a special version of the Wellington in order to deal with Hitler's magnetic mines which posed a great threat to Allied shipping. His solution had to be brought from concept to service within three months, and Edwards had to give nightly progress reports, with photographs, to Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty. His device was successfully deployed in the Thames estuary, and later the Suez Canal, Mediterranean harbours and the Near East.

In 1940, Edwards was appointed experimental manager of Vickers-Armstrong. Very soon after his appointment, the Vickers factory at Brooklands was bombed, and Edwards was given the task of establishing a facility in nearby Foxwarren Park. In the same year he began a part-time secondment to Lord Beaverbrook's Ministry of Aircraft Production, working to accelerate the development and production of aircraft in factories throughout Britain.

Edwards became chief designer of the Vickers-Armstrongs aviation group in September 1945. He became a director, general manager and chief engineer in 1953, becoming managing director of Vickers-Armstrongs (Aircraft) Limited later in the same year. In these positions, Edwards played a hugely important role in the post-war development of aviation, both civil and military, and the aviation industry.

As well as involvement with revolutionary aircraft such as the Viking, Valetta, VC2, VC10 and V1000, Edwards was original architect of the Concorde programme, and the only member of the original governmental and industrial management team to remain in place throughout the whole of the project, from the signing of the Anglo-French treaty agreement in November 1962 to start of service in January 1976.

Edwards retired in 1975. He had been appointed MBE in 1945, CBE in 1952, and was knighted in 1957. He was awarded the Order of Merit in 1971. He was a fellow of the Royal Society, and was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1975. Sir George Edwards died on 2 March 2003.

1976-Alexander Robertus Todd, Lord Todd of Trumpington

Alexander Robertus Todd was born on 2 October 1907 in Cathcart, Glasgow.  He was educated at Allan Glen’s school and at the University of Glasgow, where he gained an honours degree in pure science in 1928. He was awarded a Carnegie Research Scholarship, spending two years at the University of Frankfurt before gaining a senior scholarship which took him to Oxford for a further two years. He then spent two more years at the University of Edinburgh, where he was Beit Memorial Research fellow.

In 1936 he joined the staff of the Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine, and the following year he was appointed reader in biochemistry at the University of London. After a visiting lectureship at the California Institute of Technology he was appointed Samuel Hall Professor of Chemistry at the University of Manchester in 1938, where he remained for six years. In 1944 he became Professor of Organic Chemistry at the University of Cambridge where he remained until he retired from the post in 1971, following a heart attack. In 1944 he was elected to a Fellowship at Christ’s College, Cambridge, becoming Master of the College in 1963.

He is acclaimed for his work on the chemistry of nucleic acids and nucleotides. He and his colleagues in Manchester and Cambridge synthesised all the naturally-occurring nucleotide components of the nucleic acids, paving the way for the work of Watson and Crick on the structure of DNA. It was this work which led to him receiving the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1957.

He was Chairman of the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy, and of the Royal Commission on Medical Education. He was President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science and a member of the National Research and Development Council. He was President of the Royal Society, and when Glasgow’s Royal College of Science and Technology was granted university status in 1964, he was the first Chancellor of the new Strathclyde University.

He has received many awards and honours, including the Lavoisier Medal of the French Chemical Society (1948), the Davy Medal of the Royal Society (1949), and the Royal Medal of the Royal Society (1955). He received the Longstaff Medal of the Chemical Society in 1963 and the Royal Society’s Copley Medal in 1970. He was awarded honorary degrees from some forty universities around the world. He was knighted in 1954, and created a life peer, Baron Todd of Trumpington, in 1962. He became a member of the Royal Order of Merit in 1977.

He was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1976

In 1937 he married Alison Sarah, daughter of Sir Henry Dale, Nobel Laureate and President of the Royal Society; they had one son and two daughters.

He died on 10 January 1997 at Oakington, Cambridgeshire, at the age of 89.

1977-HRH The Prince of Wales

Prince Charles was born on 14 November 1948 at Buckingham Palace, the son of Her Royal Highness, the Princess Elizabeth and His Royal Highness, the Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Princess Elizabeth was proclaimed Queen on the death of her father, King George VI, on 6 February 1952, and Prince Charles became heir apparent at the age of three, taking the titles of Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron Renfrew, Lord of the Isles, and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland.  He was created Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester in 1958.

Unusually the Prince attended school rather than being tutored at the Palace, and in 1956 went to Hill House School in West London, before moving to Cheam School in 1958. From 1962 he attended Gordonstoun School near Elgin, in Scotland, which the Duke of Edinburgh had attended, remaining there to take both his GCE ‘O’ levels and ‘A’ levels, although in 1966 he spent two terms as an exchange student at ‘Timbertop’, a remote outpost of the Geelong Church of England Grammar School in Melbourne, Australia. He was a student at Trinity College, Cambridge, gaining an honours degree in history in 1970, the same year in which he took his seat in the House of Lords, and a year after he was invested as Prince of Wales by the Queen at Caernarfon Castle in North Wales. Cambridge granted him a Master of Arts degree in 1975.

As was the case with his predecessors as Prince of Wales, he spent time in the Navy and the Air Force. During his second year at Cambridge he received RAF training, and in March 1971 he flew himself to RAF Cranwell to begin training as a jet pilot. The following year he embarked on a career in the Navy, enrolling on a six week course at the Royal Naval College Dartmouth. In 1971–72 he served aboard the guided missile destroyer HMS Norfolk, then on the frigates HMS Minerva (1972–73) and HMS Jupiter (1974). He also qualified as a helicopter pilot at RNAS Yeovilton in 1974, subsequently joining 845 Naval Air Squadron, operating from HMS Hermes. In early 1976 he took command of the coastal minehunter HMS Bronington until he left the Navy towards the end of that year. He has qualified to fly a Chipmunk trainer, a Harrier Mk4 VTOL fighter, a BAC Jet Provost, a Nimrod, an F-4 Phantom fighter, an Avro Vulcan bomber, and a Second World War Spitfire.

In addition to his many Royal duties, both in his own right, and as representative of the Sovereign, he has developed interests in many areas, and today these are reflected in ‘The Prince’s Charities’, a group of twenty not-for-profit organizations of which he is President, eighteen of which he established personally. Together these charities raise over £100 million annually. In addition, he is also patron of over 350 other charities and organizations. He has strong views in many areas – especially related to the built environment – and has been described as “a dissident who works against majority political opinion”.

He married Lady Diana Spencer on 29 July 1981, and she became Her Royal Highness, the Princes of Wales. They had two sons, Prince William, born on 21 June 1982 and Prince Harry, born on 15 September 1984. The marriage was dissolved on 28 August 1996.  The Princess died in a car crash in Paris on 31 August 1997. On 9 April 2005 he married Mrs Camilla Parker Bowles, who subsequently became known as Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Cornwall. It is intended that she should use the title Her Royal Highness, the Princess Consort, when he succeeds to the throne.

He is a member of the Privy Council and Personal Aide-de-Camp, and he has many honours and decorations, including Knight of the Order of the Garter and of the Order of the Thistle, and Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath. He has been appointed to the Queen’s Service Order, and to the Order of Merit, and he is a Fellow of the Royal Society. He was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1977.

1977-Alfred Robens, Lord of Woldingham

Alfred Robens was born on 18 December 1910 in Chorlton, Manchester.  He was the son of George Robens, a cotton salesman, and his wife, Edith, née Anderton. He was educated at Ducie Avenue Secondary School in Manchester, leaving when he was 15 years old to work as an errand boy.

He moved to a job as a clerk with the Manchester and Salford Cooperative Society, becoming a local director in 1933. Between 1935 and 1945 he was a full-time official for the Union of Shop, Distributive, and Allied Workers. Declared medically unfit for service during the Second World War, he was a Manchester City Councillor between 1941 and 1945.

He was the Labour MP for Wansbeck (later renamed Blyth) from 1945 to 1960, becoming, briefly, Minister of Labour and National Service in 1951. In opposition he was Shadow Minister of Labour and Shadow Foreign Secretary. In 1961 he was invited by Prime Minister Harold Macmillan to be Chairman of the National Coal Board (NCB). This was a shrewd move by Macmillan: who better than ‘Alf’ Robens to handle the problems of the coal industry, while for Robens, a life-long socialist, the opportunity to run a major nationalized industry could not be turned down. He was created a life peer as Baron Robens of Woldingham in 1961, and ran the NCB as ‘Old King Coal’ for the next ten years. He set himself a punishing work schedule, visiting a different pit every two weeks, spending much of his time underground talking to the miners themselves. The coal industry was facing significant challenges in the 1960s, with demand for British coal declining, and although he had some successes, and he fought long and hard, he could not reverse the long-term downward trend. He was genuinely concerned about the fate of mining communities, and worked hard to improve the health and safety record of the mining industry. Following the Aberfan disaster in 1966, when the subsiding waste tip of the Merthyr Vale colliery in south Wales swamped a school, killing 144 people, 116 of them children, Robens tendered his resignation, but it was declined. He eventually left the NCB in 1971.

In 1971 he became Chairman of Vickers Ltd and also of Johnson Matthey, the bullion company. He had been a director of the Bank of England since 1966, and he held directorships of several other companies, including Times Newspapers.

He was Chairman of the Foundation on Automation and Employment and of the Engineering Industries Council, and a member of the Royal Commission of Trade Unions and Employers’ Associations and the National Economic Development Council. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Health and Safety Executive and the Health and Safety Commission. He was Chairman of the Council of the Manchester Business School, Chairman of the Court of Governors of the London School of Economics, and Chairman of the Board of Governors of Guys Hospital. He was Chancellor of the University of Surrey, and he holds honorary degrees from several universities, as well as being an Honorary Fellow of the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology. He was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1977.

He married Eva, née Powell, on 9 September 1936; they adopted one son.

He died on 27 June 1999 at Chertsey, Surrey, at the age of 88.

1977-William Reginald Dermot Manning

William Reginald Dermot Manning was born on 12 February 1903 in Newmarket, in Suffolk. In 1925 he represented Cambridgeshire in the Minor Counties Cricket Championship.  He graduated from the University of Cambridge in 1926.

After a period of research at Cambridge he joined the Brunner Mond Company Ltd, which shortly thereafter became the Alkali Division of Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd (ICI).

In 1928 ICI began to explore the effects of very high pressures on chemical reactions in the new research laboratories at Northwich, in Cheshire.  Manning was one of the people charged with developing the pressure vessels, seals, intensifiers, pipe work, and valves for pressures up to 12 kilobar – a formidable pressure in those days. By 1932 he had assembled a well-equipped laboratory which was the base for the high pressure research which was to lead to the discovery of polyethylene by R O Gibson in March that year.

The problem of converting a laboratory experiment into a production-scale plant was, however, a formidable task. To fully exploit the discovery a much clearer understanding of the design criteria for high pressure systems – particularly thick-walled vessels – was needed, and Manning’s contribution in this field was considerable. He proposed that the ultimate pressure a cylinder could withstand should be the basis of the design of high-pressure vessels – at the time representing a revolutionary change from accepted practice. He also developed at this time the wave ring joint, and together these permitted the development of large pressure vessels of monobloc construction with thinner walls and of simpler design.

He was the first to appreciate the significance of fatigue in high pressure vessels, and the fact that the fatigue strength of thick-walled vessels was much less than might be expected, and it was he who recognised the great importance of impact strength in pressure vessel materials. (The enviable safety record of high-pressure engineering stems largely from his foresight.) Under his direction plant equipment was designed using 7-litre vessels, and later the first commercial-scale plant using 50-litre vessels. It was this plant which produced the polyethylene which was so essential for insulating the high-frequency equipment required particularly for airborne radar, and which made a significant contribution to the winning of the Second World War by the allied forces. He remained with the Plastics Division of ICI where he became Assistant Chief Engineer before retiring in 1962.

He was subsequently a Visiting Professor at Loughborough University. An Associate Member of the Institution of Chemical Engineers, he was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1977.

He died on 21 January 1984 in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, at the age of 80.

1978-Dr Duncan Sheppey Davies

Duncan Sheppey Davies was born on 20 April 1921 in Liverpool, the only child of Duncan Samuel Davies and his wife Elsie Dora, née May. He was educated at Liverpool College and then at Trinity College, Oxford, where he graduated with first class honours in chemistry in 1943. He was awarded his DPhil in 1946.

He joined Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) in 1945 in the research department of the dyestuffs division at Blackley, Manchester, where he remained for the next ten years, until he was appointed Head of the Colours Experimental Department at Grangemouth, where he applied new laboratory-derived techniques to full-scale production with considerable success. In 1959 he became Research Manager and Director of the General Chemicals Division at Runcorn on Merseyside. In 1962 he was appointed the first Director of the Central Petrochemical and Polymer Laboratory, where he was engaged in the recruitment of a group of some 400 scientists and managers from all over the world, charged with the ‘creation of new innovative opportunities for ICI’. He himself was responsible for the introduction of biotechnology into the laboratory. He was one of the instigators of the much-valued co-operative awards in science and engineering (CASE) for PhD students.

From 1967 to 1669 he was Deputy Chairman of the Mond Division of ICI in Runcorn, and from 1969 to 1977 was General Manager, Research and Development at ICI headquarters, responsible for the formulation of group research and development policy and associated matters.

In 1977, after 32 years with ICI, he was appointed Chief Scientist to the UK Department of Industry, the title being changed during 1978 to Chief Scientist and Engineer. He was the senior permanent civil servant responsible for policy in science, engineering, and technology, championing biotechnology as an exploitable technology.

He has served on the Science Research Council and the Science Board, the CBI Research and Technology Committee and the SRC/SSRC Joint Committee. He was a member of the British Overseas Trade Board and a member of the Club of Rome. He was Chairman of the British Ceramics Association and President of the Society of Chemical Industry. He is a Fellow of St Cross College, Oxford, and an Honorary Fellow of the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology. He has honorary degrees from the universities of Stirling, Surrey, and Bath, and from Technion Haifa. He was a visiting Fellow of University College, Swansea, of the Australian National University, and of Murdoch University, Perth, Australia. He was made an Associate of the United States Academy of Engineering in 1978, the same year he was elected Honorary Life Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

In 1944 he married Joan Ann, daughter of Edward Noel Frimston of Liverpool; they had a son and three daughters.

He died on 25 March 1987 in Paris at the age of 65.

1979-Sir James Arnot Hamilton

James Arnot Hamilton was born on 2 May 1923 in Penicuik, Midlothian.  He was educated at the Penicuik Academy and the University of Edinburgh, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree.

From 1943 he served in the Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment, where he worked on the wing and hull design of flying boats, including Sunderlands and Coronados, and even a floating Spitfire.  He became Head of Flight Research five years later, in 1948. In 1952 he moved to the Royal Aircraft Establishment, where he was appointed Head of Projects Division in 1964. The following year, 1965, saw him appointed Director of Anglo-French Combat Aircraft for the Ministry of Aviation.

Between 1966 and 1970 he was Director-General of the Anglo-French Concorde project at the Ministry of Technology, where his huge experience in wing design culminated in the distinctive shape of the wings of the supersonic airliner.  From 1971 to 1973 he was the Deputy Secretary for Aerospace at the Department of Trade and Industry. For three years between 1973 and 1976 he held a Cabinet Office post, and in 1976 was appointed first Permanent Under-Secretary of State, later Permanent Secretary of State, at the Department of Education and Science.  He held this post until his retirement in 1983.

Between 1983 to 1991 he was a director of the Hawker Siddeley Group, and he was a member and later Chairman of the board of Brown, Root (UK) Limited, from 1983 to 2000. He was a director of Smiths Industries from 1984 to 1993, and of the Devonport Royal Dockyard between 1987 and 1997. He was a trustee of the Natural History Museum from 1984 to 1988, and President of the Association for Science and Education in 1984 and 1985. He was Vice President of the Council of Reading University between 1983 and 1995, and was Vice-Chairman of the Council of University College London from 1985 to 1998.

He was appointed MBE in 1952, and KCB in 1978. He holds honorary degrees from Heriot-Watt University and from the Council for National Academic Awards. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Engineering, being elected to the Fellowship of Engineering in 1981. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society in 1983, having already been elected an Honorary Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1979.

In 1947 he married Christine Mary, née McKean, and they had three sons; the marriage was dissolved.

1980-Sir Michael Owen Edwardes

Michael Owen Edwardes was born on 11 October 1930.  He attended St Andrews College, Grahamstown, South Africa, before studying at Rhodes University, also in Grahamstown.

He began his career in 1951 with the Chloride Group, a company which manufactured batteries.  In 1969, he became general manager of one of the company’s subsidiaries, Alkaline Batteries.  

In 1977, Edwardes was appointed Chief Executive of the vehicle manufacturer British Leyland.  The company had been partially nationalized in 1975 and included much of the British owned car industry, including Rover, Jaguar and Land Rover.  Under his leadership the company was split into two companies, Austin Morris and Jaguar Rover Triumph.  Edwardes remained at British Leyland until 1982.  After leaving the company he wrote Back from the Brink, an account of his time there.

He became Chairman of International Computers Limited (ICL) in 1984.  He remained here for just six months, resigning when the company was taken over by Standard Telephones and Cable (STC).   Since then, he has been involved with many companies, including Tryhorn Investments Limited, Charter PLC and Syndicated Services Company Limited.  He is a Director of Flying Pictures Limited and Jet Press Holdings BV and President of Strand Partners Limited.

Edwardes is a keen squash plaer, and was President of the Squash Rackets Association from 1991 to 1995, and of the Veterans Squash Club of Great Britain from 1981 to 1994.  He was also a Trustee of the Thrombosis Research Institute from 1991 to 2001.  

Michael O Edwardes was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1980.

1980-Sir Denis Eric Rooke

Denis Eric Rooke was born on 2 April 1924 in New Cross, South London. He attended Westminster City School and the Addery and Stanhope school in Lewisham, going on to University College London. He graduated in mechanical engineering and took a postgraduate diploma in chemical engineering.

From 1944 to 1949 he served with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers in the UK and in India. Afterwards he joined the staff of the South Eastern Gas Board as Assistant Mechanical Engineer in the coal-tar project works, becoming Deputy Manager of Works in 1954. In 1957 he was seconded to North Thames Gas Board to undertake work on the sea transportation of liquefied natural gas (LNG). He was in charge of trial runs across the Atlantic, which were fraught with danger.  He was also a member of the technical team which sailed on the Methane Pioneer, the specially re-designed cargo ship which made the first journey from North Africa to the UK carrying 2000 tons of LNG in 1959. This opened the way for the replacement of ‘town’ gas, made from coal, by natural gas. The discovery of natural gas in the North Sea in commercial quantities led to the development of the national distribution grid and the conversion of all gas appliances to use the new fuel, all of which was overseen by Rooke.

He was appointed Development  Engineer by South Thames Gas Board in 1959, Development Engineer of the Gas Council in 1960, and he was Gas Council Member for Production and Supplies from 1960 to 1971. In 1972 he became Deputy Chairman of the Gas Council, where he played a major part in its amalgamation with the twelve separate regional Gas Boards to form the British Gas Corporation. He was Deputy Chairman of the British Gas Corporation in 1972 and then Chairman in 1976, serving in this role for thirteen years until 1989. Throughout this period British Gas was immensely successful.

Following the election of the Thatcher government in 1979 he fought long and hard to maintain the integrity of British Gas as a coherent entity as it was prepared for privatisation in the 1980s. When it was eventually privatised in 1986, it was largely on his terms.

He was Chairman of the Council for National Academic Awards, a member of the Advisory Council for Research and Development, and a member of the Advisory Council for Energy Conservation. He served on the Offshore Energy Technology Board, the National Economic Development Council (Neddy), and the Energy Commission. He was a member of the board of the British National Oil Corporation, and he was a Fellow and President of the Institution of Gas Engineers. He was a Fellow of the Institution of Chemical Engineers, and he was Chancellor of Loughborough University. He was made an Honorary Doctor of Science by Salford University in 1978. He was appointed CBE in 1970, and knighted in 1977. He was elected to the Fellowship of Engineering in 1977 and became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1978. He became a member of the Order of Merit in 1997.

He was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1980.

He married Brenda Evans in 1941, and they had one daughter.

He died on 2 September 2008 in London at the age of 84.

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