Department of Mechanical Engineering

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Administrative / Biographical History

Engineering had been taught at the University of Glasgow in an informal way long before there was a Chair or Department of Engineering. The mathematician George Sinclair , between periods as Regent had worked as an engineer and surveyor. Most notably, James Watt , inventor and instrument maker, had a shop at the University, where students and professors with an interest in science met.

Queen Victoria established the Regius Chair of Civil Engineering and Mechanics in 1840  , the first professor being Lewis D. B. Gordon ( 1840-1855  ). It was the first engineering Chair in Britain, and many distinguished engineers have held the post, most notably Professor W J M Rankine ( 1855-1872  ), James Thomson ( 1873-1889  ) elder brother of Lord Kelvin , Archibald Barr ( 1889-1913  ), and John D Cormack ( 1913-1935  ). A full list of the University's professors from 1451  to 2001  can be found at  .

The subject of engineering was at first included as part of the Arts Faculty, but was not recognised as a subject qualifying for graduation in Arts. In 1862  the award of a Certificate of Proficiency in Engineering Science was instituted, with the first certificate being awarded in May 1863  . In 1872  the B.Sc. degree in Engineering was established, thanks in large part to the work of Professor Rankine. In 1893  the Chair of Civil Engineering and Mechanics became part of the new Science Faculty. During the 1890  s the curriculum was modified to provide for the special interests of Civil, Mechanical, and Electrical Engineers and Naval Architects. In 1901  the James Watt Laboratories were opened, opposite Pearce Lodge and facing Kelvingrove Park.

In 1921  two new engineering Chairs were founded by the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland to commemorate the death of James Watt. George William Osborn Howe ( 1921-1946  ) was appointed to the James Watt Chair of Electrical Engineering, and William John Goudie ( 1921-1938  ) was appointed to the James Watt Chair of Theory and Practice of Heat Engines. In 1923  , the new Faculty of Engineering was formed, with a new curriculum, which made the degree an Honours Degree. The Faculty would grow to have five major independent departments: Civil, Electronics and Electrical, Mechanical, Aerospace, Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering.

In 1952  , the Chair in Civil Engineering and Mechanics was renamed the Chair of Civil Engineering and the Chair in the theory and practice of heat engines was renamed the Chair in Mechanical Engineering.

The Rankine Chair of Mechanical Engineering was founded in 1957  , with the appointment of George Douglas Stephen MacLellan ( 1959-1965  ). In 1958  the extension to the engineering building was completed (the James Watt South building). In 1970  the Rankine building was opened in Oakfield Avenue to house the two Departments of Civil Engineering, and Electronics and Electrical Engineering. This left the Departments of Mechanical Engineering, Aerospace Engineering and Naval Architecture in the James Watt building. The Wylie Chair of Mechanical Engineering was founded in 1987  , with the appointment of Peter John Gawthrop . Another Chair was established in 1998  with the appointment of Kenneth James Hunt .

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University of Glasgow

Subfonds level description compiled by Natalie Milne, archives assistant, January 2002  and John O'Brien, archives assistant, October 2002  .