SOUE News Issue 7

One Hundred Years of Engineering Science at Oxford, 1908-2008

Alistair Borthwick


Over the past year, the Department has been celebrating the Centenary of Engineering Science at Oxford. This article gives a brief historical background to the Department, before describing various activities that have taken place in 2007-08 to commemorate the centenary.

Before the Department was formally established, the University of Oxford had a long tradition of producing engineering scientists and applied mathematicians whose influence on the development of mechanics was felt worldwide. These included Richard of Wallingford (c.1292-1336), Leonard Digges (c.1515-c.1559), Robert Boyle (1627-91), Robert Hooke (1635-1703), and William Froude (1810-79). Richard of Wallingford constructed an astronomical clock. Digges invented the surveyor's theodolite. Boyle and Hooke contributed to the development of the inverse law relating gas volume to pressure. Boyle was one of the first to write an engineering textbook, Hydrostatical Paradoxes, Made out by New Experiments (For the Most Part Physical and Easie), which was hot off the press in 1666. Robert Hooke made many notable contributions to the science of mechanics including his famous law relating tensile force to extension. Hooke realised that the optimum shape of an arch was that of an inverted catenary, and wrote this as the following Latin phrase in 1675, "ut pendet continuum flexile, sic stabit contiguum rigidum inversum". Froude designed skew bridges constructed from brickwork, helped devise and patent the atmospheric railway, investigated the reduction of lateral forces on curved rails, frictional resistance on ships, steam expansion, and even the soaring of birds. Froude's ideas on scale modelling are still taught to engineers throughout the world. He invented a hydraulic dynamometer that was exploited by Heenan & Froude, now Froude Hofmann Ltd. Froude's name is immortalised in his non-dimensional number, Fr = u/sqrt(gd), where u is a characteristic velocity, g is the acceleration due to gravity and d is a characteristic length. The Froude number is used to characterise gravity dominated flows in naval architecture, ship engineering, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, environmental engineering, and even geophysics. And of course, the Froude number appears in [HLT] Engineering Tables and Data! Froude also developed an actuator disc concept for the ideal air propeller, leading to the Froude-Finsterwalder equation relating velocity to thrust (of a propeller blade). Scott Draper, Guy Houlsby, and Martin Oldfield recently used this concept to analyse the momentum exchange across a tidal flow turbine.

By the late 1800s, the University began to recognise the importance of Engineering as a discipline, and after quite a long struggle, both financial and cultural, approved the Oxford Professorship in Engineering Science in 1907. Charles Frewen Jenkin (1865-1940) was elected on 21 May 1908, the date the Department could be thought of as coming into existence. Meanwhile a Diploma in Scientific Engineering and Mining Subjects was offered from 1905 to 1914, without a single Diploma awarded! The Honour School of Natural Science (Engineering Science) commenced in 1909. The first student graduated in 1910. Jenkin led the Department until he retired in 1929. His successor, Richard Vynne Southwell (1888-1970), was an aeronautical engineer who made a significant contribution to the development of the stiffness method of structural analysis and invented the numerical method of successive relaxation for solving elliptic partial differential equations. Southwell became Rector of Imperial College, London in 1942, where he supervised Oleg Zienkiewicz, who played a key role in the development of the finite element method. Meanwhile, Brian Spalding, who graduated from the Department in 1944, helped develop the finite volume method (at Imperial College, London), which revolutionised computational fluid dynamics. In 1944, Alexander Thom (1894-1985) became the third Head of Department and Professor of Engineering Science until he retired in 1961. Thom was succeeded by Douglas Holder, Peter Wroth, Michael Brady, David Clarke, Rodney Eatock Taylor, and Richard Darton.

The 100 years of the Department were marked by a very successful series of lectures, an engineer being awarded an honorary doctor of science degree, a garden party, a debate on power generation and its use for the future, a photographic competition, and a conference for young coastal scientists and engineers. Lord Jenkin, grandson of Charles Frewen Jenkin, was the Patron of the Centenary. The events commenced appropriately on the Jenkin Day (Saturday 15 September 2007), with a brace of lectures. In his morning lecture, Keep it cool! 38 years of gas-turbine research, Martin Oldfield described heat transfer measurements in novel wind tunnels in the Southwell Building at Osney, used to study the cooling of gas turbine blades. In the afternoon, Sir Vivian Ramsey gave the Jenkin Lecture titled Law and Engineering: resolution of technology disputes in which he outlined the history of arbitration, discussed case histories illustrating the liability (or non-liability) of engineers, and reported on the four current methods used for resolving disputes1.

A series of 12 Centenary Lectures were held over the academic year. The first, by Allan Chapman on "The Greatest Mechanick of this Present Age: Dr Robert Hooke and the Origins of Engineering Science in Oxford", described the historical scientific foundations upon which the Department is based. In Chapman's words, "When his Oxford friend, John Aubrey, described Hooke as the 'Greatest Mechanick' of the Age, he acknowledged Hooke's genius as an experimentalist. For Hooke, the whole of nature was a great machine or engine in motion, the deepest truths of which could be uncovered by means of ingeniously contrived instruments. For in the 1650s, Oxford's 'Ingeniosi' of the future Royal Society were beginning to revolutionise our sense of 'natural knowledge' and coming to envisage ways of applying it to the 'Relief of Man's Estate'." Allan Chapman is an accomplished historian of science, and one of the country's greatest proponents of engineering science. His lecture illustrated Hooke's major achievement as the first scientist to focus on experiments, using precision instrumentation. In addition to viewing the on-line recording of the lecture, SOUE members are recommended to read Chapman (2005, 2008) for further information. The success of Allan Chapman's lecture set the scene for the remaining lectures, and also began to establish a group of attendees who though not directly related to the Department could justifiably be called Friends of Engineering Science!

The second lecture was given by David Brown on William Froude - A Sacred Duty to Doubt. The lecture considered the life of and influences on William Froude, covering his early years, his decision to read Classics and Mathematics at Oriel College (where older brother Hurrell was his tutor), his correspondence on proof in science and religion with Cardinal Newman (another former tutor), followed by his career as engineer and local worthy. After graduating, Froude became a trainee with Palmer, then assistant to IK Brunel, retiring in 1846 at age 36 to take care of his father and the family estates. Froude became a JP, a Harbour commissioner, and designed a self-propelled scraper to clean the water mains in Torquay. In 1856, Froude returned to work with IK Brunel on the design of the Great Eastern. In 1861, Froude's theory of ship rolling was published, based on tests carried out in a tank in the basement of a house in Torquay. Froude then began his work on scale modelling, which reached fruition in the 1870s. His research methodology followed the principle that "It is our sacred duty to doubt each and every proposition put to us - including our own." For example, as David Brown reported during the lecture, Froude argued with Newman that Newton's law of gravity could not be taken as an absolute but rather a fit to the evidence. The lecture was kindly sponsored by Froude Hofmann Ltd, the company founded on the basis of Froude's invention of a hydraulic dynamometer. David Brown spent all his working life with the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors and was Vice-President of the Royal Institution of Naval Architects for many years. Although David Brown sadly passed away earlier this summer, the lecture and book (Brown 2006) remain as fitting tributes to both lecturer and subject. Taking the first sentence of Brown's lecture notes, "The Proverbs tell us that there are some things too wonderful to know, one of which is the way of a ship in the midst of the sea."

Following the theme of water, Jane Smallman gave the third lecture titled Hydraulic Engineering - How we use hydraulics to solve real life engineering problems. This lecture provided a fascinating insight into how modern research ideas are translated into practical solutions of maritime problems encountered in civil and environmental engineering. Dr Smallman used a series of case studies to illustrate her talk. She indicated how laboratory tests and numerical simulations provide complementary information on the physics of the extremely complicated flows that characterise rivers, estuaries, and coastal waters. Her presentation reminded the audience of the grand challenge problems of modelling turbulent, possibly stratified free surface flows with sediment transport and changing bed morphodynamics. Jane Smallman is the Managing Director of HR Wallingford Ltd.

Christopher Pugsley presented Engineers at War, an illuminating lecture on the civil engineering aspects of military engineering. His lecture gave a comprehensive overview of the interaction between military and civil engineering from ancient times to the present day. It is pertinent to note what the Oxford English Dictionary has to say about the words engine or engineering. The Shorter OED defines the noun engine as (1) mother wit, genius, (2) ingenuity, artfulness, trickery, (3) an instance or product of ingenuity, a contrivance, plot, a snare, wile, (5) a machine or instrument used in warfare, and (6) an engine of torture! Similarly, the OED defines the verb to engine as follows: (1) to contrive, plan, (2) to take by craft, ensnare; (3) to put on the rack (as experienced by many a student in a tutorial!); (4) to supply with engines. Finally, the OED defines an engineer as (1) one who contrives, designs, or invents; an inventor, a plotter; (2) one who designs and constructs military engines and works; and (3) one who designs and constructs works of public utility. These definitions indicate the historical overlap between military and civilian engineering. Dr Pugsley's talk provided many illustrations of this overlap, whereby military engineers have designed roads, fortifications, devices by which to lay siege to castles, pontoon bridges, mulberry harbours, Nissen huts, etc. Dr Pugsley is Senior Lecturer in War Studies at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, having previously been a Lieutenant Colonel in the New Zealand Army.

The fifth lecture focused on the Serlio Frame. Guy Houlsby spoke on An Early Structural Engineering Problem - the Oxford Connection. In an enthralling historical account, Professor Houlsby traced the history of the Serlio Frame from its appearance c.1270. The Serlio Frame is a particular form of reciprocal structure that uses interlocking beams to span space, each beam being shorter than the overall span dimension. Houlsby delved deep into medieval literature to show the audience some of the earliest examples of the Serlio Frame, driven by the practical problem of how to span a floor using wooden beams from trees that are too short. He took the audience on a virtual tour of stately homes and castles in Europe and China, highlighting a variety of reciprocal structures that were typically used for ceilings. He discussed the pioneering work of John Wallis (1616-1703), the Savilian Professor of Geometry at Oxford, who analysed the structural behaviour of a Serlio Frame by idealising it into a nodal framework, using symmetry to simplify the problem, considering the force balance of each member, solving 25 simultaneous equations exactly to determine the overall load reaction of the frame, and then carrying out a more detailed analysis of the most heavily stressed members. On this evidence, Wallis may justifiably be considered the father of modern structural analysis. Professor Houlsby showed photographs indicating that a Wallis lattice frame may have been used for a ceiling in the Bodleian Tower. Unfortunately, the frame was dismantled and replaced by a concrete slab in the early 1960s; the wood was stored in the Bodleian underground bunker before travelling to the Examination Schools where it seems to have disappeared. A structural tragedy.

Lecture Six jumped forward into modern times, consisting of a talk by Julian Morris titled Motion Capture. This highly entertaining and personal talk began with Dr Morris telling several amusing and pertinent anecdotes about his experiences as a DPhil student in the early 1970s working in John O'Connor's orthopaedic engineering group. Dr Morris discussed the techniques of motion capture for orthopaedic purposes whereby indicators are stuck on legs, gait video film recorded, and the images analysed to reveal the underlying skeletal mechanisms. The lecture examined the evolution of the motion capture company, Oxford Metrics (now OMG plc), founded by Dr Morris in 1984. He described how, by means of engineering ingenuity and awareness of market trends and client needs, the company has grown to be the world's leading supplier of motion capture and visual geometry systems for life sciences, entertainment, and engineering applications. Dr Morris showed how more than 200 motion capture cameras were used simultaneously to film the movement of marked actors for certain sequences in the recently released film, Beowulf. After sophisticated analysis, the reanimated characters looked (and moved) in an uncannily realistic fashion.

In April 2008, the Institute of Biomedical Engineering opened in Headington, close to the Churchill Hospital. With this in mind, the seventh lecture by Professor Lionel Tarassenko was given on Advances in Biomedical Engineering. The lecture chronicled the development of biomedical engineering as a discipline at Oxford, starting with the early pioneering work of John O'Connor in orthopaedic engineering (leading to artificial knees), and Brian Bellhouse in biofluid mechanics (blood flow, kidney dialysis, and membrane filters). Over the past twenty years, biomedical engineering has enjoyed rapid growth, partly because of improvements in body scanners based on X-rays, ultrasound, and medical resonance imaging. Professor Tarassenko took the audience on a virtual tour of the new IBME, listing research into medical imaging by Professor Sir Michael Brady, Professor Alison Noble, Dr Julia Schnabel, and Dr Vicente Grau; drug and vaccine delivery by Professor Brian Bellhouse and Dr Fred Cornhill; tissue engineering by Professor Zhangfeng Cui and Dr Cathy Ye; biofluid mechanics by Dr Yannis Ventikos and Dr Stephen Payne; orthopaedic engineering by Dr Amy Zavatsky and Dr Mark Thompson; biomedical measurement systems by Dr Penny Smith; ultrasonic sniper and tracer bubble approaches to treating tumours as well as means of keeping transplant organs alive by Dr Constantin Coussios; eyeball mechanics by Dr Harvey Burd; vascular stents by Dr Zhong You; and Lionel Tarassenko's own research in biosignal analysis and its applications. For example, Professor Tarassenko drew attention to the Department's remarkable success story regarding spin-off activities in the biomedical area. Professor Bellhouse's research into supersonic flow led to the establishment of Powderject Pharmaceuticals. An impressive number of patents have been awarded, followed by several companies including BioSignals Ltd, e-San Ltd (now t+ Medical), Fusion7DTM, Mirada Solutions (now part of Siemens), Afuson, etc., etc. In conclusion, Professor Tarassenko looked forward to the IBME contributing technological solutions for the hospital of the future and for personalised healthcare. In our quest for the elixir of life, we may have cause to be grateful to the Biomedical Engineers!

The eighth lecture was undoubtedly one of the most popular. Dr Alastair Howatson described A History of Engineering Science at Oxford, first drawing inspiration from the endeavours of engineering scientists predating the Department, and then outlining the considerable difficulties experienced by those campaigning to establish engineering as a separate discipline. By 1886 engineering was being taught at Oxford, but it took until 1908 for Charles Frewen Jenkin to be elected the first Professor of Engineering Science. Jenkin had high qualifications in mathematics and considerable industrial experience. The lecture then covered the steady development of the Department during the first half of the 20th Century, followed by rapid expansion from the 1950s onwards. In addition to the lecture, an immensely readable detailed account of the history of the Department is given in the book, Mechanicks in the Universitie: A History of Engineering Science at Oxford by Alastair Howatson (on sale from the Department)2.

Professor Carlos Ruiz gave the next lecture on Designing for Strength: A Century of Solid Mechanics Research in Oxford. He commenced by defining solid mechanics as "the study of the behaviour of deformable solids under mechanical and thermal loads". He then went on to consider the research undertaken by Charles Frewen Jenkin, the first Professor of Engineering Science. Jenkin followed the experimental tradition established by Robert Hooke of emphasising the practical application of research to the design of machines and structures. Jenkin had considerable talents; his research activities included soil mechanics, thermal properties, history of science, vibrations, and electrical engineering. He helped design and construct an electromagnetic high frequency testing machine. According to Professor Ruiz, it was thanks to Jenkin's foresight that solid mechanics at Oxford has a strong scientific basis, combining theoretical formulation and exact experimental work to provide answers to problems encountered in industry. Using a gentle but wry sense of humour, Professor Ruiz described the historical development of solid mechanics in Oxford over the past 100 years, including research into fatigue, impact, crack growth, fracture, polymers, plasticity, and viscoplasticity. The lecture concluded with an appraisal of research currently being undertaken in the Department, and noted that Solid Mechanics at Oxford is distinctive for the excellent collaboration between the researchers, its emphasis on meticulous experimental work, appropriate mathematical analysis, and industry-driven motivation. The lecture was sponsored by Rolls-Royce, who also support the University Technology Centre for Solid Mechanics in the Department.

The tenth lecture had a strong nano-Cornish flavour. In Innovation, Spin-out Companies and Nanotechnology, Professor Peter Dobson drew a distinction between invention and innovation. In his words, "Innovation is what happens between the invention stage and the generation of revenue arising from the invention." Peter Dobson underlined the importance of optimising the innovation process in order that the UK prosper as a knowledge economy. He described Begbroke Science Park where high technology companies formed as spin-off enterprises are located side by side with university research staff working on interdisciplinary projects. Professor Dobson indicated that it was vital to understand the dynamics of the innovation process while assessing the obstacles that can slow down or even prevent innovation occurring. To illustrate the lecture, Professor Dobson discussed the case histories of Oxonica plc (a company that specialises in making nanoparticles) and Oxford Biosensors Ltd (manufacturers of a hand-held device based on enzyme-functionalised microelectrode arrays). Professor Dobson rounded off the lecture by examining recent developments in nanotechnology that will impact on many areas, including medicine and the environment.

The penultimate centenary lecture on Engineering for Sustainable Development was presented by Professor Roland Clift CBE, Distinguished Professor of Environmental Technology and Founding Director of the Centre for Environmental Strategy at the University of Surrey. Professor Clift discussed the various concepts and definitions of sustainable development, starting with the Brundtland (1987) definition, "Sustainable development ... meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs". He proposed that sustainable development comprises aspects of engineering efficiency, economics, and equity, and embodies an important ethical principle that includes the concept of responsibility to present and future generations. Professor Clift explained that this ethical principle has significance not just for the practice of engineering but for the role of the individual engineer. According to des Jardins: Environmental Ethics, the word ethics refers to the general beliefs, attitudes or standards that guide customary behaviour. Professor Clift carefully drew the distinction between ethics and religious belief, noting that ethics is a branch of philosophy, not of religious studies. He discussed the trans-boundary consequences of acid rain and the global dimensions of climate change. Using specific cases, his lecture explored how sustainable development affects the way in which the technical skills of the engineer should be deployed. The cases included manufactured goods such as mobile phones, imported "out of season" fruit and vegetables, transport bio-fuels, and uranium mining in Northern Australia. Professor Clift then classified the three ages of the engineer as: Mark I heroic materialist; Mark II supplying human needs; and Mark III steward of the global commons (i.e. the honest broker). In his final words, "The sustainability agenda does not change the tools of the engineer but it does change what it means to be authentic as an engineer. In some applications, engineering must be a normative discipline."

Professor Sir Michael Brady presented the final centenary lecture on Information Engineering: where we have been and where we may be going. The introduction by Professor Ron Daniel was memorable for a short Proctorial performance in Latin, as seen at degree ceremonies. Professor Daniel noted that whereas he shared a similar name with R.Daneel [Olivaw], a robot in an Arthur C Clarke novel, Sir Mike Brady's name resembled that of the bradypus, a three-toed sloth, also called the ai in Latin America owing to the high-pitched cry the bradypus emits when agitated. In Ron Daniel's words, "I was the new lecturer in robotics with the same name as Arthur Clarke's robotic hero, and here was our new Professor of Information Engineering and his namesake was ai. What could stop us?" And indeed what could? Brady commenced the lecture by summarising his initial involvement with Information Engineering via signal analysis, machine learning, image analysis, robotics, artificial intelligence, leading eventually to the establishment of the immensely successful Robotics Research Laboratory. When he arrived in 1985 as Professor of Information Engineering, the Department's combined computing power was less than that of any of Brady's graduate students at MIT. By the late 1980s however, his researchers had brought Autonomous Guided Vehicles (AGVs) to life. The AGVs usually rolled around the basement of the Jenkin Building, but were occasionally released in public places; on one occasion, an autonomous guided vehicle served drinks at a Royal Society soirée. His work led to innovative scanning technology for free ranging navigation, and a company: Guidance Ltd that provides autonomous navigation systems, marine sensors, and electronic monitoring systems. Following from the research on AGVs, Paul Newman and Hugh Durrant-Whyte invented Simultaneous Location and Mapping (SLAM), whereby a system builds its own map of the environment using its senses. Taking an example of a robot crawling around the Keble triangle, Brady showed how AGVs could move around closed loops and the software use iterative techniques to eradicate accumulated surveying errors. Professor Brady then discussed how Paul Newman has mapped part of the ocean bed with the aid of enormous tuning forks and also developed a sophisticated radar-based system for aligning supply vessels with offshore platforms. He described how Penny Smith has measured the texture of the ocean bed by means of wavelet analysis of ultrasound data and is also using ultrasound to develop navigation aids for the partially sighted. Turning to signal processing, he demonstrated the exciting work being undertaken by Stephen Roberts to unscramble different sound sources, providing the audience with an example of mixed classical music, jazz, and noise. Brady then discussed a joint project with zoologists that had shown counter-intuitively that birds navigate by following arterial roads rather than by instinct. He described the data fusion work of Lionel Tarassenko on the status of hospital patients that is leading to much better patient interventions, and thus saving lives. Novelty detection, invented by Tarassenko, is being applied by Rolls-Royce for jet engine health monitoring. In the area of visual tracking, Andrew Blake began developing advanced techniques in the 1990s for tracking objects in a cluttered environment, following earlier work on gait by Julian Morris. Using active vision, David Murray and Ian Reid have developed motion understanding for surveillance, navigation, and augmented reality (adding animated images to real images, an example being Ewoks on the rampage!). Brady then considered one of the defining moments of English civilisation in the late 20th Century, the controversial goal scored by Geoff Hurst against Germany in the 1966 World Cup Final. Andrew Zissermann and Ian Reid applied stereo projective geometry to compute the trajectory of the ball and concluded that the goal should not have been awarded. For a while afterwards, Mike Brady had to run a gauntlet of hate mail from distraught England supporters and was even denounced by the Guardian! It is the author's view that modern Computational Fluid Dynamics will show that the ball did cross the line thanks to a fluid instability ... Recently, Zissermann and Reid have demonstrated that it is possible to obtain highly accurate three-dimensional geometrical reconstructions from paintings and photographs using stereo vision and projective geometry. In 1994, Professor Brady's interest moved towards medical imaging. His team began to look for means to enhance images, with applications to breast cancer, heart abnormalities, and Parkinson's disease. He described how the ability to fuse image data from different sources (e.g. MRI and ultrasound) on to a common frame had been developed, and taken up in practice through Mirada Solutions (now part of Siemens). He also talked about a system for the multidisciplinary team management of cancer treatment, which records not only decisions, but also why they have been made. He showed recent research aimed at understanding and identifying tumour growth (using spheroids to model malignant cores) and the link to DNA, indicating how it can help clinicians to make informed decisions. Other work is modelling the take up of drugs by organs. He then described in vivo soft tissue biomechanics measurements by Professor Alison Noble and her co-workers aimed at identifying tumours via their density. Alison Noble is also making major advances in functional cardiac image analysis, in particular foetal cardiology. Professor Brady then considered a rather different application of his image analysis techniques - the decipherment of wood and lead tablets from Roman Britain, whereby shadow stereo imaging was used to amplify information on surface incisions in the material. At this point, Professor Brady changed tack, away from the operational aspects of Information Engineering, and towards its definition. It appears that Information Engineering has its early origins in thermodynamics, communication theory, statistics, and business. Essentially Information Engineering involves uncertainty, application and users. So does Engineering Science. By Bradyian logic therefore, Engineering Science is Information Engineering. Professor Brady then speculated on what the future might hold in a world of Information Engineering. He noted that computing is growing at a faster rate than at any previous time, and Moore's Law still holds. Grid computing will become a utility like water, gas and electricity. Distributed computing is set to revolutionise our lives. Quantum computing is on the horizon. Future problems for Information Engineering Science include climate change and the carbon economy, energy for a world with a rapidly increasing population, assisted health care for an ageing population, and crime and the infeasibility of custodial sentences. He concluded his lecture with an example of an electronic monitoring tag produced by Guidance Ltd (the latter of considerable interest to Deans and former Junior Proctors wishing to place student offenders under college arrest). Professor Brady's lecture demonstrated the very rapid evolution of the Department over recent years, and provided a magnificent climax to the series of twelve Centenary lectures.

In early April, the Department hosted the Fourth Conference for Young Coastal Engineers and Scientists. The aim of the conference was to help promote an integrated coastal research community, whereby young researchers and practitioners from different disciplines (e.g. oceanography, geography, geology, engineering, and marine science) are brought together to discuss physical coastal processes. In his opening address Professor Borthwick set the scene by looking at the influence of William Froude (1810-79), Thomas Brooke Benjamin (1929-95) and Howell Peregrine (1939-2007), all of whom had Oxford connections, on our understanding of coastal wave hydrodynamics, before highlighting recent research activities centred around the UK Coastal Research Facility at Wallingford. Professor Paul Taylor then gave the keynote Peregrine Lecture on Giant Waves on the Open Sea: Mariners' tall tales or alarming fact? He used photographs and film clips to illustrate the potentially disastrous consequences of giant waves as they impact large ships and offshore structures. He discussed an incident during WWII, when the Queen Mary, which was carrying about 15,000 troops, was hit by a wall of water and nearly capsized. In his lecture, Professor Taylor answered questions about the frequency of occurrence of so-called freak waves, what physics drives such waves, and whether a wall of water is plausible. (This lecture was repeated by Paul Taylor on 13 May as the Gresham Lecture.) Next, a total of 22 short presentations were made on many aspects of coastal processes, including hydrodynamics, nearshore sediment transport, morphological evolution, coastal engineering and management. A poster exhibition was also held. Prizes were awarded for the best presentation and poster. The Conference Dinner was held at St Edmund Hall. The following day, HR Wallingford Ltd hosted a tour of its major coastal and maritime modelling facilities (predominantly located in the appropriately named Froude Modelling Hall). The conference was truly international: its Book of Abstracts relates to contributions from 130 researchers and practitioners from America, Asia, Australia, and Europe.

On 24 April 2008, the Department hosted a Centenary Debate on Challenges of Power Generation and Use for the Future. Lord May of Oxford and Professor Roland Clift CBE were the main speakers. Basil Kouvaritakis kept order from the chair. Participants included students and teachers from local schools as well as undergraduates from the Department. Lord May indicated that although world food production and life expectancy had improved, population growth and carbon emissions were having dire impacts, particularly on the climate. Roland Clift highlighted the need to cut emissions, but warned that a cultural shift was required in order for energy to be used efficiently. After listening to the speeches, the students were split up into focus groups where mini-debates were held. Each group elected a leader who made a short address to a panel of judges on how sustainable power generation could be achieved. Lord May and Professor Clift summed up the conclusions, and prizes (contributed by Sharp) were then awarded to those students judged to have made the best contribution to the debate. Afterwards, many of the students took part in an egg breaking experiment in the Information Engineering Building.

During Hilary and Trinity terms, a Centenary Photographic Competition was held, entitled Engineering Science: capture the essence of engineering in an image. The photographs were judged by Dr Hazel Rossotti (Fellow of St Anne's in Chemistry and an accomplished photographer), Dr Marius Kwint from the Department of the History of Art, Professor Rodney Eatock Taylor (who read Mechanical Sciences and Fine Arts at Cambridge), and Lord Browne of Madingley. Dr Frank Payne won first prize with his entry "Visions of Engineering" - a stunning photograph that simultaneously captured St Paul's cathedral, the millennium bridge, and a modern aircraft flying overhead (all of which have some connection with engineering science at Oxford!); the photograph is reproduced at the end of this issue. Heather Burrage and Alice Thurston received second prizes for outstanding photographs of the Hoover Dam, and an engine.

The Lubbock Day on 15 May commenced with the usual student project exhibition, followed by two mini lectures: Personalised Healthcare: The role of Biomedical Engineering in Disease and Treatment Modelling by Dr Yiannis Ventikos; and The role of Information Engineering in Clinical Decision Making by Professor John Fox. After prizes were presented to the winners of the photography competition and project exhibition, Lord Browne of Madingley (and President of the Royal Academy of Engineering) presented the Lubbock Lecture, On Being an Engineer. In the lecture, Lord Browne described technical, political, socio-economic, and environmental issues faced by BP engineers in constructing the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline that links oil fields in the Caspian Sea to a port on the Mediterranean Sea. The pipeline is more than 1000 miles long and passes through Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey. The talk examined the multifaceted role of the modern project engineer where interdisciplinary skills become paramount. Lord Browne emphasised the necessity to teach engineers about business, politics, and policy. In an unusual feat of bravery, Lord Browne set aside about half the lecture time to host a lively question and answer session about what it means to be an engineer. Two versions of the lecture were published, one in the Financial Times (Browne 2008a), the other in Ingenia (Browne, 2008b)3.

On 28 June 2008, the Centenary Garden Party was held at Keble College, and attended by more than 500 guests, many of whom were SOUE members. Speeches were made by Dr John Hood (Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford), Lord Jenkin (The Patron), and Professor Richard Darton (Head of Department and President of the Institution of Chemical Engineers). Professor Borthwick acted as Master of Ceremonies. In addition to Pimms and lemonade, champagne, and sandwiches, the partygoers were treated to various pieces of live music performed by a mixture of departmental staff and friends, including choral music directed by Dr Stephen Payne and classical music orchestrated by Professor Basil Kouvaritakis. During the course of the afternoon the Head of Department presided over the launching ceremony of the book, Mechanicks in the Universitie: A History of Engineering Science at Oxford by Dr Alastair Howatson. Signed copies were provided by the author on request to many alumni. Hopefully, this will be as popular a work as the renowned HLT! Meanwhile, video films were shown on Information Engineering, followed by a recording of Dr Howatson's lecture on the History of the Department. Exhibits at the Centenary Garden Party included a fan blade provided by Rolls-Royce, oil paintings of Robert Hooke by Rita Greer, the Wallis table constructed as part of a fourth year project undertaken by Kate Halliwell and supervised by Professor Paul Taylor and Dr Tony Blakeborough, drawing instruments that once belonged to Professor Frewen Jenkin, copies of some early examination papers, and a display supplied by Froude Hofmann.

Very kindly, the Museum of the History of Science at Oxford decided to exhibit an early example from 1925 of the "Oxford Astrolabe" designed by Charles Frewen Jenkin for educational use. Later Watson & Sons Ltd of High Holborn, London manufactured and sold the astrolabe, as well as publishing Jenkin's book The Astrolabe: its construction and use. The exhibition of the "Oxford Astrolabe", which was originally used to demonstrate principles of spherical astronomy, coincided with the launch of Alastair Howatson's book. Various publications have been (or are being) written concerned with the Centenary. These include the book and paper by Alastair Howatson (2007, 2008), a paper by Allan Chapman (2008), two articles by Lord Browne (2008 a,b), and two papers by Borthwick (2008 a,b).

I hope you have enjoyed reading this extended article about the Centenary activities, and hope that the Department's efforts in biomedical engineering will result in many of us surviving until the bicentenary in 2108!


On behalf of the Department, the author would like very much to thank Eva Williams for her unstinting support as coordinator of the celebrations; John Mooney and Janet Hovard for dealing with a mountain of audio-visual tasks; Richard Darton, Paul Taylor, Chris Scotcher, Martin Oldfield, Will Thomas, and Rachel Farlie, who were members of the Centenary Committee; and Basil Kouvaritakis for helping run the debate and providing classical music. Secretarial support was provided by Sara Kingsbury, Anna Evers, and the staff in the General Office. Jim Leek maintained the Departmental website.

Special mentions must be made of Alastair Howatson who gave a lecture, wrote a book, and had a short article published on the history of the Department, and the artist Rita Greer who is painting a picture of Robert Hooke, which she has graciously offered to donate to the Department. Lord May of Oxford and Roland Clift participated in the debate. Thanks are also due to Allan Chapman, David Brown, Jane Smallman, Christopher Pugsley, Guy Houlsby, Julian Morris, Lionel Tarassenko, Carlos Ruiz, Pete Dobson, Roland Clift and Mike Brady for their centenary lectures. Sir Vivian Ramsey presented the Jenkin Lecture, preceded by Martin Oldfield. Lord Browne of Madingley gave the Lubock Lecture, preceded by Yiannis Ventikos and John Fox. Paul Taylor gave the Peregrine Memorial Lecture at the Conference for Young Coastal Engineers and Scientists, and HR Wallingford Ltd hosted the tour of the Froude Modelling Hall.

The Department is very grateful to the many sponsors of the centenary celebrations, including Froude Hofmann Ltd, ISIS Innovation Ltd, Lubbock Trustees, Osborne, Oxford Capital Partners, Oxford Instruments, Rolls-Royce plc, Sharp, Technikos, and Toumaz Technology Ltd. The Department is also very grateful to Guidance Ltd and Man Group who have agreed to fund several Centenary Graduate Studentships.


Bacon, F (1620) Novum Organum.

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Borthwick, AGL (2008b) Centenary of the Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford: Fluid Mechanics. Short Contribution, Proc. Inst. Civ. Engrs: Engineering & Computational Mechanics. In Press.

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