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Archive for the ‘background’ Category

COLOSSI OF SCIENCE….

In background, science, society on June 20, 2012 at 3:03 pm
you cant move around campus or much of the city without constantly bumping into these LEGENDARY FIGURES …here’s their best bits!! (thanks wiki & MOSI websites….!)

 

John Dalton (6 September 1766 – 27 July 1844) was one of the founding fathers of the Manchester Mechanics Institute, a chemist, meteorologist and physicist. Hailing from Cumberland in the Lakes, Dalton presented his famous atomic theory to the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society just over 200 years ago, and later became its president, presenting over 100 papers to its esteemed members.

His humble beginnings as son of a weaver and his informal education, plus his outsider status as a Quaker, was pivotal to both his own future prospects and that of the institute. Religious non-conformists or ‘dissenters’ as they were known at the time were barred from attending or teaching at English universities. The formation of a non sectarian college, open to all, was to prove critical in the city – both UMIST and the Owens College were founded in the face of such restrictions.

A polymath – or perhaps just a by-product of the region’s famously gloomy weather – Dalton kept a meteorological diary for 57 years, from childhood to his death, during which time he entered more than 200,000 observations!

A naturally quiet character, he preferred a simple lifestyle and routine with only a few close friends, never even maintaining his own household,  lodging instead with the Rev. W. Johns and his family in George Street where his daily round of laboratory work and tuition was broken only by annual excursions to the Lake District and occasional visits to London. Yet at his death approximately 40,000 people filed by his coffin as it was laid in state in the Manchester Town Hall. He was buried in Ardwick cemetery which is now a playing field – perhaps appropriately for a man embarrassed by attention.

And what he would think of the proliferation of buildings, statutes and streets named in his honour today is anyone’s guess…..

James Prescott Joule (24 December 1818 – 11 October 1889) was the son of a leading Salford brewer.

At 16 he began studying under John Dalton at the Lit & Phil Society. Fascinated by electricity, it wasn’t long before he began to conduct electrical and magnetic experiments at a laboratory built in the cellar of his father’s home. He and his brother apparently constantly gave electric shocks to each other and to the family’s servants in their home adjoining the Joule Brewery in New Bailey Street.

He is perhaps most well known as the first person to prove that heat is a form of energy – that’s why the international unit of energy, the joule, is named after him – which led to the theory of conservation of energy which led to the development of the first law of thermodynamics. But as a pupil of Dalton it’s also no surprise that he held a firm belief in the atomic theory, despite many scientists of his time remaining sceptical.

He became President of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society in 1860, and received a civil list pension of 200 pounds per annum in 1878 for services to science.

Joule died at home in Sale and is buried in Brooklands cemetery. The gravestone is inscribed with the number “772.55”, his climacteric 1878 measurement of the mechanical equivalent of heat and a quotation from the Gospel of John “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” (9:4)

His statue now stands in Manchester Town Hall opposite that of Dalton, his mentor and inspiration.

George E. Davis (July 1850-1906)- As befits its roots in the early chemical industry of the region, ‘the Tech’ pioneered Chemical Engineering as an academic subject in Britain with Davies’  key lecture series in1888. Here’s the story….

Davis was the eldest son of George Davis, a bookseller, and though apprenticed at 14 to a local bookbinder, he swiftly abandoned his trade to pursue his burgeoning interest in chemistry. Davis studied at the Slough Mechanics Institute while working at the local gas works, then spent a year studying at the Royal School of Mines in London (now part of Imperial College, London) before leaving to work in Manchester, the absolute epicentre of the chemical industry in the UK.

Once in Manchester he held a variety of chemist jobs and became an inspector for the Alkali Act of 1863, a very early piece of environmental legislation requiring soda manufacturers to reduce the amount of gaseous hydrochloric acid released to the atmosphere from their factories. Then in 1872 he became manager at the Lichfield Chemical Company in Staffordshire and it was here that his capacity for innovation flourished.

Davis identified broad features in common to all chemical factories, wrote the influential A Handbook of Chemical Engineering and published that pivotal lecture series at Manchester Technical School – a dozen lectures that defined and positioned Chemical Engineering as an academic as well as an industrial discipline.

Initially criticized for being common place know-how since it was designed around operating practices used by British chemical industries, his ideas helped initiate new thinking in the Chemical Industry, as well as spark Chemical Engineering degree programmes, at several universities in the USA. The world followed suit and the rest is history….

Today in the entrance to Jackson’s Mill, the building that houses the School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Sciences, there is a display and memorial to Davis. The George E. Davis Medal of the Institution of Chemical Engineers is named in his honour.

Sir John Douglas Cockcroft (May 27th, 1897 – September 18, 1967) is a name and portrait that crops up all over the place on campus – mainly it seems as an illustrious alumnus ‘done good’ and a famous physicist on the international stage, awarded the Nobel prize in 1951for his pioneering work with Rutherford and Walton on the transmutation of atomic nuclei by artificially accelerated atomic particles.

Basically, Cockcroft spilt the atom…!

A Todmorden boy, Cockcroft came from a family of cotton manufacturers and studied mathematics at Manchester University under Horace Lamb from 1914–1915. After serving in the First World War in the Royal Field Artillery he returned to Manchester to study electrical engineering at the College of Technology, followed by an apprenticeship with Metropolitan Vickers Electrical Company. He went on to study mathematics at St. John’s College, Cambridge, and began research there under Ernest Rutherford. In 1929 he was elected a Fellow of St. John’s College.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, he took up the post of Assistant Director of Scientific Research in the Ministry of Supply, working on radar. In 1944, he took charge of the Canadian Atomic Energy project and became Director of the Montreal Laboratory and Chalk River Laboratories. In 1946, he returned to Britain to set up the Atomic Energy Research Establishment AERE) at Harwell, charged with developing Britain’s atomic power programme.

Famously, his insistence that the Windscale nuclear reactor coolers be reinforced with high performance filters, at huge expense, became known as Cockcroft’s Follies – but in 1957 when the core of one of the two reactors caught fire, his filters prevented the disaster from becoming a catastrophe…

Is the Past a foreign country? a personal reflection….

In background, ideas, society, uncategorized on June 14, 2012 at 12:15 pm

We are delighted to include a Guest Post by Modernist magazine regular and Chair of the C20 Society North West Group, Aidan Turner – Bishop, a personal reflection of what UMIST means to him….

Is the Past a foreign country? Perhaps it’s more like Danzig/Gdansk: the original landmarks are still there but their context, and often the original people, have changed or gone. We see, sure, but do we get it? As I, a fifties child, get older I feel this increasingly. Did we then really enjoy vintage cup cakes, mismatched china crockery and hatless, ungirdled, red lipsticked ladies? What about the damp, cold and smell of gas and soot? The darned shabby clothes and food rationing?

UMIST campus makes me feel like that. We see a peaceful oasis of smart modernist buildings and mature landscaping set away from the busy city centre. But we don’t feel its original context: striking modern architecture next to endless small sooty workshops, corner pubs, slum housing stretching all the way fromLondon Road railway station to theStockport boundary. Many poor people with bad haircuts, shabby frocks, faded headscarves, and poor teeth. Red Corporation trolleybuses. Steam and soot from jangling goods trains on the viaduct. Yellow smog.

UMIST was revolutionary. It was Change: electric –nuclear electric – clean and plentiful, promising so much. It evokes the promise of the post-war “white heat of technology” era: electronics, nuclear engineering, chemicals, artificial textiles, aeronautics and computing. Hope after so much austerity. New buildings on cleared rubbled bomb sites. UMIST was led then by Lord Bowden appointed in 1955. He made UMIST – as it was to become – an international centre of high technology. Have a look at his biography  at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B._V._Bowden,_Baron_Bowden and his entry in the Oxford DNB.

He used to appear on the wireless programme “Any questions” [BBC Home Service, chaired by Freddie Grisewood] or on jolly serious, two-pipe, programmes on Granada TV, probably interviewed by a young Brian Redhead: authoritative, calm, brainy, modern. He knew where we were going. He was the arch-boffin in a time when delta-winged Vulcan bombers were being tested at Woodford (I lay on my back in a field to get a good view of one). When Ferranti’s was a large employer and Metro-Vicks made electrical equipment for the USSR or Southern Rhodesia. Vickers were selling their successful Viscount and Vanguard aeroplanes across the world. Britain even had a space programme then with intercontinental Blue Streak rockets being tested at Spadeadam in Cumberland. Dan Dare flew his personal spaceship ‘Anastasia’ in Eagle.

Lord Robens, Chairman of the National Coal Board, argued in his no-nonsense Yorkshiregrowl, that our resources of coal –although plentiful and growing – should be used to produce oil and plastics. Those were the days when chairmen of nationalised industries, and their counterparts the great trade union secretaries, were satraps in the land. Courtaulds led the world in rayon production. Leyland lorries and buses were sold widely throughout the Commonwealth and Empire and South America. I still remember being shown one of the newly imported Xerox ‘photocopiers’ at Warwickshire County Library service. It was all heady stuff, eh?

When Eddy Rhead and I visited the staff room at UMIST it reeked of that atmosphere: Danish-style 1960s wooden armchairs, pipe-smoked fabrics, shabby tweed jackets, chaps reading the Manchester Guardian and muttering about NationalService inMalaya, CND wallahs in duffle-coats, and undergrads in striped scarves. “Fancy a wad and a jar, old man?” Perhaps there were a very few lady boffins on campus: white coated hearty types, mostly unmarried, of course. They worked in fearfully modern architecture, generously funded by the UGC. Did you know that in 1948 there were 25,000 students in all British universities, fewer than in one modern ‘uni’ today? UMIST was elite and very special.  It still is.

Aidan Turner-Bishop, Chair of the C20 Society North West Group, www.c20society.org.

some gentle science for the weekend – boffins, science dudes & some nice pipes….

In background, ideas, science, uncategorized on June 1, 2012 at 11:46 am

a mooch around Campus gets you up close and personal to plaques, signs, memorials and portraits of a plethora of intriguing boffins, scientists and their inventions.

so here are a few clues to whet your appetite for next weeks Science Stories Section….

a UMIST for everyone

In architecture, background, ideas, society, the buildings, uncategorized on May 28, 2012 at 8:35 am

Talking of public realm and the benefits of campus facilities in the heart of the city, a quick delve into the City Library’s Manchester Room reveals a fascinating glimpse into the wider aims and ambitions behind the planning of the proposed new educational precinct in 1963.

Manchester and Its Regions, A Survey prepared for The British Association, MUP, 1962, includes a chapter entitled The University of the Future written by Vincent Knowles, Registrar of Manchester University from 1952-79.

Knowles was the doyen of all the British universities’ registrars and it was an open secret that the network his former staff had established throughout university administration in the country was known to other registrars as the Manchester Mafia and that Knowles was affectionately known as the Godfather. (A History of the University of Manchester, 1973–1990 English Historical Review (2004) 119(482): 759-761).

In this chapter Knowles talks about the role of universities generally for a ‘new era’. Closer to home he outlines the humble beginnings of the universities, praises all the achievements gained so far for the benefit of the city, its students and its citizens alike, whilst warning against complacency, advocating expansion and improvement as urgent projects in the aftermath of the Second World War.

Knowles sets out the vision for Manchester as a university town par excellence, illustrating the extent to which an educational campus was key to the larger post war reconstruction of the city. The 1945 plan provided the structure for zoning much of central south Manchester along the ribbon of existing institutions and for clearing large acreage from Brunswick to Fallowfield to make an academic campus – 60 acres either side of Oxford Rd, a new area of 18 acres on the west side of Oxford Rd running up to Whitworth Park for the development of halls of residence, and 24 acres for more halls in Fallowfield – ‘town and gown, he says, being drawn together in the interests of both’.

On the responsibility of Parliament and local government to plan and legislate for the future of higher education, he notes, ‘the university of the past was built by visionary men of wealth but those of the future is one where government and parliament now realise, albeit belatedly, that if our precious heritage is to survive it must be supported in far greater measure by the state and thus be able to expand its contribution to the life of the nation’

Interestingly the plan includes provision of courts, lawns and trees, and whilst he acknowledges that more land had since been given over to construction, he hoped that the ideal might be adhered to in the future, ‘as it would benefit not only the life of the university itself but the whole of Manchester, since the enjoyment of campus would not be limited to those residing or working on it’.

Meanwhile for UMIST he predicted that nationally there would be an increased need for more and highly trained technologists, hence the expansion of its campus – ‘the scheme provides for a number of tall buildings arranged to form courts or quads laid out with lawns and trees ad it has been necessary to eliminate 2 loops in the river Medlock by culverts, which is now almost complete. Major buildings completed include the conversion of a former cotton mill for the Dept of Chemical Engineering, a new staff house and lecture room block with large buildings to house the civil engineering division due to be ready in 1963. Further buildings include fibre technology, chemistry, a refectory and student and residential tower. By 1964-5 the scheme will be complete and there will be a need to move across to the area between Sackville St and Upper Brook Street already earmarked for more development.’

This ambition, with its lawns, courts, trees and airy quadrangles, its sports halls,  public galleries and museums, would create  a new public landscape where investment into research and development for the new technological revolution could result in enjoyment and benefits for all. A CAMPUS for everyone…

The Emergence of UMIST

In background on May 9, 2012 at 11:40 pm

From its beginnings as the Mechanics Institute over on Princess St, UMIST developed piecemeal, starting with the imposing structure on Sackville St being formally opened by the Prime Minister A.J. Balfour on 15th October 1902. This brought together most departments of the School of Technology under one roof and by 1908 had added a dyeing, bleaching, printing and finishing house for textiles, fully equipped with paper making machinery.

Historical maps of the area show a gradual purchasing of nearby vacant plots, presumably with further expansion in mind, but by 1928 the shortage of space was so acute that Velvet House, a vacant warehouse opposite the main entrance, was acquired and adapted to provide a home for departments including Municipal Engineering and Building. An extension to Sackville Street’s Main building began in 1938, halted by the second world war, and made painfully slow progress  in the long austerity post war years due to labour and material shortages. Photographs of the extension in the 1952 Jubilee publication show the steel frame, parts of which were by then 14 years old, still exposed!

By 1949 over 8500 students were enrolled, yet most were still studying non-degree courses. But the appointment of B. V. Bowden (later Lord Bowden) in 1953 ushered in a new phase of expansion and confidence. During 1955 and 1956 the Manchester College of Science and Technology achieved independent university status under its own Royal Charter and became separately funded from the University Grants Committee. All non-degree courses were moved to the Manchester Polytechnic (Manchester Metropolitan University) and its name finally changed to the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology.

UMIST and the Victoria University of Manchester retained close ties for the second half of the 20th century, with UMIST students being awarded, or having the choice of, a University of Manchester degree until full autonomy in 1993.

UMIST was finally born, just 142 years after that legendary meeting in the Bridgewater Arms to conceive of a mechanics institute for working men….

The Mechanics Institute

In background on May 9, 2012 at 11:46 am

Today, the old UMIST campus is simply part of the University of Manchester, eaten up by the merger in 2004, but before then it was a fully functioning university in its own right, The University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology.

Its history is closely linked to Manchester’s emergence as the world’s first industrial city, formed by local industrialists and businessmen to ensure their workers could learn the basic principles of science –  the Mechanics’ Institute, funded entirely by private means, provided part time study in mechanics and chemistry, set up on Princess St where the labour history museum is now. Appropriately enough, the so-called father of atomic theory, the chemist John Dalton, was Vice President.

By 1879 JH Reynolds made it part of a growing movement for technical education and linked it with the new city and guilds examinations, successfully enlisting industrial support at a time when UK manufacturers were increasingly worried about foreign competition. This relationship between education and business, research and industrial application was the institution’s driving force, mutually beneficial to the city’s growth and dominance in the new industrial age, and providing much needed education to its working citizenry. It became the new Technical School, eventually taken over by the city in 1892.

Eventually a new building opened in 1902 on Sackville St, which would teach science for industrial application whilst the nearby Owens College concentrated on educating ‘professional’ men. This marked a change in the Manchester story – up to now the capital for new builds and chairs of departments had come mainly from industry rather than the local authority. And as befits its roots in the early chemical industry of the region, the Tech (as it was commonly called) pioneered Chemical Engineering as an academic subject in Britain, with lectures by George E. Davis (1888) highly influential in defining the discipline.

But perhaps a more significant advance was the foundation in 1905 of a Faculty of Technology, answerable academically to its ‘younger sister’ the Victoria University of Manchester (formerly Owens College) and awarding BSc and MSc degrees, the beginnings of UMIST as a University and the first technology faculty in the country….

A Cornerhouse Micro Commission, supported by Paul Hamlyn Foundation

In background, uncategorized on February 22, 2012 at 10:29 pm