manchester modernist society

Archive for the ‘ideas’ Category

The Colossi of UMIST…..

In ideas, science, society, uncategorized on June 20, 2012 at 1:14 pm

John Henry Reynolds (February 8, 1842 – July 17, 1927) is a crucial figure in the development of the institution that would eventually become UMIST. And the story is typical of the radical, self made Manchester Man era to boot!

Born in Salford the eldest son of a bootmaker, he attended the Cross Street Unitarian Chapel and Manchester Grammar School before apprenticing to his father at twelve years of age. He also assisted at the Sunday School at Cross Street where he met William Fairbairn (engineer, shipbuilder and President of the Manchester Lit & Phil society) and William Gaskell (minister, educationalist and key figure in the formation of the Mechanics Institute).

By the 1870s, the Manchester Mechanics’ Institute was in decline. Despite its original ambitious mission to bring technical expertise to working men, its core activities had shrunk to the provision of elementary education in the face of new competition from the state-funded schools being established by the Elementary Education Act 1870. In 1879, Reynolds was appointed Secretary to the Institute and set about reasserting its lead – by all accounts a persuasive advocate, he grasped the city’s appetite for more effective vocational education and led its reinvention as the Manchester Technical School in 1882. Before long he had further secured the college’s future by adopting the London Institute’s new City and Guilds system and exams, recapturing the lead that was being threatened by strong establishments and schools starting to flourish across Germany, Switzerland and the USA.

A grant from the Whitworth Institute enabled him to realise his ambitions for a state-of-the-art institution with the construction of the buildings on Sackville Street, opened in 1902 by Arthur Balfour. The institution was renamed as the Municipal School of Technology and Reynolds became its principal and director for higher education of Manchester.

In 1904, the newly-autonomous Victoria University of Manchester recognised the status of many of the courses that Reynolds had developed by establishing a faculty of technology at the Institute. Reynolds became dean of the faculty, ensuring that the Institute’s newly appointed professors were recognised by the university.

And, consistent with Reynolds’ radical sympathies and formative years, the bulk of the Institute’s work remained devoted to vocational, rather than academic, education.

Sir Charles Garonne Renold (29 October 1883 – 7 September 1967) was Vice President of the Manchester College of Science and Technology and chairman of the planning and development committee. Born in Altrincham, he was the son of Hans Renold, a Swiss born engineer and businessman who became chairman of the family business Renold Chains and Gears in Manchester.

A respected expert in industrial administration, he was knighted in 1948 for services to the cause of good management and the development of humane and progressive ideals in industry.

The brand new Renold Building was fittingly named in his honour, and in fact he laid the foundation stone himself on June 24, 1960…

Bertram Vivian Bowden (18 January 1910 – 28 July 1989) was a noted scientist in his own right but it’s his tireless efforts as an educationist and with the development of UMIST as a successful independent university that he is most known.

Born in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, he graduated from Emmanuel College, Cambridge with a Ph.D. in nuclear physics in 1931 and in 1940 he was conscripted to the Telecommunications Research Establishment to work on radar and later from 1943 at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, establishing himself as an effective administrator. The post war period however saw him take up a variety of jobs, including selling early computers manufactured by Ferranti – an experience that made him understand the enormous impact that new technology was about to make.

In 1953, Bowden became principal of what was then still the Manchester College of Science and Technology, but as our previous postings have shown, the post-war expansion in university education, coupled with his ambitions for the institution soon brought about the college’s transformation into UMIST.

In 1964, he was created a life peer as Baron Bowden of Chesterfield and appointed Minister for Education and Science, an appointment which didn’t really suit him – by 1965 he had returned to UMIST, where he remained until his retirement in 1976.

 

Roy Chadwick (30 April 1893 – 23 August 1947) became the Chief Designer for the Avro Company, responsible for practically all of their aeroplane designs, and is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s greatest aircraft designers. And it all started at the Tech…!

After attending a church school in Urmston, young Chadwick studied at night school from 1907 – 1911 at the Manchester Municipal College of Technology, whilst working as a draughtsman in Trafford Park.

Diploma under his belt, he so impressed Alliott Verdon-Roe that he became his personal assistant and swiftly rose to be the firm’s chief draughtsman at A.V.Roe and Company (AVRO) in Manchester. Under the direction of AV Roe, Chadwick drafted the AVRO D, a two seated tractor biplane, the AVRO E, which was converted to a floatplane and in 1912, the AVRO F, the world’s first monoplane and cabin machine.

He is famous in particular for designing the Lancaster bomber, its follow-up the Lincoln and preliminary designs of the Vulcan V bomber. He also converted the Lincoln into the much-used Shackleton, and his Avro Yorks carried one third of the entire British tonnage during the Berlin Airlift!

In 1943 Chadwick was awarded the CBE for his role in the Dambusters raid, the production of the Lancaster and the special modifications which allowed Upkeep to be delivered to Germany. He was also made a honorary Master of Science at Manchester University in 1944.

His final involvement with Avro was overseeing the initial designs of the Vulcan from 1946. He died tragically on 23 August 1947 during a crash on take-off of a test flight of his latest prototype Avro Tudor.

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…