Peter William Willans (1851–1892), engineer
1851 Born on 8 November in Roundhay, Leeds, son of Obadiah Willans, woollen manufacturer, and his wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Henry Tetley.
Attended Leeds grammar school
1867 Became an apprentice with the engineering firm of Carrett and Marshall of Hunslet, Leeds.
1872 Moved to London; joined John Penn and Sons as a draughtsman. While at Penns he designed a high-speed steam engine which had all its working parts totally enclosed and splash-lubricated, a radical departure from contemporary practice but Penns were not prepared to develop it.
Willans formed a partnership to licence other manufacturers of his engine
1876 joined Hunter and English of Bow, London, to develop and market the engine for marine use. However, boat builders were reluctant to install such novel machinery.
1880 Willans married Edith Ellen (b. 1854/5), daughter of Kyrle Money, a minister, on 11 December. They had at least three children.
1880 Willans left Hunter and English and went into partnership with Mark Robinson as Willans and Robinson; founded the Ferry Works, Thames Ditton, Surrey, to build engines and boats. The rise of the electricity industry created a new market for his engines, which proved so well suited to driving dynamos that by the time of his death over half the country's electrical power was generated by them. During this time Willans improved his designs and adopted advanced manufacturing techniques, pioneering the rapid assembly of engines from standardized, interchangeable components. He also conducted extensive tests on his engines, which demonstrated their high efficiency and gained him a reputation as a highly scientific engineer.
1885 Willans was awarded the Institution of Civil Engineers' Telford medal
1886 elected a member of ICE.
1887 Triple expansion engine built to his patent of 1884 is in the London Science Museum.
1888 awarded the Watt medal for his paper "Economy trials of a non-condensing steam engine".
1892 Died at home in Pirbright.
Sources of Information
- Biography of Peter Willans, ODNB