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Alfred Ewing

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1935.

Sir James Alfred Ewing F.R.S.., (27 March 1855 - 7 January 1935)

Sir James Alfred Ewing KCB FRS FRSE MInstCE was a Scottish physicist and engineer, best known for his work on the magnetic properties of metals and, in particular, for his discovery of, and coinage of the word, hysteresis [1]

1890 Mr. J. A. Ewing was appointed Professor in succession to Professor James Stuart in the University Engineering Laboratory in Cambridge. Under Professor Ewing's guidance a laboratory was built on similar lines to those which were then in existence at the University College, London, Owens College, and elsewhere. The buildings were erected mainly by public subscription on a site provided by the University. At the same time engineering was made an honours school of the University and the Mechanical Sciences Tripos was instituted.

1900 Wrote a paper entitled Crystalline Structure of Metals and read it before the Royal Institution of Great Britain. [2]

c.1903 After leaving Cambridge, Sir Alfred Ewing was appointed Director of Naval Education.



1935 Obituary [3]

Sir JAMES ALFRED EWING, K.C.B., LL.D., D.Sc., Sc.D., was one of the Institution's most distinguished members. The work which he carried out during his long career was all the more remarkable in view of the extraordinarily wide range which it embraced.

Born in Dundee in 1855, he obtained the first engineering scholarship to the University of Edinburgh, where he studied under Professor H. C. Fleeming Jenkin, M.I.Mech.E.

After graduating, he assisted Professor Jenkin and Sir William Thomson, M.I.Mech.E. (Lord Kelvin), in their work on submarine telegraphy, and took part in the laying of cables to Brazil and Montevideo.

In 1878 he was appointed Professor of Mechanical Engineering in Tokyo Imperial University; while holding this position he studied seismological phenomena and carried out research in an observatory fitted with instruments of his own design for absolute measurement of earthquakes. He also commenced his studies on the molecular theory of magnetism and on hysteresis.

He returned in 1883 to become Professor of Engineering at University College, Dundee, and seven years later took up his appointment as Professor of Mechanism and Applied Mechanics at Cambridge. Here he reorganized the general principles of the educational work and was largely instrumental in establishing the engineering tripos. His researches at this time were directed to the testing of the magnetic qualities of iron and he devised several important types of apparatus for measuring permeability and hysteresis.

In 1903 he was called upon by the Admiralty to advise on their new scheme of naval education, and was later appointed Director of Naval Education under the scheme. He also became a member of the Explosives Committee and of the Ordnance Research Board.

In 1914, after the outbreak of the War, he was instrumental in establishing and developing the office known as "Room 40" at the Admiralty, which was engaged on the decoding of enemy ciphers.

He had been appointed in 1916 Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, but his work at the Admiralty prevented him from taking up his new duties for another year, since the combination of the two appointments proved incompatible after a trial of some months.

After the War he became increasingly occupied with problems of reconstruction at the University of Edinburgh and during his vice-chancellorship thirteen new chairs were established, the training was reorganized, and several new buildings were constructed.

In 1923 he became chairman of the Bridge Stress Committee appointed by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.

He retired in 1929 and lived at Cambridge, where he turned his attention to the work of the Low Temperature Research Station. He also supervised researches carried out at the National Physical Laboratory on refrigerants, in connexion with which he had in earlier life done valuable work, and he was a member of the Committee on the Mechanical Testing of Timber, appointed in 1929.

In 1931 he was president of Section G of the British Association and in the following year he delivered his famous presidential address to the same body. Sir Alfred Ewing's connexion with the Institution dated back to 1891, when he was elected a Member. He delivered a lecture on "Structure of Metals" to the Graduates' Section in 1901. In 1914 he presented the Report of the Refrigeration Research Committee, in his capacity as chairman, including an appendix of which he was the author. From 1915 to 1918 he served on the Council, and in 1932 Honorary Membership was conferred on him. He was made a Freeman of the City of Edinburgh in 1929, and in the course of the Edinburgh Summer Meeting in 1933, members were privileged to attend the ceremony at which he was presented with the Freedom of his native City of Dundee.

Among many honours conferred upon him were that of Companion of the Bath in 1907 and Knight Commander in 1911. He had been a Fellow of the Royal Society since 1887, receiving the Royal Medal eight years later for his research work on magnetism, and he was a President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh from 1924 to 1929. In addition he was an Honorary Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers and a Member of the Institution of Electrical Engineers. He was the author of a multitude of papers, especially on magnetism, and of well-known textbooks on the steam engine, thermodynamics, refrigeration, and the strength of materials. Shortly before his death he was occupied with the revision of his book, "Thermodynamics for Engineers," but he died before this could be completed and the task was finished by Mr. A. C. G. Egerton, F.R.S.

He was in his eightieth year when his death occurred at Cambridge on 7th January 1935.


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