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Frederick Charles Lea

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1943.
1952.

Professor Frederick Charles Lea (1871-1952) of the Universities of Birmingham and Sheffield


1952 Obituary [1]

We record with deep regret the death of Emeritus Professor Frederick Charles Lea, which occurred on Tuesday, September 30th, at his home, Wayside, Dore, Sheffield.

Professor Lea, who was eighty-one, made, during his long and distinguished career, a noteworthy contribution to the cause of technical education in this country. His teaching work was begun, at the close of last century, at the City and Guilds (Engineering) College, and was subsequently continued for nearly forty years at the Universities of Birmingham and Sheffield.

Frederick Charles Lea was born at Crewe on June 25, 1871, and received the earlier part of his education at the Crewe Mechanics' Institution. Subsequently he became a student at Owens College, Manchester, and, later, at the Royal College of Science in London.

Professor Lea's practical training as an engineer was obtained by an apprenticeship at the Crewe works of the London and North Western Railway Company, under the late F. W. Webb. After its completion he spent a few years in railway service. One appointment during those years was as an assistant engineer at Holyhead harbour, where he was engaged mainly on dynamo and lighting installations.

It was followed by a three-year period, from 1896 to 1899, as an assistant in the constructional office at Crewe of the chief engineer of the London and North Western Railway. In 1896 also Lea was appointed a Whitworth Exhibitioner.

Professor Lea's teaching career began at the City and Guilds (Engineering) College in 1899. In that year he became chief assistant to Professor W. Cawthorn Unwin and Professor W. E. Dalby, a position in which he remained for the next twelve years.

Professor Lea was then appointed to the engineering inspectorate of the Board of Education, in which service he spent two years.

Early in 1913, Professor Lea was invited to the Chair of Civil Engineering in the University of Birmingham. His years of service there were particularly arduous ones on account of the demands of the first world war, which broke out within a year or so of taking up his work at Birmingham. Professor Lea was quickly called upon to serve on various technical committees set up by the Government to assist the war effort. His principal work during the succeeding four years was related to researches into materials best suited to the construction of aircraft and aero-engines. It was work that was ably undertaken in the laboratories of Birmingham University and in those of various factories in the district.

Years afterwards, Professor Lea recalled the investigations which led to the development of all-metal aircraft, the results of much of his work being recorded in reports published by H.M. Stationery Office and in the Proceedings of learned societies. In recognition of his work during the first world war, Professor Lea received the O.B.E. Professor Lea continued his work as Professor of Civil Engineering at Birmingham University until 1924, being responsible during his years there for many additions to the equipment of the engineering laboratories and for the design of much apparatus required for special researches with which he was concerned.

In 1924 Professor Lea was appointed Professor of Engineering and Dean of the Faculty at the University of Sheffield, retiring from those offices in 1936, when he was given the title of Emeritus Professor. For some years following his retirement from the University he served as a director of Edgar Allen and Co., Ltd., and also engaged in some consulting work.

During his lifetime Professor Lea made numerous contributions to the technical literature of those subjects on which be was a recognised expert. His books on Hydraulics - the first of which appeared in 1908 - ran into several editions, and there also came from his pen many papers, dealing with the properties of metals and structures, which appeared in the Proceedings of learned societies and in the technical press.

To the work of the professional institutions of which he was a member, Professor Lea rendered valuable assistance. He was elected to associate membership of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1901, becoming a full member in 1918. He was a Crampton and a Telford prizewinner of the Institution.

Professor Lea was elected a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1921, and was chairman of its Yorkshire branch in 1926. He was chairman of the Institution's education committee for several years, and chairman of its welding research committee from the time that committee was set up in 1931 until it was dissolved in I 939.

In the latter year Professor Lea was elected a vice-president of the "Mechanicals" and in 1943 he succeeded to the presidential chair. It is appropriate to recall now that, on the occasion of his presidential election, Professor Lea said characteristically that he accepted the honour which had been conferred upon him as a compliment to those professors and teachers in the technical colleges of this country who had done so much to assist in the great work of the education of young engineers.

Undoubtedly, Professor Lea was among the foremost of those who during the century have enhanced the standard of technical education. It was fitting that in his presidential address to the "Mechanicals" - to which he gave the title "Remember the Past and Look to the Future " - he surveyed progress in the science and practice of engineering and in engineering education. He claimed that although inventive ability, workshop technique and practical success were necessary to success in mechanical engineering, development could not depend on them alone. Theory and sound practice, Professor Lea urged, were not two distinct aspects of engineering, but, rightly understood, were complementary. Professor Lea held that the designer must not only he familiar with the well established principles of engineering theory which formed the groundwork of the engineering schools, but must also fully appreciate their limitations, and the point at which he · must turn for guidance to experimental knowledge which had not yet been em bodied in strictly co-ordinated theory.

Another view which Professor Lea always emphasised was that students, during their university courses, should visit mines, iron and steel works, fabrication departments, and machine shops, and should see the final assembly of particular articles in the specialised works. They would thus get a picture of the whole process of converting raw materials into the finished article, and would have at least some appreciation of the economic and human problems involved. These views, expressed in his presidential address, indicate how the education of young engineers was a constantly recurring theme in his thoughts. He took an active part in the discussions of a subject about which so many different opinions have always been held and continue to be held to this day.

Much of Professor Lea's success in life was undoubtedly the consequence of the careful attention he was always ready to give to detail and his insistence that before any decision was reached every factor that could possibly weigh upon it should be brought to light. On occasion, it is true, he was not blessed by his fellows when he insisted upon detailed discussion at the many councils and committees upon which he served. Yet they had to admit that he could thereby sometimes bring about fruitful modifications of view or, at the very least, make the members of a committee more surely aware that a decision reached was really soundly based so that there could be no thought of questioning it in the future. Though this trait might sometimes create a temporary irritation, it never could affect the respect and affection felt for him by those with whom he worked. For he was kindly, considerate and wise in his dealings with his fellows ; and to younger folk he proved always not only courteous and kind- few of the eminent are not-but also at all times really active in help.

In addition to his membership of and work for the two major institutions of which he was a member, Professor Lea was a member of the Institution of Structural Engineers, an honorary Fellow of the Imperial College of Science and Technology, and a past-chairman of the Whitworth Society. He also served, in 1929, as president of Section G (Engineering) of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. His degrees included D.Sc. (London) and M.Sc. (Birmingham).


1952 Obituary [2]

"Emeritus Professor FREDERICK CHARLES LEA, O.B.E., D.Sc., M.Sc., Wh.Sc., Past-President of the Institution, died on 30th September 1952.

Professor Lea, who was eighty-one, was born at Crewe on 25th June 1871, and was educated at the Crewe Mechanics' Institution, Owens College, Manchester, and the Royal College of Science, London. His practical training was obtained by an apprenticeship at the Crewe works of the London and North Western Railway Co, under the late F. W. Webb. After its completion he spent some years in railway service. In 1896 he was appointed a Whitworth Exhibitioner. Professor Lea's teaching career began at the City and Guilds (Engineering) College in 1896 under Professor W. Cawthorn Unwin and Professor W. F. Dalby.

In 1911 he was appointed to the engineering inspectorate of the Board of Education. Early in 1913 Professor Lea was invited to the Chair of Civil Engineering in the University of Birmingham. His years of service there were particularly arduous on account of the demands of the 1914-18 war. Professor Lea was quickly called upon to serve on various technical committees set up by the Government to assist the war effort. His principal work during the succeeding four years was related to researches into materials best suited to the construction of aircraft and aero-engines. The investigations led to the development of all-metal aircraft and the results of much of this work were recorded in reports published by H.M. Stationery Office and in the Proceedings of learned societies. In recognition of his work during the 1914-18 war, Professor Lea was appointed O.B.E.

In 1924 Professor Lea became Professor of Engineering and Dean of the Faculty in the University of Sheffield. When he retired from those offices in 1936 he was given the title of Emeritus Professor. For some years following his retirement from the University he served as a director of Edgar Allen and Company, Ltd., and also engaged in some consulting work. During his lifetime Professor Lea made numerous and very valuable contributions to technical literature. His books on "Hydraulics"—the first of which appeared in 1908—ran into several editions, and there also came from his pen many papers, dealing with the properties of metals and structures, which appeared in the Proceedings of learned societies and in the technical press. He was a Crampton, a Telford, and a T. Bernard Hall prize-winner of the Institution and a Medallist of the Concrete Institute (now the Institution of Structural Engineers). Professor Lea was elected a member of the Institution in 1921, and was chairman of its Yorkshire Branch in 1928. He was chairman of the Institution's education committee for several years, and chairman of its welding research committee from the time that committee was set up in 1931 until it was dissolved in 1939. In the latter year Professor Lea was elected a Vice-President and in 1943 he succeeded to the presidential chair. He was admitted to Honorary Membership of the Institution in 1948. It is appropriate to recall that, on the occasion of his presidential election, Professor Lea said, characteristically, that he accepted the honour which had been conferred upon him as a compliment to those professors and teachers in the technical colleges of Great Britain who had done so much to assist in the great work of the education of young engineers. Professor Lea was among the foremost of those who during the century have enhanced the standard of technical education. The education of young engineers was a constantly recurring theme in his thoughts. He took an active part in the discussions on a subject about which so many different opinions have always been held and continue to be held to this day. It was fitting that in his presidential address - to which he gave the title "Remember the Past and Look to the Future" - he surveyed progress in the science and practice of engineering and in engineering education. Much of Professor Lea's success in life was undoubtedly the consequence of the careful attention he was always ready to give to detail, and his insistence that before any decision was reached every factor that could possibly weigh upon it should be brought to light.

On occasion, it is true, he was not blessed by his fellows when he insisted upon detailed discussion at the many councils and committees upon which he served. Yet they had to admit that he could thereby sometimes bring about fruitful modifications of view or, at the very least, make the members of a committee more surely aware that a decision reached was really soundly based so that there could be no thought of questioning it in the future. Although this trait might sometimes create a temporary irritation, it never could change the respect and affection felt for him by those with whom he worked. He was kindly, considerate and wise in his dealings with his fellows; and to younger folk he proved always not only courteous and kind - few of the eminent are not - but also at all times really active in help. Professor Lea was a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Institution of Structural Engineers, an honorary Fellow of the Imperial College of Science and Technology, and a past-chairman of the Whitworth Society. He also served, in 1929, as president of Section G (Engineering) of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. B. W. Pendred, M.I.Mech.E."


1952 Obituary [3]



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