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Robert Edmund Froude

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Dr. Robert Edmund Froude (1846-1924), Superintendent of Experimental Works at Torquay and later at Haslar, Gosport.

1846 Son of William Froude.

1924 Obituary[1]


Dr. Robert Edmund Froude, the son, of a brilliant father, the late Mr. William Froude, and his. assistant and successor in the work with ship models in experimental tanks, from which most valuable results were derived, died at Croft Cottage, Cambridge, in his seventy-eighth year, on Wednesday, March 19.

Half a century ago his father constructed a tank at Chelston Cross, Torquay, to ascertain from models the power necessary to drive any specific form of vessel at a predetermined speed. By means of changes in the models the effects on the power required were observed, and so by gradual processes and exacting test work the best lines for a vessel were obtained. To-day such matters seem commonplace, as all vessels are designed from information obtained in tank tests, but it must not be forgotten that there was a time, at the start of this work, when its value did not appeal to all — as it now does. In this work Mr. R. E. Froude joined his father at the age of 25, and remained with him as assistant until his death in 1879. Then the son was appointed superintendent of the work, which had been taken over by the Admiralty. The tank at Haslar, Gosport, was not finished in time to be used by Mr. William Froude, but it was there that Mr. R. E. Froude performed his valuable experimental work. The results of this work were embodied in papers which he gave to the various institutions, but principally to the Institution of Naval Architects, of which he was elected an Associate in 1880 and a Member of Council three years later. To refer to the individual papers would take up great space, for they were numerous. He investigated wavemaking resistances, screw-propeller efficiencies and dimensions, the rolling of ships, the differing effects of moving in still water and through artificially produced waves, and provided a wealth of information of the greatest value to the ship designer. This method of investigation of ship-construction problems has taken a complete hold of naval architects, and many private firms — such as Messrs. W Denny and Bros., of Dumbarton, Messrs. John Brown and Co., of Clydebank, and Messrs. Viokera, Limited, at St. Albans — established tanks of their own. The William Froude National Tank at Teddington was presented to the nation by Sir Alfred Yarrow, who has had the satisfaction of seeing the value of his gift in the improvement of naval architecture which has been effected through the results obtained in work with it. From the small beginnings of the older Froude’s endeavours, continued by his gifted son, there has thus been established many tanks in this country, as well as a number abroad. There can be no doubt that much of the exceptional efficiency of British ship design is due in large measure to the experimental work which he conducted. His work on screw-propeller design and efficiency remains as a lasting memorial to a most exceptionally painstaking and thorough experimental investigator. He resigned from active work in 1919. The younger Froude, like his father, was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, but also held the LL.D. degree of Glasgow University. He was elected a Vice-President of the Institution of Naval Architects in 1905 and was gazetted G.B. in 1911.

Those who were associated with Mr. R. E. Froude will always remember him as a man of reserved character but of most charming personality, whose contribution to discussions on problems of ship design were appreciated by all. In discussion he was ever courteous but firm in the expression of his opinions, which, being backed by a wealth of experience and the deductions of a thoroughly trained scientific mind and delivered by a man who had a most charming and convincing way of addressing an audience, never failed to make a lasting impression."

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