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Richard Stanfield

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Richard Stanfield (1864-1950)


1951 Obituary [1]

"Professor RICHARD STANFIELD, Wh.Sc., M.I.Mech.E., was born in 1864. He was educated at Manchester Grammar School and received his practical engineering training in that city with Messrs. John Chadwick and Sons. During that period he attended evening classes and at the age of twenty gained a Senior Whitworth Scholarship — a much coveted distinction. By the aid of this scholarship he proceeded to the Royal School of Mines, London, where he studied Engineering under Professor Goodeve, and Metallurgy and Assaying with Professor Roberts-Austin; at the end of his course he was awarded Associateship of the School and the Bessemer Medal. He also held honours certificates and medals in engineering subjects from the Science and Art Department of the Board of Education and the City and Guilds of London Institute.

In 1889, at the early age of twenty-five, he was appointed Professor of Engineering at the Heriot-Watt College, Edinburgh - a recognition of ability and power of application. He was also a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh: Professor Stanfield's influence upon a very large number of young engineers during his forty years of tenure of office was profound.

His name, since his retirement twenty-one years ago, has been almost legendary amongst his former students. As a lecturer he was extremely able: clear in exposition, precise in wording, and master of demonstration and blackboard technique. He made himself, in accordance with the Heriot-Watt tradition, the guide and councillor of both the senior and the junior students who were finding their way into engineering science. In the large evening courses for junior students, he presented his subject in such a manner that any form of disciplinary restraint was entirely unnecessary. With his staff he was not only a leader but also a friend, requiring accurate and careful work and radiating enthusiasm and application with the happiest results in harmonious co-operation. Professor Stanfield was largely responsible for the design and lay-out of the new engineering laboratories in the College, which were declared open by the late Lord Rosebery in 1908. The establishment of these laboratories made it possible for students to carry out experimental work with modern equipment, in relation to the theory and practice of heat engines, mechanics, and the properties of materials. Much of his work was of a pioneer character, not only in laboratory procedure but also in his relations with industry as consultant and as an expert in court cases.

The duties of his office covered a wide range when subdivision and specialization of various sections of engineering were almost unknown. One particular interest related to thermodynamics in its applications to heat engines, steam engines, boilers, and internal-combustion engines. He made extensive investigations into the thermal efficiency of marine engines at sea and the performance of power plants on land. As consultant to the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society, over a period of thirty years, he conducted the first public trials in Britain of oil engines, at the Highland Show in Edinburgh, in 1899, and later of the then recently introduced suction-gas producers of various types. He was also responsible for the layout and engineering work of the annual Highland Shows in various parts of Scotland.

He not only advised and directed, but also played an important part in the early development of mechanization for farming. He lectured to students of agriculture and carried out field tests for their instruction. In recognition of these valuable services the Society conferred honorary membership upon him on his retirement in 1936.

He was concerned in the organization and conduct of the earliest Motor Reliability Trials of the Scottish Automobile Club, in 1906, in which eighty-four cars took part.

In the Royal Scottish Society of Arts, of which he was elected a Fellow in 1891, he became Editor of Transactions in 1902 and Honorary Secretary in 1906; from 1921 to 1923 he was President.

For many years he was a particularly active member of the Watt Club, founded in 1854 in memory of James Watt. During the 1914-18 war, he was engineer and secretary to the Board of Management of the South-East Scotland Munitions Committee.

Professor Stanfield's love of the country of his adoption was very real. He was never ruffled, but always helpful and sincere and rendered unique service to engineering education in Scotland over a period of forty-seven years. He was called to his rest at the age of eighty-seven, on 19th October 1950."

J. Cameron Smail, O.B.E., Wh. Ex. and Alexander R. Horne, O.B.E., B.Sc., Wh.Ex., M.I.Mech.E.


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Sources of Information

  1. 1951 Institution of Mechanical Engineers: Obituaries