Hopkinson's membership form


On this day, 100 years ago an IMechE member was killed in action.

Bertram Hopkinson: 26th August

Hopkinson's membership form
Hopkinson’s membership form

Member 1904 (life member).

Professor of Mechanism and Applied Mathematics, Cambridge.

Colonel, Royal Air Force.

Awarded: Companion of St Michael and St George.

Killed in flying accident, England.

1918 Obituary 

Colonel BERTRAM HOPKINSON, C.M.G., F.R.S., was born in Birmingham on 11th January 1874, the eldest and only surviving son of the late Dr. John Hopkinson, F.R.S., Member of Council, I.Mech.E., and grandson of the late Mr. Alderman John Hopkinson, M.I.Mech.E., of Manchester.

He was educated at St. Paul’s School and at King’s College, London, and then proceeded to Trinity College, Cambridge. Owing to illness he took an aegrotat degree in the first part of the Mathematical Tripos of 1895 but in the following year he obtained a first class in the first division of Part II. He then read for the Bar and was called in 1897.

After the death of his father, through the tragic accident in Switzerland in 1898, which occurred while Bertram was on his way to Australia on legal business, he determined to give up his career at the Bar and to take up engineering to conserve his father’s large practice as a consulting engineer, and joined his uncle Mr. Charles Hopkinson, M.I.Mech.E., and the late Mr. E. Talbot, a former assistant of Dr. John Hopkinson, as a partner in the firm of Hopkinsons and Talbot, of London and Manchester.

During his five years association with the firm he was jointly responsible for the electrification and extension of the Newcastle-on-Tyne Tramway system, described in a Paper before the Inst.C.E., and of the Leeds Tramway system; and also advised upon or carried out electric lighting or tramway schemes for the Corporations of Salford, Stockport, and Crewe, and the District Councils of Sale, Hindley, and Ambleside. During this time he was also frequently engaged as an expert in patent cases in the Law Courts. The position he attained in work of this character was recognized in later life by his frequently acting as assessor to the Judge in technical cases.

In 1903 Professor Ewing (now Sir J. Alfred Ewing, K.C.B.) retired from the Chair of Mechanism and Applied Mechanics in the University of Cambridge, and Bertram Hopkinson was appointed his successor, and held the Chair until his death. Under his guidance the Cambridge School of Engineering grew in numbers and prospered, and greatly extended its influence and repute, particularly as a home of advanced research. Professor Hopkinson was himself devoted to research and inspired his students with something of his own enthusiasm and originality, many of whom subsequently came to occupy positions of importance and responsibility in engineering industries.

His researches were very varied in character, and the papers he communicated to scientific societies and the technical institutions very numerous. They were all characterized by great originality, refusal to be bound by traditional methods and doctrines, directness of attack and a singular appreciation of the essential points involved.

He contributed to this Institution a series of Papers on “Indicated Power and Mechanical Efficiency of Gas-Engines,” 1907; “Effect of Mixture Strength and Scavenging upon Thermal Efficiency,” 1908; “Cooling of Gas Engines,” 1913, and was awarded the Willans Premium for the first two of these.

Professor Hopkinson was co-inventor of the Hopkinson-Tring torsion meter, now largely used for measuring the shaft power of turbine-driven ships.

On the outbreak of war he threw himself unreservedly into the National Service, disregarding all other interests which would interfere therewith. He was then a Major of the O.T.C. at Cambridge.

First he took up R.E. work at Chatham, but a little later became attached to the Admiralty, where his work on explosions found full application and enabled him to undertake further work of great national importance. Afterwards he directed his attention to the equipment of air-craft, and was appointed to positions of successively increasing importance in connexion with the control of experimental work, at first with the War Office and then with the Air Ministry, where he became Deputy Director of Air-Craft Equipment. Here again his knowledge of internal-combustion engines and explosives, and originality of conception, were of the greatest value to the Nation. To quote from a letter of condolence to the University of Cambridge written by command of the Air Council, they place “on record their deep sense of the high and permanent value of the work done for the Flying Force by the late Colonel Hopkinson, and their recognition of the patriotic self-abnegation with which he devoted his great abilities and scientific attainments to the Public Service.”

He was made a Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George in 1917. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society and held a professorial fellowship at King’s College, Cambridge. He became a Member of this Institution in 1904; he had served on the Council of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, and was a Member of the Council of the Royal Society, and of the Institution of Civil Engineers at the time of his death, and was an original member of the Advisory Council for Scientific and Industrial Research appointed by the Privy Council.

Colonel Hopkinson was killed in an accident whilst flying in England on military duty on 26th August 1918, at the age of forty-four.

Institution First World War Honour Roll

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Archive, Institution of Mechanical Engineers




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