1915-1916: Professor William Cawthorne Unwin

1915-1916: Professor William Cawthorne Unwin


Professor William Cawthorne Unwin (1838-1933)

33rd President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers

Unwin was born in Coggeshall, Essex, England in 1838. He was educated at the City of London School and New College, St. John’s Wood. He served his pupilage with Sir William Fairbairn from 1854 to 1861, and during this time attended the University of London in the evenings, graduating with a BSc in 1861.

At the age of 23, he became works manager for Williamson and Brothers of Kendal. After six years, he was appointed Instructor in the Royal School of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, South Kensington. He was then appointed Chair of Hydraulic Engineering at the Royal Indian Engineering College, Cooper’s Hill, and in 1884 became the first Professor of Civil and Mechanical Engineering at the City and Guilds of London Central Technical College, South Kensington. He was widely acknowledged as a leading authority on technical education.

One of his interesting activities was his work as Secretary of the International Commission on the Utilization of the Niagara Falls, which was formed in 1890 under the chairmanship of Lord Kelvin. He was concerned with thorough investigations in different countries on hydraulic and electrical developments and played an important part in the selection of the Niagara plant.

He was a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1886 and served on its Council in 1894. He was President of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1911. He was President of the Engineering Section of the British Association in 1892 and served for lengthy periods on the Senate of the University of London on the main Committee of the British Engineering Standards Association, and, during the First World War, on the Metropolitan Munitions Committee Management Board.

He died on 17 March 1933, at the age of 95.

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