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Cecil Howard Lander

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Cecil Howard Lander ( -1949)

1950 Obituary [1]

"Professor CECIL HOWARD LANDER, C.B.E., D.Sc., who died on 17th March 1949, had a varied and interesting life. He began with three years' practical training with the Manchester Ship Canal Co, followed by a period with Heenan and Froude, Ltd. Subsequently, he went to Manchester University, graduating with first-class honours and winning the Fairburn prize.

At this stage his interests turned to academic work and he became first a demonstrator, and later a lecturer at the university, where he formed a close friendship with Professor (later Sir Joseph) Petavel. He was awarded a D.Sc. for original work in the field of surface friction and heat flow.

In 1916, the war brought about a change in his life and he obtained a commission in the R.N.V.R. During the next four years he showed considerable inventive powers in several mechanical devices connected with naval problems. A further change of interest took place, and in 1920 he went to the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research to take up work of an administrative nature, becoming Deputy Director of Fuel Research after only two years and, after a further year, succeeding Sir George Beilby as Director. Under his leadership the Fuel Research organization gained a considerable reputation but, despite success in his new work, he was unable to resist the call of the academic world and eight years later he succeeded Professor Dalby in the Chair of Engineering at City and Guilds College. He took with him some of his personal lines of research, including that of heat transfer in which he has been one of the outstanding influences in Great Britain. From the start of his career he had foreseen the very great and widespread importance of this subject in the engineering industry, and he had consistently pressed for extensions of fundamental work to enable designers to be more scientific. In the early days he had few supporters, the subject being dismissed either as too simple or too empirical for useful scientific research, but his views were later to receive complete vindication in the formation of the Mechanical Engineering Research Board and its Department of Heat Transfer and Heat Appliances, the formation of the Board being largely the result of the evidence he gave to the Preliminary Committee under Sir Henry Guy.

After the outbreak of the 1939-45 war Professor Lander once more undertook new work, this time as a leader of teams of scientists who were brought together to solve special war-time problems in the fields of fog dispersal over airfields (F.I.D.O.), liquid-fuel flame throwers, and combustion chambers for jet-propulsion gas turbines. He did a notable service in getting individual experts together in these fields and was a source of inspiration to all. Problems of this kind, in which the objective was clearly defined but which called for novel and sometimes daring methods of solution, were very much after his heart, and his wide experience in science, engineering, and administration were of great value. In 1943 he was awarded the Institution's Hawksley Medal, and in 1945 the Melchett Medal of the Institute of Fuel, of which he was President from 1946 to 1948.

In 1946 he reached the age of retirement from his professorship and might well have been expected to devote his life to some of his many active hobbies, such as his motor launch or his violin; but, in fact, he accepted a new appointment as Dean of the Military College of Science, Shrivenham. For this work he was outstandingly qualified, in view of his experience. Moreover, he became the leader of the college orchestra. There is no doubt of his overwhelming success at Shrivenham in the work which was so suddenly and unexpectedly ended by his death; he was held in very great affection there. Lander once said that it was accidental that he chose to become an engineer rather than a professional violinist, and such was his versatility that he might well have achieved equal success in another field.

To those whom he took under his wing, Professor Lander will be remembered as the staunchest of supporters. He was completely unaffected, with a naturalness that treated alike the high and mighty or the humblest member of his staff. He had the courage of his convictions, and no one could have wished for a better or more reliable friend.

O. A. Saunders, D.Sc. (Eng.), M.A., M.I.Mech.E..

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