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British Industrial History

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William Ripper

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William Ripper (1853-1937)

Engineer (steam) Prof. M. Inst. C.E.

1937 Obituary [1]

Professor WILLIAM RIPPER, C.H., D.Eng., D.Sc., rendered great services to technical education throughout his long career, particularly in his work in connection with the training of mechanical engineers. He will also be remembered for his important textbooks, "Heat Engines", "Steam Engine Theory and Practice", "'Machine Drawing and Design", and "Practical Chemistry". He contributed a number of papers to the principal technical societies, including a paper on indicators which he read before the Institution in 1899 and two others on cutting tools, written jointly with Mr. G. W. Burley, and presented in 1913 and 1919.

Professor Ripper was born in 1853 in Plymouth where he commenced his apprenticeship with the Plymouth Foundry and Engine Works Company After serving for two years he became an apprentice in the works of Messrs. G. Y. Blair and Company, of Stockton on Tees, and a year later he obtained a Queen's Scholarship to the Exeter Training College for Teachers.

At the age of 21 he was appointed assistant master in a Sheffield school, and in 1880 he was made science master and organizer of evening classes at Sheffield Central School. His success there led to his appointment in 1884 as assistant professor of engineering in the Firth College, of which he became principal in 1889. In the same year he was also made professor of engineering. He continued to act in these capacities when Sheffield Technical School became independent of Firth College; in 1897 the two institutions were, however, merged with several others, into Sheffield University College, of which Professor Ripper was professor of engineering.

In 1905, University College became the University of Sheffield; Professor Ripper continued to occupy the chair of engineering, and was also appointed dean of the faculty of applied science. He was made, in 1917, professor of mechanical engineering and dean of the faculty of engineering, and in the same year he succeeded Mr. H. A. L. Fisher as vice-chancellor of the University, a position which he held for two years. Perhaps his most appreciated work at Sheffield was the founding of the Sheffield Trades Technical Societies, in 1919, which was an outcome of his constant efforts to keep technical education in touch with industry. In 1923 he retired and was made emeritus professor of mechanical engineering and adviser in technology to the Applied Science Committee.

Among the many honours he received were that of Companion of Honour, in 1917, for his services as vice-chairman of the Sheffield Committee on Munitions. He was awarded the degree of D.Eng. by the University of Sheffield in 1908, and that of D.Sc. by the University of Bristol in 1912, in recognition of his scientific work. During his retirement he lived at Brighton, where his death occurred on 13th August 1937.

Professor Ripper was elected an Associate of the Institution in 1884, no less than fifty-three years ago, and was transferred to Membership in 1886. He was also for many years a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

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