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British Industrial History

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Beatrice Shilling

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Beatrice (Tilly) Shilling OBE PhD MSc CEng (8 March 1909 – 18 November 1990) was a British aeronautical engineer and motor racer.

1909 Born in Waterlooville, Hampshire, daughter of a butcher

Educated in Surbiton before transferring in 1920 to the high schools for girls in Dorking.

In her teens she bought a second-hand motorcycle, which she dismantled and rebuilt.

Advised by the Women's Engineering Society she decided on engineering as a career.

1926 Apprenticed to Margaret Partridge and Dorothy Rowbotham working on rural electrification in Devon. During her time there Shilling was found working alone in a power station, in contravention of the International Labour Organization convention on night working for women.

1929 Funded by an interest-free loan from the National Society for Women’s Service, Shilling studied engineering at the University of Manchester (Sheila McGuffie (b. 1911) was also there at the time).

1932 Both she and McGuffie graduated with honours in electrical engineering. Shilling received a grant to remain at Manchester researching internal combustion engines with H. Wright Baker, leading to several publications and the award of an MSc in 1933. Unable to find alternative employment, she remained as a research assistant to G. F. Mucklow, a lecturer in engineering.

Shilling raced motorbikes in the 1930s, and, after the war, raced cars.

1934 Completed a lap of Brooklands at 100 mph on a Norton, a bike she serviced herself.

1936 Started work at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough as an assistant in the Technical Publications Department, writing aero-engine handbooks. After several months she secured a transfer to the Engine Department working on carburettors under W. C. Clothier.

1938 Married George Naylor. Despite this she was allowed to remain at RAE.

1939 After three promotions in just over two years, she became technical officer in charge of carburettor research.

WWII Her expertise on piston engines was such that she and her team contributed to work on carburettors, air intake de-icing, engine starting at low temperatures, oil tank design, and aircraft fuel systems. Her most well-known project involved finding a solution to a problem with the Merlin engines for which she invented "Miss Shilling's orifice", a small metal disc similar to a metal washer that restricted fuel flow to a carburettor. This helped prevent engine stall in the Merlin engines, which otherwise resulted in loss of power or even complete cut-out during certain manoeuvres.

1947 Moved to the Supersonics Division of the Aerodynamics Department.

1949 By now a principal scientific officer, she was appointed OBE for her wartime work.

1950 Became head of the ramjet section of the Guided Weapons Department. When ramjet work was transferred to the National Gas Turbine Establishment at Pyestock, she refused to move and struggled to find a new niche at RAE, eventually transferring to the Mechanical Engineering Department, working on life support for crews at high altitude and cooling of high-speed aircraft.

Late 1950s: she worked on heat transfer tests on a model of the liquid oxygen fuel tank being designed for the Blue Streak missile.

1960s: Contributed to a diverse range of projects including design of bobsleighs, motorcycle engines, and Grand Prix car cooling systems. Her final contributions were on the measurement of friction between aircraft tyres and runways.

1969 Retired from the RAE.

1983 The Women's Engineering Society made her an honorary member.

1990 Died in Farnborough.

See Also


Sources of Information

  • Wikipedia
  • Biography of Beatrice Shilling, ODNB