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British Industrial History

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George Alexander Hankins

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1950.

George Alexander Hankins (1895-1950)

1895 Born at Portsmouth the son of Henry Hankins, Assistant Fitter in HM Dockyard, and his wife Mary


1947 Bio Note. [1]

Dr. HANKINS was educated at the Royal Dockyard School, Portsmouth, and the Imperial College, South Kensington.

He has been on the staff of the National Physical Laboratory for many years and has published numerous papers describing his researches there. During the war he pursued some important investigations and developments for the Service Departments including the design of supersonic wind tunnels for ballistic research; he was appointed Superintendent of the Engineering Division in 1944. He served on the Council of the Institution as an Associate Member from 1933 to 1936.

Dr. Hankins is now Director of Mechanical Engineering Research with the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.


1950 Obituary [2]

"...George Alexander Hankins was born at Portsmouth on April 25, 1895, and after receiving the earlier part of his education at the Portsmouth Grammar School, he was accepted as an engineer-apprentice at Portsmouth Dockyard and continued his studies at the Royal Dockyard School..."


1951 Obituary [3]

GEORGE ALEXANDER HANKINS, born at Portsmouth on 25th April 1895, received his primary education at the Portsmouth Grammar School, entered the Dockyard in 1909 as an apprentice engine-fitter and continued his studies at the Royal Dockyard School, where he made notable progress.

In 1913 he obtained the first position, in the Admiralty final examination, among all the engineering students from all the Royal Dockyards. In the same year, he was awarded a Whitworth Exhibition and won a Royal Scholarship, proceeding to the Imperial College of Science and Technology, where, in 1918, he received the diploma of A.R.C.Sc., in spite of war service interruptions to his studies: he had served one year in the Royal Garrison Artillery and a further year, as inspector of materials and gun mechanisms, in Portsmouth Dockyard.

In 1917, he joined the scientific staff of the Engineering Department of the National Physical Laboratory and commenced his career of experimental research: in 1944, he was appointed Superintendent of that Department.

In May 1947, he became the first Director of Mechanical Engineering Research in the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, entrusted with the difficult and important task of planning and equipping the new D.S.I.R. Mechanical Engineering Research Establishment, at East Kilbride, near Glasgow, to which he had been appointed as its first Director. Under his leadership, considerable progress had been made with the construction of some of the new laboratories, many of the leading staff had been appointed, some experimental work had been commenced: it was while he was taking up occupancy of his new home at East Kilbride, on 2nd November 1950, that he suddenly collapsed and died at the tragically early age of fifty-five years.

With the exception of the last three years of his life, necessarily spent on administrative duties, Dr. Hankins' career was devoted to engineering researches and investigations, mainly in the field of the strengths and properties of materials of construction. Gifted with a talent for experimental research, possessing considerable analytical knowledge and having a firm background of practical engineering training, he was attracted throughout by problems whose solution would be of direct application to engineering practice and design. To this work he brought great qualities of creative thought, clear and balanced judgement, apparently inexhaustible energy and enthusiasm, an unusual inventive faculty in devising new testing machines and procedures and the even rarer faculty of proceeding through the research report stage to that of the practical application in industry.

His contributions to technical knowledge have established his reputation on a firm and lasting basis. Among his many publications, the papers he contributed to our PROCEEDINGS are probably the best indication of those fields of inquiry in which he made such notable additions to knowledge. His series of extensive studies of the hardness of metals, for example, including the exhaustive investigations of ball and cone indentation tests and the scratch test, are outstanding; for this he was awarded, in 1928, the D.Sc. (Eng.) degree of London University. His work on the effect of surface conditions on the fatigue strength of metals, with particular application to springs and spring steels, led to more efficient utilization of these materials and influenced steel manufacturing processes. In the field of cutting tools and machinability, his study of the mechanics of the cutting operation was of great value. He devoted considerable attention to welding problems and contributed greatly to an understanding and improvement of welded joints and welding procedure, chiefly applied to steel structures and pressure vessels. His work on deep drawing will also be remembered. He was deeply interested in fluid mechanics, especially the flow of gases at sonic and supersonic speeds: during the 1939-45 war, the vital need for a large supersonic wind tunnel gave him the opportunity to participate in the successful development and use of such a tunnel which gave valuable assistance to the war effort: this development, of which he was justly proud, was probably the last personal research on which he was actively engaged - a fitting climax to a brilliant research career.

Dr. Hankins was keenly devoted to the aims and work of the Institution. Elected an Associate Member in 1925, he served on the Council from 1933 to 1930; was transferred to full membership in 1939. Awarded the Crompton Medal in 1935, he received an Institution Prize in 1946; was joint author of a Centenary Lecture in 1947, and rendered valuable services to the Institution on many Committees. Every successive phase of his career, from his early Dockyard days, had helped to broaden his knowledge, to enrich his experience, establish his broad judgement of material things and appreciation of men which prepared him so fittingly to undertake his last, most difficult, task of planning, equipping, staffing, and directing the new national establishment devoted to mechanical engineering research on what will be, for the first time, a scale worthy of Great Britain; to that task he devoted himself unsparingly and, in doing so, undoubtedly overtaxed his constitution. He was taken before that task was completed, but the new Establishment remains as a solid, enduring memorial to his memory. Those of us who were privileged to be his close friends and colleagues over many years mourn deeply the loss of a very talented, most human, kind, modest, and understanding personality, endowed with indomitable courage.

(H. J. Gough, C.B., M.B.E., D.Sc., F.R.S. (Past-President)).


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