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George Gerald Stoney

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1942.

George Gerald Stoney (1863–1942) of C. A. Parsons and Co, mechanical engineer.

1863 November 28th. Born in Dublin the eldest of five children. His father had been employed as an astronomical observer by the Earl of Rosse, the father of Charles Algernon Parsons.

1882 Trinity College, Dublin.

1887 Engineering degree.

1887 worked with his uncle, B. B. Stoney, chief engineer of the Dublin Port and Docks Board

1888 Joined Clarke, Chapman and Co where he worked with Charles Algernon Parsons.

1889 Moved with Parsons to form C. A. Parsons and Co; worked initially as a fitter.

1893 Manager of the searchlight reflector department, and foreman of the test house.

Worked with Parsons on the reaction turbine; several joint patents.

1895 chief designer of the steam turbine department.

1910 technical manager of the entire Heaton works.

1911 elected FRS.

1912 Left Parsons; worked as consultant with a licensee of Parsons.

WWI: joint secretary of the 4 Tyneside Irish battalions and member of the Admiralty board of invention and research, and on the anti-submarine scientific research committee.

1917 Professor of mechanical engineering in the College of Technology at Manchester.

1926 Left Manchester.

Director of research at Heaton; conducted experimental optical work with Sir Howard Grubb, Parsons and Co.

1930 Retired.

1942 Died at his home in Newcastle upon Tyne on 15 May.


1942 Obituary [1]

A FURTHER link with the early development of the Parsons steam turbine and its applications for land and marine use has been broken by the death, on Friday, May 15th, at his home, Oakley, Heaton Road, Newcastle-on-Tyne, of Dr. Gerald Stoney, who throughout many years was in close touch with the late Sir Charles Parsons and collaborated with him in much experimental and scientific research work. We believe that Dr. Stoney was the last survivor of the crew which manned the "Turbinia" when she made her first appearance in 1897.

George Gerald Stoney was the eldest son of the late Mr. G. Johnstone Stoney, Sc.D., F.R.S., and was born in Dublin on November 28th, 1863.

He was educated privately and entered Trinity College, Dublin, where he had a distinguished career and was Second Senior Moderator and Gold Medallist in Experimental Science. He gained the M.A.I. (Dublin) degree and served for some time with the late Bindon Blood Stoney, F.R.S., at the office of the Port and Docks Board at Dublin. In 1888 he joined Sir Charles Parsons, who was then a partner in Clarke, Chapman, Parsons and Co., and was engaged at Park House, Gateshead, on work connected with electric lamps and with the first unipolar dynamos. In the same year the first four turbo-alternators to be built were constructed for a designed output of 75 kW at 4800 r.p.m., generating single-phase current at 1000 volts and 80 cycles per second. They were installed in the Forth Banks power station at Newcastle-on-Tyne.

In 1889 the firm of C. A. Parsons and Co., Ltd., was founded, and the now famous Heaton Works were begun. The story of the development of the Parsons steam turbine and its application to industrial uses has been told with a wealth of illustration in the two series of articles which appeared in our issues of January 12th to June 22nd, 1934, and January 11th to April 12th, 1935, and were subsequently published in book form by Constable and Co., Ltd. In all these developments Dr. Stoney worked closely with Sir Charles and would never claim credit for anything, preferring to give all the credit to Parsons. Indeed, it is difficult to say how much was due to Stoney. In technical matters we are given to understand that he was responsible for the design of the automatic steam operated rocking gear, which was used for the brushes of the early D.C. turbo-generators before carbon brushes came into more general use.

Not only did Gerald Stoney take a leading part in land turbine work, but he also interested himself keenly in the marine applications of the Parsons steam turbine. He was the last of the original shareholders of the small pioneer company which Sir Charles Parsons formed to investigate the application of the turbine to the propulsion of vessels, which, we may recall, consisted of Lord Rosse (Sir Charles' brother), Mr. J. B. Simpson, Mr. Christopher Leyland, Mr. Norman Cookson, Mr. Campbell Swinton and others. He had much to do with the engining of the " Turbinia," which ran her measured mile trial in December of 1896 and was again on trial in April of 1897. Then followed the machinery for the destroyers "Viper" and "Cobra," which suffered loss at sea, the "Viper" in a fog off the Channel Islands and the "Cobr " in a storm in the North Sea. These were discouraging losses, but they spurred on progress.

About that time an interesting machine going through the Heaton shops was the Elberfeld turbine, which, Stoney relates, stripped her blading during the official trials owing to the superheat having been allowed to run up too high. It was with characteristic energy re-bladed and got going again in about three days.

Gerald Stoney was a member of the Institutions of Civil, Mechanical and Electrical Engineers, and he also took a keen interest in other technical and scientific institutions. He read many papers in collaboration with Sir Charles Parsons, among which we may recall " Trials of Steam Turbines Driving Dynamos," read before the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1901, and that on "The Steam Turbine as Applied to Electrical Engineering," delivered before the Electrical in 1904. In the same year came the Civils' paper on "Recent Advances in Engineering, which a year later was followed by "The Steam Turbine."

In 1908, in collaboration with Mr. A. H. Law, Stoney read a paper before the Institution of Electrical Engineer on "High-speed Electrical Machinery," and the year following he gave the Cantor Lecturer of the Royal Society of Arts, taking as his subject "Steam Turbines." Other papers we may refer to include that on cc The Tension of Metallic Films Deposited by Electrolysis," which appears in the cc Proceedings" of the Royal Society, of which he was a Fellow. He also gave other scientific papers before the Royal Dublin Society.

In 1917 Dr. Stoney, whose D.Sc. degree was conferred by the University of Durham, was offered and accepted the post of Professor of Mechanical Engineering in the College of Technology and in the Victoria University of Manchester, a position which brought him into close touch with young engineers during the late war and post-war years. His charm of manner, his good humour and his practical knowledge, combined with experimental and scientific attainments, endeared him to many of his students and colleagues. In his Manchester period he read a paper on " High-speed Turbine Gears" before the Manchester Association of Engineers.

He left Manchester in 1926 and returned to C. A. Parsons and Co., Ltd., where he took up the work of director of research.

In 1938 he accepted the invitation of the Institution of Electrical Engineers to deliver the Second Parsons Memorial Lecture, and took as his subject " Scientific Activities of the Late Hon. Sir Charles A. Parsons," dealing with these in his own inimitable way.......[more]


1943 Obituary [2]

GEORGE GERALD STONEY. D.Sc., F.R.S., was born in Dublin on 28th November 1863, the eldest son of Dr. G. Johnstone Stoney, F.R.S., and was educated privately at home. In 1887 he graduated B.A.I. at Trinity College, Dublin, and became an engineering pupil for one year with his uncle Bindon Blood Stoney, F.R.S., who was engineer to the Dublin Port and Docks Board. In 1888 he joined the Hon. C. A. Parsons who was then junior partner and chief electrical engineer with Messrs. Clarke, Chapman and Sons, of Gateshead-on-Tyne. In 1889 Mr. Parsons founded his own works at Heaton, Newcastle upon Tyne, and was accompanied by Stoney who for a time worked in the shops as a fitter and in 1893 became manager of the mirror department and of the test house where completed turbogenerators were tested under steam before dispatch.

In 1894 Stoney was married to Isabella Mary, second daughter of Michael Lowes of Corbridge-on-Tyne. There were no children.

It was during the period 1894-7 that the propulsion of the S.Y. Turbinia by steam turbines was developed, and Stoney was one of the original crew, being at the time of his death the only survivor.

In 1895 Stoney was chief designer in the steam turbine department. He also became chief electrical designer for both high-speed d.c. dynamos and alternators, and took part in much experimental work leading to several patents taken out in conjunction with Mr. Parsons. In 1908, in collaboration with his chief electrical assistant A. H. Law, he read a paper on "High-speed Electrical Machinery" which was awarded the Institution premium of the Institution of Electrical Engineers. His Cantor lectures to the Royal Society of Arts in 1909 were a very ably written account of the state of the art of building steam turbines and high-speed electric generators at that time.

In 1911 Stoney was elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society. He had already become technical manager of the entire Heaton Works, but unfortunately differences on administrative matters, which his temperament did not permit him to compose, led ultimately to his resignation in 1912. During the 24 years between 1888 and 1912 he had seen the steam turbine develop in size from 32 kW. to 25,000 kW. on land, and from 2,300 s.h.p. to 74,000 s.h.p. at sea.

For a time Stoney took up consulting work, and at the outbreak of war in 1914 he became one of the secretaries of the Tyneside Irish battalions. In 1917 he went to Manchester as Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the College of Technology, where he remained during the next nine years, becoming Hon. D.Sc. of Durham University in 1920.

In 1926, at the invitation of the Hon. Sir Charles Parsons, Stoney returned to Heaton Works as director of research. During the years 1926-30 he carried out a great deal of experimental work in steam turbines, condensing plant, high-speed pumps and fans, and other subjects. He also reorganized the searchlight department at Heaton Works and directed the experimental optical work of Sir Howard Grubb, Parsons and Company at the adjacent premises at Walkergate.

In 1930, in his sixty-seventh year, Stoney retired, but he maintained active interest in the work of the International Steam Tables Committee, the International Electrotechnical Commission, and the British Standards Institution.

In private life Stoney was kindly and sympathetic. After his retirement he frequently enjoyed a day at Heaton Works, seeing what was going on, and was never tired of entertaining at home old colleagues who came to spend the evenings with him. He had a fund of knowledge on a wide variety of scientific subjects and his reminiscences and Irish humour were a delight.

Stoney was elected a Member of the Institution in 1914 and for a great many years he gave valuable help to its work in a variety of directions. He was a member of the Steam Nozzles Research Committee from its inception in 1914 until its work was concluded in 1930. In addition he was a keen supporter of the work of the Local Branches, serving on the Committee of the North Western Branch from its earliest days, and becoming its Chairman in 1925, in which year he also served on the Council of the Institution. He subsequently served on the Committee of the North Eastern Branch. He contributed a paper, jointly with the Hon. Sir Charles Parsons, on "Trials of Steam Turbines for driving Dynamos" to the Institution in 1901, and in 1914 he presented another paper on "The Effect of Vacuum in Steam Turbines".

On 15th May 1942, after a short illness, he died at his home at Oakley, Heaton, in his seventy-ninth year.


1942 Obituary [3]

GEORGE GERALD STONEY, D.Sc, B.A., F.R.S., died on the 15th May, 1942, at Heaton, in his 79th year. He had achieved much and had wide interests as a scientist, engineer and inventor.

Born in Dublin on the 28th November, 1863, he was the eldest son of Dr. G. Johnstone Stoney, F.R.S., and as a boy was educated privately at home.

In 1887 he graduated B.A.I, at Trinity College, Dublin, and became an engineering pupil for one year with his uncle, Bindon Blood Stoney, F.R.S., who was engineer to the Dublin Port and Docks Board.

In 1888 he joined the Hon. C. A. Parsons, who was then Junior Partner and Chief Electrical Engineer with Messrs. Clarke, Chapman, Parsons and Co., Gateshead-upon-Tyne.

In 1889 Parsons founded his own works at Heaton, Newcastle-on-Tyne, and Stoney for a time worked in the shops as a fitter, and in 1893 became Manager of the Mirror Department and of the Test House where completed turbo- generators were tested under steam. During the period 1894-1897 the propulsion of the S.Y. "Turbinia" by steam turbines was developed, and Stoney was one of the original crew, being at the time of his death the only survivor. In 1895, he was Chief Designer in the Steam Turbine Department, and later became Chief Electrical Engineer for both high-speed d.c. dynamos and alternators, and then Technical Manager of the Heaton works. He took part in much experimental work, and several patents were taken out in conjunction with Parsons.

He became Chairman of the Newcastle Local Section (now North-Eastern Centre) of The Institution in 1904, which he had joined as a Member in 1893. In 1908, in collaboration with Mr. A. H. Law? he read a paper on "High- Speed Electrical Machinery," which was awarded the Institution Premium. His Cantor Lectures to the Royal Society of Arts in 1909 were a very ably written account of the state of the art of building steam turbines and high- speed electric generators at that time.

In 1911 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.

He retired from his position with Messrs. C. A. Parsons and Co. in 1912. During the 24 years between 1888 and 1912 he had seen the steam turbine and generator develop in size from 32 kW to 25 000 kW and the change from d.c. to a.c. generation. He then took up consulting work, and at the outbreak of war in 1914 became one of the secretaries of the Tyneside Irish Battalions.

In 1917 he went to Manchester as Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the College of Technology, where he remained for the next nine years, becoming Hon. D.Sc. of Durham University in 1920.

In 1926, at the invitation of the Hon. Sir Charles Parsons, he returned to the Heaton works as Director of Research. During the years 1926- 1930 he carried out a great deal of experimental work on steam turbines, condensing plant, high-speed pumps and fans, and other subjects. He also reorganized the Searchlight Department at the Heaton works and directed the experimental optical work of Sir Howard Grubb, Parsons and Co., at the adjacent works at Walkergate.

In 1930, in his 67th year, he retired, but he maintained active interest in the work of the International Steam Tables Committee, the International Electrotechnical Commission and the British Standards Institution.

In private life he was kindly and sympathetic. After his retirement he frequently enjoyed a day at the Heaton works seeing what was going on, and he was never tired of entertaining at home old colleagues who came to spend the evenings with him. He married Isabella Mary, second daughter of Michael Lowes, of Corbridge-on-Tyne. There were no children.


1942 Obituary [4]



See Also

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Sources of Information

  • Biography of George Stoney, by Claude Gibb, ODNB [1].