Thomas Petty (c1878-1941)
1942 Obituary 
THOMAS PETTY, whose death in his sixty-third year, on 15th December 1941, was as untimely as it was sudden, had spent the whole of his professional career with one firm, though his outlook and interests were as wide as the field covered by modern mechanical engineering. After a technical education at Bradford Technical College, and a short period of service with Messrs. Cole, Marchent, and Morley, he joined the staff of Messrs. Richardsons, Westgarth and Company, Ltd., at Hartlepool, and made rapid progress in the drawing office, where he became chief draughtsman in the Condensing Plant Department, and assistant chief draughtsman in the Marine Department in 1930, following this with promotion to the position of technical adviser to the directors from 1932 onwards.
During this period of forty-two years, he naturally became very well known to his colleagues, whose regard and esteem he rightly enjoyed, and to whom he was a never-failing source of knowledge, advice, and technical inspiration. No one having any difficult problem to solve would fail to be helped by discussing it with him, and no preoccupation of his own was too great to prevent him from laying it aside so that he might give close attention to the new problem at hand. Moreover, he displayed the true hall-marks of genuine learning in that he was always ready to learn from others, and to admit that this point or that fact had previously escaped his attention. To these qualities which, to the initiated, were sufficient indication of mental distinction, were added an artistic outlook, a flair for genuine friendliness, and a fund of humour, which will give his memory a lasting and special quality.
Throughout his career his work was characterized by the thorough and comprehensive way in which he analysed difficult problems,. and prepared his own solutions to meet them. His copious hand-written memoranda which remain, bear eloquent testimony to the painstaking care with which he worked, and will themselves be a valuable assembly of engineering knowledge and data, for those who will, in future, be confronted with the same or kindred problems.
His activities ranged throughout the field of marine engineering, including the development of a patented design for a semi-uniflow steam engine, a great deal of work in connection with four- and two-stroke heavy-oil engines, and the perfection of multifarious auxiliary equipment; whilst at one stage he took an active share in the design of large steam turbines for use in capital power stations, and was entirely au fait with water-tube boiler technique. His speciality, however, was the subject of high-vacuum land condensing plants, in connection with which he was in the front rank of technicians to the end of his career. Reference must be made to the paper published in 1929 under his name in The Engineer, vol. 147, entitled "Regenerative Surface Condensers", also to the companion paper published in the PROCEEDINGS of the Institution (vol. 145, p. 106) under the heading "Heat Transmission in Surface Condensers". In addition to these papers, he was a frequent contributor to engineering discussions, and whatever point he made, it could be relied upon to have both pith and merit.
A study of these two publications reveals the catholicity of his outlook, and well repays the time required, since it contains not only the story of the development of surface condensers, but also a most complete survey and analysis of modern condenser design. It was inevitable that the bulk of his work should be merged in the activities and products of his firm, so that no other published matter can be referred to, but the great value of his services was recognized by his directors, since his work was of the highest quality at all times.
He became an Associate Member of the Institution in 1935, and was well known throughout a small but exclusive group outside the circle of his immediate colleagues, who will join with them in regretting the termination of a career of such prolonged and genuine achievement, when it was still at the optimum of its Fruitfulness. One special characteristic of his work will remain as an inspiration to the younger generation who knew him. This was his steady pursuit of the ideal combination of theory and practice whereby machine designs were achieved, which met the requirements of commercial obligations, but more particularly displayed the maximum harmony of form and the greatest technical artistry. He would be the first to deprecate any assumption of importance, either for himself or his work, but those competent to judge will be unanimous that the ranks of those who work as applied scientists in the field of engineering are the poorer by his absence.