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Wilfred Rothery Wood

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Wilfred Rothery Wood ( -1939), managing director, and chairman of the Underfeed Stoker Co


1939 Obituary [1]

Everyone who knew him ·will hear with sorrow of the death of Mr. W . R. Wood in New York on July 14th. Although he retained his American citizenship, he lived so long in this country, was so attached to it, and so critical of certain aspects of American life, that many people must have regarded him as an Englishman. With his unquestionable skill as a combustion engineer was coupled a lively wit and a charm of conversation which made him a very desirable companion.

He came to this country in 1899, leaving the American Stoker Company to take an active part in the formation of the Underfeed Stoker Company, Ltd., a company in which he once successively held the position of general manager, managing director, and chairman. The association of that company with a group of companies controlled by the International Combustion Corporation of America, and the formation of International Combustion, Ltd., were effected by him and are sufficiently recent to be well known.

He will always be remembered as a pioneer in the development of the forced draught retort type stokers. The Class B Underfeed stoker was designed by him shortly after his arrival in this country, and with the retort type stokers for water-tube boilers, formed for some years the main part of the company's business. In both these stokers the principle of a pressure supply of overhead air to secure smokeless combustion was employed.

Later he invented, designed, and constructed a forced draught travelling grate stoker. Despite the opposition it encountered, this stoker may be regarded as the forerunner of a type in general use today.

Another important development for which he was responsible was the design of a plate type air heater, and his advocacy of air heating did much to secure the adoption of air heaters as standard practice in the power stations of this and other countries.

W. R. Wood took an active part in securing the interest of power station engineers of this country in the use of powdered fuel for power generation and this led him to the realisation that this system would justify an entirely different conception of the proper relation between the combustion chamber and the boiler. The Wood steam generator, designed and patented by him, was the result of this conviction, and the essential features of this boiler are to be seen in many of the designs for modern plants.

His attractive personality, made up of genius, an aptitude for concentrated effort, and a keen sense of humour, secured for him a great many friends, both in technical and social circles. His outlook on life was broad enough to enable him to enjoy its pleasures as well as its work. He was a keen lover of the river and sea ; boating, yachting, and golf afforded him joys of which he had a real appreciation. His friends will remember him for these things, but technologists of the future will have to recognise that he exerted a great influence in the field of combustion engineering all over the world.


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