Macquorn Rankine

Biography of Macquorn Rankine

Professor Macquorn Rankine
Professor Macquorn Rankine

(William John) Macquorn Rankine (1820-1872) was Regius Professor of Civil Engineering and Mechanics from 1855 to 1872. He has been described as "the father of engineering science in this country", in recognition of his achievements as a theoretical scientist and as an educator.

Born in Edinburgh, Rankine was educated at that city's University. He worked as a civil engineer and published papers on practical engineering subjects and then on molecular physics and thermodynamics. He moved to Glasgow in 1851 and was appointed to the University's Chair of Civil Engineering and Mechanics four years later, proclaiming his intention to teach theory, practice and the application of theory to practice.

As Professor, Rankine worked closely with Glasgow shipbuilders on radical improvements to the design of vessels and their engines. He introduced the famous "sandwich courses" that required students to work with local engineering firms during their vacations, and he campaigned vigorously for the recognition of Engineering as a degree subject. Largely through his efforts, a Certificate of Proficiency in Engineering Science was introduced in 1863 and in 1872 the degree of BSc was offered for science subjects including Engineering.

Rankine conducted pioneering research in the fields of railway engineering, molecular physics and thermodynamics. He wrote more than 150 scientific papers and manuals as well as textbooks which became standard works of reference for students. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1853 and he was the first President of the Institution of Engineers in Scotland. Rankine was the co-founder and first President of the Institution of Engineers in Scotland, which later became the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland and is still in existence today.


Macquorn Rankine

Born 5 July 1820.
Died 24 December 1872.
GU Degree:
University Link: Professor
Occupation categories: civil engineers; mechanical engineers
NNAF Reference: GB/NNAF/P23815
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Record last updated: 17th Jun 2016

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