G. B. R. Feilden

Champion of high standards in British engineering design

At the beginning of the Report of the Feilden Committee on Engineering Design, delivered to the government of Harold Macmillan in 1963, comes the following passage: The engineering profession has a lower social and economic status in Britain than in other highly industrialised countries. Technology attracts a lower proportion of the ablest school leavers than science and, of those who take engineering degrees and enter engineering industry, most are attracted by research and management appointments; very few take up design as a career.

Geoffrey Bertram Robert Feilden, engineer: born London 20 February 1917; engineer, Power Jets 1940-46; engineer, Rushton and Hornsby 1946-49, Chief Engineer, Turbine Department 1949-54, Engineering Director 1954-59; managing director, Hawker Siddeley Brush Turbines 1959-61; FRS 1959; group technical director, Davy-Ashmore 1961-1968; Chairman, Committee on Engineering Design 1963; CBE 1966; Deputy Director General, British Standards Institution 1968-70, Director General 1970-81; married first 1946 Elizabeth Gorton (one son, two daughters; marriage dissolved 1961), second Diana Angier (née Lloyd); died Painswick, Gloucestershire 1 May 2004.

At the beginning of the Report of the Feilden Committee on Engineering Design, delivered to the government of Harold Macmillan in 1963, comes the following passage:

The engineering profession has a lower social and economic status in Britain than in other highly industrialised countries. Technology attracts a lower proportion of the ablest school leavers than science and, of those who take engineering degrees and enter engineering industry, most are attracted by research and management appointments; very few take up design as a career.

If there has since been a significant change for the better, it can in part be ascribed to the chairman of the committee, G.B.R. Feilden, who was then group technical director of the engineering company Davy-Ashmore and a member of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

In 1962 and 1963 Feilden and his colleagues, S.H. Grylls, chief engineer at Rolls-Royce, Professor Owen Saunders, head of Mechanical Engineering at Imperial College, London and Dr M.C. de Malherbe, also at Imperial, took a massive amount of evidence from such distinguished people as Alec Issigonis, chief designer of the Mini, the engineer Sir John Baker and Sir Christopher Hinton of the Central Electricity Generating Board.

Feilden wrote the report himself, beautifully and succinctly. The committee recommended that action be taken to impress upon the managements of engineering businesses the vital importance of the design function and the need to encourage more talented engineers to make their careers in design.

Feilden urged that all available means be used, especially television, to draw attention to the importance of engineering in the national economy. He passionately strove to increase the status of designers within the engineering profession

He put forward ways of encouraging experiments in methods of teaching design at undergraduate and postgraduate level, and to reorganise the training of engineers to include more emphasis on modern production methods, works organisation, costs and the influence of design. He recommended strategies to bring about a closer integration of the practical and academic elements of engineering education.

Feilden proposed to establish institutes at universities and colleges for advanced studies in particular fields of design, and to establish a higher degree in Engineering Design. He was ahead of his time in encouraging the use of computers to increase the productivity of designers. He also put forward proposals to use government purchasing procedures to insist upon the highest standards of engineering design in the equipment produced for the armed forces, civil establishments and the public sector industry.

Above all, Feilden wanted to ensure that British standards always encouraged good design practice. He was to champion this particular cause in his capacity as Deputy Director General (1968-70) and Director General (1970-81) of the British Standards Institution. In all the years in which I knew him as an officer of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, he lost no opportunity to preach the importance of design.

Geoffrey Bertram Robert Feilden was the son of Major Robert Humphrey Feilden, who had suffered from gassing on the Western Front in 1917 and who had emigrated for health reasons to British Columbia. Feilden would recall how he played around with the workings of a single wire telephone system in the Okanagan Valley and carried out simple experiments on discarded Leclanché cells. He was a child, in his own words, of inordinate curiosity.

In 1925 he came back to Britain and won a major scholarship to Bedford School and an exhibition to King's College, Cambridge, where he took first class honours in the Mechanical Sciences tripos. By luck (which I was to share 15 years later), he was given the opportunity to read part two of the Economics tripos and was supervised by Joan Robinson, author of the seminal work The Economics of Imperfect Competition (1933), Richard Kahn, who worked out the multiplier effect for Keynes's General Theory, and indeed, occasionally by Maynard Keynes himself.

Graduating in July 1939 he joined Unilever and from there was sent to Power Jets, working in particular on the Gloster E28/39 prototype which had been designed as a fighter engine. The young Feilden, engineering economist, was made manager of the test programme, and at the insistence of Sir Frank Whittle, took a leading part in the installation of the W1X engine for taxi-ing trials. The Gloucester Whittle E28/39 flew for the first time at RAF Cranwell on 15 May 1941, ushering in the age of jet propulsion.

When peace arrived, Feilden joined the Lincoln firm of Ruston and Hornsby, and as technical director was responsible for turbine development which provided maintenance-free service in a way that was simply not possible with diesel engines.

In 1959 he became managing director of Hawker Siddeley Brush Turbines - and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society the same year - moving to Davy-Ashmore in 1961. He joined the British Standards Institution in 1968, becoming Director General two years later. He was a familiar contributor at both the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee and at the meetings of the Foundation for Science and Technology.

A memorial service for Bob Feilden will take place at St Paul's, Wilton Place, in London on 28 September.

Tam Dalyell



Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
Life & Style
life
Arts & Entertainment
Back in the suit: There are only so many variations you can spin on the lives or adventures of Peter Parker
filmReview: Almost every sequence and set-up in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 seems familiar from some earlier superhero film
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon in Game of Thrones
tv
Life & Style
Father and son: Michael Williams with son Edmund
lifeAs his son’s bar mitzvah approaches, CofE-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys he’s experienced in learning about his family’s other faith
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
musicJethro Tull frontman leads ‘prog rock’ revival
Sport
Gareth Bale dribbled from inside his own half and finished calmly late in the final to hand Real a 2-1 win at the Mestalla in Valencia
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
comedy... writes Jenny Collier, the comedian whose recent show was cancelled because there were 'too many women' on the bill
News
House proud: keeping up with the Joneses now extends to children's playhouses
newsLuxury playhouses now on the market for as much as £800
News
news
Life & Style
Stir it up: the writer gets a lichen masterclass from executive chef Vivek Singh of the Cinnamon restaurants
food + drinkLichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines
Extras
indybest
Arts & Entertainment
Ken Loach (left) and Mike Leigh who will be going head to head for one of cinema's most coveted prizes at this year's Cannes Film Festival
filmKen Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
News
The academic, Annamaria Testa, has set out on her website a list of 300 English words that she says Italians ought to stop using
newsAcademic speaks out against 'Italianglo' - the use of English words in Italian language
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit