OBITUARIES : Professor Peter Benham

Peter Philip Benham, mechanical and aeronautical engineer: born 12 August 1927; Professor of Engineering, Queen's University, Belfast 1970-89, Pro Vice-Chancellor 1986-89; married Sheelagh MacLaughlin (two daughters); died Hillsborough 14 Novembe r 1994.

Peter Benham was a distinguished engineer and academic, known internationally for his work on the strength of materials and the properties of plastics. Most of his career was spent in Queen's University, Belfast, where he rose to the position of senior Pro Vice-Chancellor - a post he held from1986 to his retirement five years ago.

Benham was educated at Hurstpierpoint College, Sussex. In 1945 he joined the RAF and three years later decided he would become an engineer. His place in mechanical engineering at Queen's University marked a turning point in his life. He graduated with a First Class honours degree, but perhaps more importantly came into contact with Professor Frederick Warnock. Years later they were to write a book, Mechanics of Solids and Structures (1965), which became a standard student text all over the world.

It was also while a student that he became enchanted by Northern Ireland and although he worked for a number of years as a stress calculator for Vickers Armstrong in Weybridge, Surrey, and then as a lecturer at Imperial College, London, he was happy to take up in 1963 a senior lectureship at Queen's University, where he remained until 1989.

Benham's research work, under the guidance of Sir Hugh Ford, was initially on the fatigue of metals before finding his niche in the fatigue of plastics. His research papers were widely published and are regularly cited. His talents as a lecturer were sought all over the world and he held visiting professorships in the Universities of Waterloo, in 1968-69, and of Auckland and Canterbury, in 1984.

During his early years at Queen's, engineering was still not considered a suitable subject for university study and it was Benham who helped to establish engineering and in particular mechanical engineering as a leading discipline in the university. He also saw through the creation of the Ashby Building - purpose-built accommodation for the engineering department which opened in 1965.

In 1976 he switched disciplines to become Head of Department in aeronautical engineering. This was at the time of a ``thousand cuts'' imposed on universities, when, as he later said, ``the role of head of department was gradually changing from the gentlemanly captain to the devious manager''. Only the very skilful could meet the challenge.

Above all, Benham loved teaching. His lectures were always meticulously prepared, skilfully delivered and well received. He had a tremendous rapport with students and understood their needs. A testimony to his teaching ability is his textbooks, which ha v e remained in the best-seller list in one of the most competitive areas of the technical book market for over 30 years.

Throughout a very full academic life he maintained a strong interest in sport, classical music (he had a large collection of recordings) and art. He was a founder member of the squash club at Queen's and played right up to his retirement.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: Human Resources Manager

£28000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: A successful organisation...

Recruitment Genius: Internal Recruiter - Manufacturing

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Internal Recruiter (manufact...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager (CIPD) - Barking / East Ham - £50-55K

£50000 - £55000 per annum + 25 days holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Man...

Recruitment Genius: Operations / Project Manager

£40000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones