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
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all