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.

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

Geography Teacher

£24000 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...

E150/2014 - English Language Checker (Grade B3)

On Application: Council of Europe: The European Court of Human Rights’s judgme...

Marketing Executive

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Charter Selection: A professional services company ...

Project Manager - Bristol South West

£400 - £450 per day: Orgtel: Project Manager (PM), Key Banking Client, Retail ...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice