OBITUARIES : Professor Peter Benham
Wednesday 14 December 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.
- 1 Snoop Dogg and Jared Leto buy a stake in Reddit as A-list invests $50m
- 2 Prince held a Facebook Q&A and this is the only question he answered...
- 3 'F*ck it, I quit': KTVA reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
- 4 35,000 walrus gather ashore on north-west Alaska beach 'for a rest'
- 5 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
Snoop Dogg and Jared Leto buy a stake in Reddit as A-list invests $50m
Prince held a Facebook Q&A and this is the only question he answered...
Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
Brad Pitt, on the moment he completely lost his temper with Clint Eastwood's son
Jennifer Lawrence nude photos leak: More celebrities allegedly targeted as third wave of hacked images released
Exclusive: 'Putin's Russia has been my biggest regret,' says Nato's outgoing Secretary General
The Osborne Ultimatum: Chancellor’s benefits freeze bombshell will affect ten million households
There’s no excuse for Dave Lee Travis’s behaviour, but we need to keep a sense of proportion
Should gay sex be illegal? 16% of Britons think so
Mark Reckless becomes second Tory MP to defect to Ukip in a month
Benefits 'smart cards' plan revealed by Iain Duncan Smith to stop claimants spending welfare money on alcohol
- < Previous
- Next >
£28, 700: Whiskey Whiskey Tango: Property Management Company is seeking a brig...
£80 - 100k + Bonus: Guru Careers: A COO / Chief Operating Officer is needed to...
£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...
£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...