OBITUARY : Edmund Hambly

Edmund Hambly was a distinguished independent consulting engineer whose work ranged from troubleshooting offshore platforms and bridge design to underpinning an Oxford college. He was also the 130th president - and one of its youngest - of the Institution of Civil Engineers. His inquisitiveness, analytical skills and sound judgement, combined with his courtesy, strong character, Quaker background, dislike of dogma, high ethical stance and meticulous preparation, made for an extremely talented, versatile and professional engineer.

From Eton, Hambly went on to First Class honours and the structures prize in the Engineering Tripos at Cambridge. Research in soil mechanics under Ken Roscoe followed, with the invention and development of a ''bi-axial'' (two-dimensional) and then a ''true tri-axial'' (three-dimensional) apparatus for a better understanding of the deformation of soil under engineering conditions. Roscoe insisted on a thorough approach, which Hambly retained throughout his life. At Cambridge he met and married Elizabeth Gorham, who became his lifelong companion and partner.

Hambly left Cambridge to spend five years in industry. He worked on the design of structures with Ove Arup and Partners, on the construction of an underpass with Kier Ltd, and the design of bridges with Gifford and Partners. He developed simple physical models and hand calculations, which led to the publication in 1976 of his first book, Bridge Deck Behaviour, illustrated with sketches or photographs on almost every page. In 1974, aged 31, he set up as an independent consultant, working from his home in Hertfordshire.

An early commission was to interview designers and constructors of bridge foundations for the Building Research Establishment. The result was a second book, Bridge Foundations and Substructures (1979), copiously illustrated with thumbnail sketches and stressing the importance of simple details. Writing books and producing some 40 technical papers kept Hambly busy when work was slack.

As a visiting professor at Oxford from 1989 to 1992 Hambly encouraged students to set him problems and ''make him sweat'' out a solution in his lectures. He in turn set them real problems to which his third book, Structural Analysis by Example (1994), gives simple solutions and physical reasons behind complex calculations.

His skills were used by the oil and gas industry to advise on the safety of offshore structures damaged during installation or by fatigue from waves. Asked to investigate a possible foundation failure of the Ranger 1 jack-up drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico that had led to loss of life, he found the cause to be fatigue, amplified by the vibration of the structure in response to waves. He illustrated his findings with a simple model showing the modes of vibration and potential instability of a jack-up rig. His experience in alerting owners of other offshore structures to inherent design defects led to his spearheading guidelines on warnings of preventable disasters by the Fellowship of Engineering, later the Royal Academy of Engineering. He became a firm, patient and persuasive chairman of committees.

Edmund Hambly became a Vice-President of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1991 and President in 1994. His presidential address, ''Advancing Civil Engineers'', showed how videos and illustrations could make engineering more fun, and encouraged younger engineers to have a greater role in the profession. He hoped to make engineering more valued by society and challenged engineers to make towns and cities attractive and more sustainable and construction more environmentally friendly.

A humble and generous man, Hambly drew great strength from the calm and support of his wife and family. He was inspired by the work of early scientists, particularly Robert Hooke, whose contribution he felt had been under-recognised. Hambly's concern for the challenges facing the developing world was exemplified by his great interest in the efforts of RedR (Registered Engineers for Disaster Relief). He brought to the Institution of Civil Engineers the same commitment that he gave to all his professional work.

His early death, just five months into his presidency, robs the engineering profession of an inspiring enthusiast and hardworking leader.

Peter Blair-Fish

Edmund Cadbury Hambly, civil and structural engineer: born Seer Green, Buckinghamshire 28 September 1942; Research Fellow, Emmanuel College, Cambridge 1967-69; independent consultant 1974-95; Trustee, Bourneville Village Trust 1979-88; Fellow, Institution of Structural Engineers 1982; Fellow, Royal Academy of Engineering 1984; Chairman, Offshore Engineering Society 1989-90; Fellow, Institution of Civil Engineers 1990, President 1994-95; Fellow, Institution of Mechanical Engineers 1991; married 1964 Elizabeth Gorham (three daughters, one son); died London 28 March 1995.

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

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

HR Manager (standalone) - London

Up to £40,000: Ashdown Group: Standalone HR Manager role for an SME business b...

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?