Obituary: Professor C. M. White

Maurice J. Kenn
Thursday 20 January 1994 00:02
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Cedric Masey White, civil engineer: born 10 October 1898; Lecturer, Civil Engineering, King's College London 1927-33; Reader, Civil Engineering, Assistant Professor, Imperial College of Science and Technology 1933-45, Professor of Fluid Mechanics and Hydraulic Engineering 1946-66 (Emeritus); founder member, Hydraulic Research Board 1946-51, 1959-67; married 1921 Dorothy Lowe, 1946 Josephine Ramage (died 1991; one daughter); died Ontario 27 December 1993.

C. M. WHITE was shy and introspective by nature. Nevertheless, because of his alert, incisive and perceptive mind, he stimulated and made a lasting impact on those engineering undergraduates, postgraduates, researchers, colleagues and others who came under his influence both at King's College, London, in the 1920s, and at the Imperial College of Science and Technology, from 1933 until his retirement, in 1966.

Cedric Masey White was born in 1898 and educated privately at Nottingham before pursuing his engineering studies at University College, Nottingham. During the First World War, he served for two years in the newly formed Tank Corps.

He was very much an individualist and throughout his academic career applied novel and fundamental thinking to his chosen field of civil- engineering hydraulics and applied fluid-mechanics. The productive years at King's College, London, where he became a Lecturer in 1927, with Professor AH Jameson as Head of Department, and with SJ Davies, E. Giffen and HM Clarke as influential colleagues, were followed by an equally fruitful period as Reader in the Hawksley Hydraulics Laboratory at Imperial College, London, where Professor AJS Pippard was then Head of the Civil Engineering Department. Pippard's philosophy was to appoint the best person for the job and then to give them a free rein, a philosophy eminently suited to a man of White's character and calibre.

As Reader in Hydraulics at Imperial College, White revitalised the Hydraulics Laboratory and between 1933 and 1939, with RA Bagnold, RV Burns, FC Colebrook, EF Gibbs and RP Pendennis-Wallis, pursued and supported fundamental researches into such topics as wave-pressures, sediment transport, spillway design, pipe and channel friction, cavitation, drag forces and flood predictions. During the Second World War, studies concerned with the design of pneumatic breakwaters, with Mulberry Harbour, and with similar projects were undertaken.

In 1946 White was given a personal Chair of Fluid Mechanics and Hydraulic Engineering. He undertook studies on problems concerned with thermal stratification of water reservoirs, with spillway designs for hydro-electric power installations, and similar topics. In addition, he gave full encouragement to his younger colleagues in their various pursuits concerned with flow-induced gate vibrations, wind effects on water, cavitation damage on concrete, air-entraining siphonic flows, river-flood control and associated topics.

These colleagues, some of whom are still active in the hydraulics field, included JRD Francis, PO Wolf, T. O'Donnell, DH Kent, MJ Kenn, P. Minton and JD Harwick.

With substantial support from the English Electric Company, White introduced a successful one- year postgraduate course in Hydro- Power for home and overseas graduates. This course ran for two decades or so, only ending with the simultaneous retirements, in 1966, of White and Dr Charles Jaeger.

Immediately before his retirement from the newly expanded Imperial College, 'CMW' witnessed, in 1964, the completion of a new Hydraulics Laboratory which incorporated many of his design concepts. Special features included a large visual tank, a 'Coriolis' turntable (for hydraulic model testing) and a tall working section which deliberately exceeded one atmosphere in water height.

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