Obituary: Professor Leslie Kastner

Norman Borrett
Thursday 02 January 1997 00:02

Obituary: Professor Leslie Kastner

Leslie Kastner was an academic of the old school who pursued his research interests because of their intrinsic worth, in contrast with the present tendency in universities to measure everything in terms of market value. In his 21 years with the Engineering Department at King's College London, he succeeded in strengthening, considerably, the esteem in which King's College engineers are held in the outside world. He secured the establishment of the professorships of Powder Technology and Internal Combustion Engineering and his own research attracted the conferment from his own university, Cambridge, of the degree of Doctor of Science in 1967.

Kastner was born in 1911, the son of Professor Leon E. Kastner, a professor of French Language and Literature at Manchester University. He was educated at Dreghorn Castle School, Midlothian, and at Highgate School, from where he went to Clare College, Cambridge, to read for the Mechanical Science Tripos.

On graduation, he joined Davies and Metcalfe, a company of locomotive engineers in Stockport, first as an apprentice and between 1934 and 1936 as a development engineer. In 1936 he was appointed to the Osborne Reynolds Research Fellowship at Manchester University, where in 1938 he became a lecturer in Engineering and, in 1946, a senior lecturer. His early research was concerned with the behaviour and design of ejectors; steam or air- driven devices used for pumping air or other gases, thus creating a vacuum. This arose from his experience during his apprenticeship, which involved the manufacture of such devices. At Manchester, he came under the influence of Professor G.F. Mucklow and this inspired his interest in the thermodynamics and gas dynamics of internal combustion engines, a research area which he subsequently continued at Swansea and King's College London. He was awarded the Graduates' Prize of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1939 and the Herbert Ackroyd Stuart Prize in 1943. He was later, in 1956, also awarded the Dugald Clerk Prize.

In 1948 he moved to become Professor of Engineering at the University College of Swansea, becoming Head of the Combined Engineering Department in 1949. This coincided with the beginning of post-war expansion in universities and Swansea, under the direction of its newly appointed Principal J.S. (later Lord) Fulton, was determined to take full advantage of the opportunities available. Kastner's period at Swansea saw the commencement there of a building programme in engineering, resulting eventually in the creation of the three separate departments of Mech-anical, Civil and Electrical Engineering.

A similar situation applied at King's College London, where he was appointed Professor in 1955. Civil and Mechanical Engineering were combined and, in his first year, the college was concerned with the separation of the two disciplines. Kastner became Head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Kastner became a member of the Council of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1955 and, thereafter, played a full part in the institution's main committees, with eight years on the important Membership Committee and even longer on the equally important Education Committee. He was also, over the years, a member of various committees of the Council of Engineering Institutions.

At London University he took a full share as a member of committees, including being Dean of the Faculty of Engineering of the university from 1974 to 1976. Within King's College he held the chairmanship of several major committees including that responsible for the supervision of the Macadam Building, a new wing to the college which provided much-needed additional facilities for both students and Engineering. His contribution to college life was recognised by his being made a Fellow of the college in 1974 and his election as a Member of the Corporation and of the Council of the college.

Kastner was a very private person, with a rather formal manner, who possessed a quiet sense of humour. He took up painting and spent much of his retirement producing water-colours. He also spent many hours walking on Dartmoor, where he had a cottage, and in Wales, with his wife Joyce, whom he married in 1958. However, a principal activity in his retirement was his research and subsequent biography of Augier de Busbecq, a Habs- burg ambassador of the 16th century. This gave him much enjoyment over a period of some 10 years, culminating with the treatise's being presented to the Austrian Library in Vienna.

Norman Borrett

Leslie James Kastner, engineer: born 10 December 1911; apprentice, Davies and Metcalfe Locomotive Engineers 1930-31, 1934-36, development engineer 1936-38; Osborne Reynolds Research Fellow, Manchester University 1938, Lecturer in Engineering 1941-46, Senior Lecturer 1946-48; Professor of Engineering, University College of Swansea 1948-55; Professor of Mechanical Engineering, King's College London 1955-76 (Emeritus); Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, London University 1974-76; married 1958 Joyce Lillingston; died Eastbourne 30 October 1996.

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