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Christopher Cockerell
Born 4 June 1910(1910-06-04)
Cambridge, United Kingdom
Died 1 June 1999 (aged 88)
Hythe, Hampshire, United Kingdom
Residence England, United Kingdom
Citizenship British
Fields Engineering
Alma mater Peterhouse, Cambridge
Known for The Hovercraft

Sir Christopher Sydney Cockerell CBE FRS (4 June 1910 – 1 June 1999) was an English engineer, inventor of the hovercraft.

Contents

Life

Cockerell was born in Cambridge, where his father, Sir Sydney Cockerell, was curator of the Fitzwilliam Museum, having previously been the secretary of William Morris. Christopher Cockerell was educated at Gresham's School, Holt.[1] He then entered Cambridge University as an undergraduate member of Peterhouse, and where he studied engineering and was tutored by William Dobson Womersley. He began his career working for the Marconi company in 1935, and got married soon afterwards. He worked on radar systems during the Second World War.[2]

Cockerell was knighted in 1969 for his services to engineering. He died at Hythe in Hampshire.

The hovercraft

Cockerell's greatest invention, the hovercraft, grew out of work he began in 1953. He tested his theories using a hair-dryer and tin cans and found his working hypothesis to have potential, but the idea took some years to develop, and he was forced to sell personal possessions in order to finance his research. By 1955, he had built a working model from balsa wood and had taken out his first patent. Cockerell had found it impossible to interest the private sector in developing his idea, as both the aircraft and the boat-building industries saw it as lying outside their core business. He therefore approached the British Government with a view to interesting them in possible defence applications.

This led to Cockerell being introduced to the NRDC (National Research Development Corporation). In the autumn of 1958, the NRDC placed an order with Saunders-Roe for the first full-scale Hovercraft. This prototype craft was designated the SR-N1 (Saunders-Roe - Nautical One) and was manufactured by Saunders-Roe under licence from the NRDC. In 1959, he launched the SR-N1, which was capable of carrying four men at a speed of 28 miles per hour. It made a successful crossing of the English Channel between Dover and Calais on 25 July 1959.[3]

In January 1959, the NRDC formed a subsidiary called Hovercraft Development Ltd. Cockerell was the Technical Director and the company controlled the patents which it used to license several private-sector firms to manufacture craft under the registered trademark of Hovercraft.

The World's first Hovercraft service operated briefly across the River Dee estuary between Rhyl (North Wales) and Wallasey (now Merseyside in the Wirral Peninsula) for 36 days in 1962. The craft was designated the VA-3 and was manufactured by Vickers Armstrong Corp. The service was operated by British United Airways.

In later life Cockerell developed the Cockerell Raft, a wave power hydraulic device which may have implications in the future for electricity generation.

References

  1. ^ Lidell, Charles Lawrence Scruton & Douglas, A. B., The History and Register of Gresham's School, 1555-1954 (Ipswich, 1955)
  2. ^ Cockerell, Christopher, in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004)
  3. ^ Evans, Eric, British History (Bath, Parragon Books, 2002) p. 305

External links








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