Griffith, Alan Arnold

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b. 13 June 1893 London, England
d. 13 October 1963 Farnborough, England
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English research engineer responsible for many original ideas, including jet-lift aircraft.
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Griffith was very much a "boffin", for he was a quiet, thoughtful man who shunned public appearances, yet he produced many revolutionary ideas. During the First World War he worked at the Royal Aircraft Factory, Farnborough, where he carried out research into structural analysis. Because of his use of soap films in solving torsion problems, he was nicknamed "Soap-bubble".
During the 1920s Griffith carried out research into gas-turbine design at the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE; as the Royal Aircraft Factory had become). In 1929 he made proposals for a gas turbine driving a propeller (a turboprop), but the idea was shelved. In the 1930s he was head of the Engine Department of the RAE and developed multi-stage axial compressors, which were later used in jet engines. This work attracted the attention of E.W. (later Lord) Hives of Rolls-Royce who persuaded Griffith to join Rolls-Royce in 1939. His first major project was a "contra-flow" jet engine, which was a good idea but a practical failure. However, Griffith's axial-flow compressor experience played an important part in the success of Rolls-Royce jet engines from the Avon onwards. He also proposed the bypass principle used for the Conway.
Griffith experimented with suction to control the boundary layer on wings, but his main interest in the 1950s centred on vertical-take-off and -landing aircraft. He developed the remarkable "flying bedstead", which consisted of a framework (the bedstead) in which two jet engines were mounted with their jets pointing downwards, thus lifting the machine vertically. It first flew in 1954 and provided much valuable data. The Short SC1 aircraft followed, with four small jets providing lift for vertical take-off and one conventional jet to provide forward propulsion. This flew successfully in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Griffith proposed an airliner with lifting engines, but the weight of the lifting engines when not in use would have been a serious handicap. He retired in 1960.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
CBE 1948. FRS 1941. Royal Aeronautical Society Silver Medal 1955; Blériot Medal 1962.
Bibliography
Griffith produced many technical papers in his early days; for example: 1926, Aerodynamic Theory of Turbine Design, Farnborough.
Further Reading
D.Eyre, 1966, "Dr A.A.Griffith, CBE, FRS", Journal of the Royal Aeronautical Society (June) (a detailed obituary).
F.W.Armstrong, 1976, "The aero engine and its progress: fifty years after Griffith", Aeronautical Journal (December).
O.Stewart, 1966, Aviation: The Creative Ideas, London (provides brief descriptions of Griffith's many projects).
JDS

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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