Kennedy, Sir Alexander Blackie William

SUBJECT AREA: Ports and shipping
b. 17 March 1847 Stepney, London, England d. 1928
English marine engineer and educator.
Sir Alexander Kennedy was trained as a marine engineer. The son of a Congregational minister, he was educated at the City of London School and the School of Mines, Jermyn Street. He was then apprenticed to J. \& W.Dudgeon of Millwall, marine engineers, and went on to become a draughtsman to Sir Charles Marsh Palmer of Jarrow (with whom he took part in the development of the compound steam-engine for marine use) and T.M.Tennant \& Co. of Leith. In 1874 he was appointed Professor of Engineering at University College, London. He built up an influential School of Engineering, being the first in England to integrate laboratory work as a regular feature of instruction. The engineering laboratory that he established in 1878 has been described as "the first of its kind in England" (Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers). He and his students conducted important experiments on the strength and elasticity of materials, boiler testing and related subjects. He followed the teaching of Franz Reuleaux, whose Kinematics of Machinery he translated from the German.
While thus breaking new educational ground at University College, Kennedy concurrently established a very thriving private practice as a consulting engineer in partnership with Bernard Maxwell Jenkin (the son of Fleeming Jenkin), to pursue which he relinquished his academic posts in 1889. He planned and installed the whole electricity system for the Westminster Electric Supply Corporation, and other electricity companies. He was also heavily involved in the development of electrically powered transport systems. During the First World War he served on a panel of the Munitions Invention Department, and after the war he undertook to record photographically the scenes of desolation in his book From Ypres to Verdun (1921). Towards the end of his life, he pursued his interest in archaeology with the exploration of Petra, recorded in a monograph: Petra. Its History and Monuments (1925). He also joined the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1879, becoming the President of that body in 1894, and he joined the Institution of Electrical Engineers in 1890. Kennedy was thus something of an engineering polymath, as well as being an outstanding engineering educationalist.
Principal Honours and Distinctions
FRS 1887. Knighted 1905. Member, Institution of Civil Engineers 1879; President, 1906. President, Institution of Mechanical Engineers 1894.
1921, From Ypresto Verdum.
1925, Petra. Its History and Monuments.
Further Reading
DNB supplement.
1928–9, Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers 221:269–75.

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

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