Generations of international naval engineers

The recent talk of Glasgow’s shipbuilding history prompted by the latest episode of BBC2’s Coast led me to an intriguing document held in the archives:

Naval Architecture Class, numbers & nationality 1890-1900 (GUA31619)

Naval Architecture Class, numbers & nationality 1890-1900 (GUA31619)

“Naval Architecture Class – Note of number & nationality of students from 1890 to 1900”.

Considering that university education in Naval Architecture was really only established with the appointment of the first University Professor of Naval Architecure at the University of Glasgow, Francis Elgar in 1883, it immediately had an impact in attracting students world-wide. And this trend was duely noted at the time, as the anonymous document displays.  The USA leads the way in international students of this subject, followed by Japan and Argentina.

Philip Jenkins succeeded Elgar as Professor of Naval architecture in 1886 (-1891), followed by the longest serving Professor of Naval Architecture, John Harvard Biles (1891-1921). Not only did they attract increasing numbers of international students, but their students also went on to work internationally. This fact was recently highlighted again by our Development and Alumni Office, who were in correspondence with alumnus, John Scott Younger.  John is the third generation of University of Glasgow graduate engineers, and has pieced together the story of his grandfather, Archibald Scott Younger (BSc 1889) and his father, John McNeil Younger (BSc 1924), in whose footsteps he followed when he graduated from Glasgow in 1962.

Percy Pilcher

John’s grandfather, Archibald Scott Younger (BSc 1889) worked as an assistant to Professor Biles from 1891-92. His appointment does not appear in the University Court minutes, suggesting that Younger was paid not by the University, but by Biles himself. This appeared to be the case for other assistants to Biles around that time: Herbert C. Sadler (1896-1900) and Percy S. Pilcher (1892-94).

After gradution in 1889, Archibald Scott Younger’s story after graduation is linked with Glasgow’s relations with Japan. He  joined the Glasgow-based firm A R Brown McFarlane & Co Ltd, who were initially involved in building ships for the Japanese. In 1911, Younger was engaged on a ship-building mission to Japan, bringing back to the Clyde a very large contract for the building of the first Japanese motor boats, and was subsequently appointed Consul for Japan, a position he held for some 20 years. According to John, the Younger family house in Dumbreck, Glasgow, was quite often ‘full’ of Japanese students in the city for study. For his services to Japan, Archibald was twice decorated by Emperor Hirohito with honours, first in 1919 with the High Order of the Rising Sun.

As for John, his story began in India, where he was born to John McNeil Younger (BSc 1924), a mechanical engineer  responsible for sugar mills in Bihar, and has ventured further afield to South East Asisa where he is currently an Honorary Research Fellow in Indonesia.

Naval Architecture class c.1898 (UP5/4/6)

Naval Architecture class c.1898 (UP5/4/6)

No longer does the Naval Architecture class quite look like the above photo – the Department of Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering merged with the Department of Ship and Marine Technology at the University of Strathclyde in 2001 to form the Department of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, jointly owned by the Universities, and which continues to attract international students.


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