The Italian Job, part 2; The Call of the Clyde

Having been assigned the task of looking into the University’s Italian connection during the period of 1890-1920, it didn’t take long before a pattern emerged amongst the students. They were largely young men who’d chosen to study Engineering, more specifically Naval Architecture. At the forefront of the shipping industry, the Clyde was producing a third of the world’s total shipping output by 1900, rightly deserving its title as ‘The Workshop of the Empire’.

Throughout the 1800s Glasgow was a lodestar of technological innovation: The first steam engine was built by a Scottish engineer, Henry Bell, in 1812, and it was on the Clyde in the late 1870s that the first steel ships were being built, replacing wrought iron in creating lighter more efficient vessels. Shipbuilding was becoming more of a science than an art. Naval Architects needed mathematical training in order to calculate a ship’s stability and boiler pressures and have basic understanding of Chemistry and Physics so that they could test iron and steel for the hulls.

Fregoso patent 1912On student I researched, Severo Campo Fregoso, studied a Naval Architecture course at the University in 1910 and went on to file several patents in the advancement of mechanical engineering for use in transport vehicles. During WWI, there was a report in Flight magazine of January 1917, citing a Severo Campo Fregoso and two others, who were charged for “collecting and recording information about certain aircraft likely to be useful to the enemy”. Although further research would have to be done to establish whether this was in fact the same Severo Campo Fregoso, it is nevertheless interesting to note that students in and around this period inevitably took part in active service during the First World War.

In fact, my next blog post will be about a prominent Italian student whose studies were interrupted by his War service in Italy.

By Olivia Tolaini, MA History

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