Dr Eric Mansfield: 1923-2016

(1941, Mechanical Sciences)

Eric Mansfield
Eric Mansfield

Dr Eric Harold Mansfield MA DSc FRAeS FREng FRS (24 May 1923 – 20 October 2016) was one of the world’s leading authorities on plate behaviour. He was awarded The Royal Medal from The Royal Society in 1994, “for his many fundamental and analytical contributions to our knowledge of advanced aeronautical structures, and more recently to the biological sciences.”

Born in Croydon to Harold Goldsmith Mansfield and his wife Grace (née Pfundt), his mother died within a year and his childhood, shared by his sister Grace, involved staying with various relatives when not at boarding school.

Eric attended Sexey’s School, Bruton and St Lawrence College, Ramsgate. When he left school (in 1941) he was directed by the Government to read mechanical sciences instead of his preferred mathematics, and he attended Trinity Hall, Cambridge, graduating in 1943. While at the Hall, he used to have to do “fire watching”, watching out from the roof to look out for any enemy attacks, and on one occasion he recognized a Heinkel bomber – which the officer with him thought was a British plane – and which then dropped a bomb!  The course was continuous for two years, without holidays. After graduating he was sent to work at the Royal Aircraft Establishment in Farnborough, carrying out mathematical research into aerospace technology, where he worked for 40 years, eventually becoming Chief Scientific Officer. After retirement, Eric spent six years as visiting professor at Surrey University working on aspects of surface tension.

A founder member of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications, and the Royal Academy of Engineering, he was also an elector to the Professorships of Engineering at Cambridge University. He also sat on the editorial advisory boards of the International Journal of Non-linear Mechanics and the International Journal of Mechanical Sciences.

In 1957 Eric was awarded a Doctorate of Science by Cambridge University. In 1960 he was elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Aeronautical Society. In 1971 he became a Fellow of the Royal Society. In 1991 he was awarded the James Alfred Ewing Medal by the Institute of Civil Engineers for ‘Best Paper 1991’.  His book ‘The Bending and Stretching of Plates’, published in 1964, remains seminal in the field.

Eric had several strong interests including playing bridge, camping, snorkelling and fossil-hunting. Bridge was a very long-standing interest; he was a UK winner (with I T Minhinnick) in the 1951 World Par Bridge Olympiad and his well-received book ‘Bridge : The Ultimate Limits’ was published in 1986.  Continuing to play bridge until approaching 90, he is fondly remembered by his local Beauworth Bridge Club. Another delight, especially latterly, was walking his dog Poppy.

Eric is survived by his wife, Eunice, his step-son Mark, his sister Grace and his three children Peter, Daniel and Susan from his first marriage to Ola Douglas. He also leaves six grandchildren, two step-grandchildren and six great grandchildren.

Peter Mansfield (1968)

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