Like many of my generation, some of my earliest memories are of watching the 1969 moon landings on a black and white TV. I was totally fascinated by this and was soon poring over space annuals, astronomy books – and my favourite possession which was a huge chart of the solar system.
My passion for astronomy expanded into physics in general, then into chemistry via the wonders of a Merit Chemistry set. I always expected to become an astronomer – which I presumed was all about finding new stars – but actually channelled my passion for maths and physics into a mechanical engineering degree at Manchester University, UK.
Following a spell with Standard Telephones in London as part of the team developing the first fibre-optic telecoms cables, I had the opportunity to return to Manchester to conduct a research PhD, creating and testing theoretical models for the transmission of vibration in high pressure hoses on board nuclear submarines. Whilst the results were successful, personally the most fascinating insight from this work was to unearth the relevant models of vibration (dynamics) created by brilliant scientists from the nineteenth century and early twentieth centuries– people such as Lord Rayleigh, Timoshenko and Love and earlier mathematicians such as Euler. Embedding their equations into computer models, I was able to apply some of these vibration models for the first time to predict the behaviour of these complex structures.
What struck me at the time was how these visionaries had built incredibly sophisticated mathematical models from first principles, providing modelling and forecasting precision far beyond the capability of any experimental measurements at the time. In many cases it took over a hundred years before they were proved right. This triggered my lifelong interest in scientists, their thoughts and achievements.
My professional career has developed, first as a research engineer, then as an engineering consultant, business consultant, entrepreneur, and currently with the global natural and built asset design & consultancy company, Arcadis. I have been fortunate that this career has taken me all over the world, and given me the opportunity to experience a range of cultures, and meet people and especially scientists from every continent.
Through this experience I became aware of two things, which led me to the development of this web-site:
- The stories of science and scientists from all cultures and countries are fascinating in the way that pioneers and rational thinkers have thought for themselves and developed a deeper understanding of their world.
- The global science press, and the popular press, tends to focus on ‘western’ science and the achievements of other cultures are often under-reported.
I firmly believe that the scientific ethos of an open and challenging mind, and willingness to seek out both supporting and contrary viewpoints is also an excellent blueprint for humanity – it is also the ethos for this site!
Currently, I live in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia and travel widely across Asia.
Dr Ian Kennedy, PhD, FIMechE