Michael Horne

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Michael Rex Horne
OBE, FR Eng, FRS, MA (Cantab), MSc, PhD, ScD, FIS Struct E, FICE

Michael Horne (Photo: University of Salford photographic collection, used under Creative Commons)
Born 29 December 1921(1921-12-29)
Died 6 January 2000(2000-01-06) (aged 78)
Hale, Altrincham
Education Boston Grammar School (1932-1938); St John’s College, Cambridge (1941, PhD 1950, ScD 1956)
Occupation Assistant Engineer; Research Assistant; Assistant Director of Research; Lecturer in Engineering; Professor of Engineering
Years active 1941-1983
Employer River Great Ouse Catchment Board (1941-45); British Welding Research Association (1945-51); University of Cambridge (1951-60); University of Manchester (1960-83)
Spouse Dorcas Mary Hewett ('Molly')
Children Barnabas, Gregory, Sara, Shanti (adopted)
Parents Rev Ernest Horne, Katie Horne (née Smeeton)
Relatives Barbara (sister)

Michael Rex Horne was educated at Boston Grammar School (1932-1938).


From the August 2000 issue of The Old Bostonian

Michael was born in 1921 and died in Hale, Altnngham in January this year. He attended BGS from 1932 to 1938 and throughout his years there, he displayed brilliant academic ability, particularly in Mathematics. By the time he reached the sixth form, he was already showing clear signs of profound mental capacity, which was to come to fruition in his career in engineering.

A typical example occurred during an Upper Sixth lesson taken by the Headmaster 'Dot' Morris. Suddenly 'Dot' stopped in his delivery and a lengthy pause in silence followed. Then: "Horne, you are not paying attention, what are you doing, boy?" Came the reply: "Ruminating, Sir." Said the Head: "I hope it is to some advantage... ",to which Michael said simply: "Indubitably, Sir!"

He gained a distinction in Pure and Applied Mathematics in Higher School Certificate (A-level these days) and was awarded the Parry Gold Medal in 1938. He left that year and was to return 31 years later as the guest speaker at the 1969 Speech Day.

From BGS, he went to Cambridge where he continued to reach the highest standards. After his student years he stayed on at the University doing research in the engineering department as a member of a marvellous team under Prof J K Baker, studying the design of steel structures. Prof Baker, later Lord baker, said of him "...the width of his intellectual interest was impressive and his industry was most alarming."

From Cambridge, Michael went in 1960 to the University of Manchester as Professor of Engineering. He was truly an academic but much more — he had the ability to put his findings into practical format to be used by consulting engineers and designers.

Major steel structures world-wide owe much to Michael's extraordinary ability to solve problems. A powerful example occurred after the collapse of several box-girder bridges in the UK and abroad. Michael was asked by the government to join the committee in London, remaking the design procedures for this type of bridge and he worked tirelessly on this urgent project. The result was a successful set of new design rules and it was said that 15 years work was accomplished in 15 months.

He chaired a government committee making proposals for rational accommodation of services in our streets: gas, electricity, water, telephone etc. Michael's logical mind resulted in far-reaching recommendations which were then adopted. He retired in 1983. Throughout his career he remained a down-to-earth, kindly, generous gentleman, unspoiled by the high rewards and honours bestowed upon him. He always listened and took into account the views of others. Those who worked with him soon appreciated his sense of humour as we did at BGS — his merry laugh was known to all — in laboratories, lecture halls and at home.

He was devoted to his family — his wife Molly, his four children, Barney, Greg, Sara and Shanti and in latter years the grandchildren.

At a service in memory of Michael, a tribute was given by Professor Eric Bryan and much of the above is based on this. He concluded: "We shall miss a distinguished scholar, an eminent engineer, a lovely man and a dear friend." Indeed, a fitting tribute.

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