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William John Macquorn Rankine FRS

1820-1872

William John Macquorn Rankine (1820-1872) was a Scottish engineer, mathematician and physicist. Rankine was famous for developing a theory of the steam engine. His writings formed the foundations of engineering science for many years after he published them in the 1850s and 1860s.

In 1855, Rankine was appointed to the Queen Victoria chair of civil engineering and mechanics at the University of Glasgow. Aside from engineering, Rankine developed an interest in naval architecture. With his shipbuilder friend, James Robert Napier, along with naval architect Isaac Watts and Frederick K Barnes, Rankine wrote 'Shipbuilding, Theoretical and Practical', published in 1866. As the main contributor to the treatise, Rankine's intention was to provide a more technical theoretical approach to the shipbuilding process. Rankine's research and published works lead to improved designs in ship hulls and increased efficiency of propellers.

On 24 December 1872, Rankine died in Glasgow. His manuals and publications remained a steady influence over the development of naval architecture and design, civil engineering and thermodynamics.