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Inspiration for young engineers

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: March 15, 2014

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A former dean of engineering at Bristol University and major contributor to research in aeronautics has died, aged 83.

Professor Ronald Douglas Milne was born in 1930 in Aberdeen where his father ran a family engineering business. He attended Aberdeen Grammar School and from there, in 1948, went to Aberdeen University to read civil engineering, graduating with first class honours in 1952. He continued his studies at Cranfield College of Aeronautics, gaining an MSc, and after graduating joined English Electric Guided Weapons Division at Stevenage. In 1956, he joined Queen Mary College, London, as a lecturer. Professor Milne took up the chair and headship of the department of theoretical mechanics in the engineering faculty at Bristol University in 1971.

On the research front, he encouraged staff to pursue their own enthusiasms and interests.

He was appointed dean of engineering for the years 1980 to 1983, a period which involved him at a high level in the shaping of the university's response to the severe cuts imposed on the UK university system by the Thatcher government. It was widely felt by his colleagues that he handled his involvement in this unhappy task with great skill.

Professor Milne later returned to departmental duties and developed new research directions, making advances in understanding the mechanics of the golf swing, allowing him to combine his professional and sporting interests in a unique fashion.

He took early retirement in 1989, but continued to lecture part-time and to research the golf swing, both theoretically and in practice on golf courses, well into retirement.

In a statement, his former colleagues Professor Gareth Padfield and Professor Dick Clements said: "Ronald Milne touched the lives, and inspired the careers, of many student engineers who were fortunate to come under his wing. He is one of the unsung heroes of his profession, seeking neither fame nor glory as he created exciting and innovative tools for dealing with complex engineering problems."

Professor Milne married Janet Dorothy Davidson in 1955. He died peacefully after a long illness and is survived by Dorothy, his daughter Alisoun, son Douglas and three grandchildren.

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