Professor Shôn Ffowcs-Williams

Photo of Professor Shôn Ffowcs-Williams

BSc, MA, PhD, ScD, Hon ScD (Soton), FREng, FLSW

former Master 1996-2002; Emeritus Rank Professor of Engineering

Shôn Ffowcs Williams was admitted to his Professorial Fellowship at Emmanuel in 1973; he was the longest-serving professor in the University when he retired from his chair in 2002. He taught engineering for the College but, before becoming Master his main College contribution was serving on the Governing Body and its committees, particularly those concerning Work and Stipends, Finance and Investments, Wine and the Fellowship. He used to enjoy playing bowls after lunch in the Fellows’ garden and hopes for a revival in the popularity of that game.

He was the first holder of the Rank Chair of engineering established in 1972 in the field of Acoustics, coming to Cambridge from Imperial College London, where he held the Rolls-Royce Chair in theoretical Acoustics. His speciality was noise and vibration caused by unsteady flow. His main achievement was to persuade very good research students to tackle important but interesting problems which ranged from the aeroacoustics of supersonic flight, to the quietening of underwater platforms. His work helped make anti-sound useful for noise control and for stabilising unstable aeromechanical systems. He was prominent in the Concorde programme for directing the research to control its take-off noise.

Born in Wales in 1935, schooled in England and serving an Engineering Apprenticeship with Rolls Royce before going to the University of Southampton, he always maintained a strong commitment to bring academic research to bear on industrial problems. He cofounded Topexpress Ltd, a consultancy company in Cambridge specialising in engineering science, was executive consultant to Rolls Royce and a director of VSEL plc.

For 25 years he led the division in which Cambridge University’s Fluid Mechanics, Aeronautics, Thermodynamics and Turbomachinery work is concentrated.

Shôn died in December 2020.