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Location: Glasgow Guide / Glasgow Information / Famous Glaswegians / Sir Dugald Clerk   

Famous Glaswegians (and those who became famous in Glasgow)<<

Clerk, Sir Dugald[Born: March 31, 1854, Glasgow - Died: November 12, 1932, Surrey]

Famous Glaswegians: Sir Dugald ClerkSir Dugald Clerk, FRS was probably identified with the internal combustion engine more than any other engineer of his generation. Born in Glasgow in 1854, Clerk's education was planned around his intention to become a chemical engineer.

He studied under Sir Thomas Edward Thorpe FRS, conducting research into petroleum fractions. Thorpe would later lament Clerk's loss to chemistry, but the work was useful to the future petrol engine man. It was the sight of a Lenoir-type gas engine at work in Glasgow that led him towards mechanical engineering. He subsequently developed his own two stroke engine type, patented in 1881. The researches that led to this invention, begun in 1877, were genuinely pioneering and had a lasting impact on the science of thermodynamics.

One of the earliest Clerk engines was pressed into service at the University of Glasgow, coupled to a Siemens dynamo. Lord Kelvin used the resulting electricity to light his house, claiming this as a world first. By 1886, Clerk was established in Birmingham, conducting gas-engine research, before partnering G C Marks in a successful consulting and patent agent business. One client was Frederick Lanchester, for whom Clerk patented an engine starter in 1890.

Through his friendship with Lanchester, Clerk took an interest in the fledgling automobile industry. He would later become the second president of the Institute of Automobile Engineers and his expertise was used in early automobile trials, including those run by the RAC.

His knighthood came for wartime service in 1914-18 rather than for his engine research. Clerk worked for the Trench Warfare Committee, capitalising on his Birmingham experiences, when he designed ammunition-making machinery. The Admiralty Research Department also recruited him - his knowledge of diesel engines was particularly appropriate in a new age of submarine warfare.


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