My interest in science in general and in engineering in particular was triggered at the age of five when my parents gave me a construction toy called Meccano. Somewhat like Lego, this consisted of a vast collection of metal parts which were acquired in sets of increasing size and as my collection grew I was able to model everything from mobile cranes to marine engines to synchromesh gearboxes. An assumption was made early on that I would follow mechanical engineering as a career, however during my teens I found myself asking the question “why does this work?” rather than “how does this work?” and so ultimately I was accepted to study Physics (or “Natural Philosophy” as it then was) at the University of Edinburgh and graduated from the old department in Drummond Street in 1970.
Having been born in 1948 I am one of a generation that has been blessed by an extended period of peace in Europe, the creation of the welfare state, the provision of free education, and the ability to purchase (via a mortgage of reasonable proportions) my own home. However my father died when I was still at school and my attendance at University would not have been possible had I not received financial support from a charitable fund to which he had contributed.
Given this background, I began about ten years ago to make annual donations to the University to assist students facing financial hardship and which helped secure their attendance for an academic year. Latterly it has been particularly rewarding to provide support to students of Physics through the Charles Barkla Bursary provided by the School of Physics and Astronomy, and to contribute to the fund for the Maker Space in the School of Engineering which will provide much needed accommodation for student-led projects such as the HypEd Hyperloop project and the Formula Student motor racing project. Both these projects have attracted students from a wide range of disciplines and have produced outstanding work.
My final contribution to the University will be a legacy which I intend to be divided equally between the School of Physics and Astronomy and the School of Engineering thus reflecting my continued interest in both fields. The UK has a world-class university sector and as a member of the Russell Group, the University of Edinburgh is firmly established as one of the best. If my small contributions help preserve that reputation and assist in the education of future generations of scientists and engineers, then I shall feel I have gone some way in repaying a debt of gratitude.