Sir Harry Ricardo (1885–1974)

Henry Ricardo made many innovations in mechanical engineering that had implications throughout Europe, and pioneered the role of the consultant in the development of machines for large-scale production.

He was born and grew up in London and after studying engineering at the University of Cambridge he joined Rendel, his family’s civil engineering company. He became involved in the development of oil engines at the Crossley works in Manchester, and came to realise that British manufacturers were scarcely involved in research in this field, relying largely on licenses from overseas firms, particularly from Germany, for their designs. In 1913 he was asked by Blackie, the publisher, to write a book on internal combustion engines that appeared ten years later, and for half-a-century remained the standard textbook on the subject.

In 1914 he provided advice on diesel engines for submarines being built for the Swedish navy, and recognised their potential for road transport. During the First World War he worked on engines for flying boats and for tanks, and in 1915 established his consultancy Engine Patents Ltd, which began operation from buildings designed by his father alongside the airfield at Shoreham-by-Sea in Sussex. His varied projects in the 1920s and 30s included the engine for the Rolls Royce Silver Ghost, motor cycles developed with the Triumph company, diesel engines for Citroen cars and various aero engines. During the Second World War he worked on the Whittle jet engine.

His company still operates from the headquarters he established at Shoreham and is involved in the development of motor vehicles throughout the world.

Sir Harry Ricardo is commemorated by an English Heritage plaque on the house where he was born and grew up in Bedford Square, London.