The Hunterian has been awarded a prestigious Engineering Heritage Award by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers for its model air engine.
The model engine, now known as the Stirling Engine, was presented to the University of Glasgow by the Reverend Robert Stirling in 1827. This important object in the history of engineering is one of only two ever made.
It is significant in its own right as a novel form of engine which sought to produce motion from heated air, rather than the methods previously used to convert the energy of heated steam into motion.
Although the potentially more efficient "air engines" did not become mass produced or ultimately replace steam engines, the design of this Stirling Engine has been an inspiration to engineers and technologists looking for new and more efficient forms of heat transfer for nearly 200 years.
This model has a particularly important role in the history of teaching of Natural Philosophy (now Physics) at the University of Glasgow. It was famously repaired and experimented upon by William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, and from the late 1840s onwards was used by him in his pioneering investigations into the fundamentals of thermodynamics.
It was then used for many decades as a prominent teaching resource in what was one of the largest and most pioneering undergraduate teaching laboratories in the world.
Stuart Cameron FIMechE, former Vice President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’, said:
“The Stirling engine was a fantastic bit of innovation because of its ability to run directly on any available heat source, not just one that has been produced by combustion. A Stirling engine is a safer alternative to steam engines, whose boilers often exploded, causing many injuries and accidents. This invention is deserving of the award due to its significant impact on engineering, and society as a whole.”
Professor David Gaimster, Director of The Hunterian, University of Glasgow, said:
“We are delighted to receive this prestigious award from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. The effect the Stirling engine has had on society is evident for all to see and is still being used in many capacities today.”
The Hunterian will be presented with the award at a special reception today (Monday 7 December 2015). The Stirling Engine is displayed on the balcony level of the Hunterian Museum.
University of Glasgow Gilbert Scott Building Glasgow G12 8QQ
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