The University of Southampton
Engineering and the EnvironmentWho we are

Making history

The achievements of Engineering and the Environment span across three centuries; using sound science and creative engineering we’ve helped shape the world you know today. Our expertise looks deep below the Earth’s crust, reaches into space and encompasses everything in between.

Our story continues to evolve as we work at the forefront of innovation across our four pillars of excellence: Aerospace, Biomedical Engineering, Infrastructure and Sports Engineering.

Thumbnail photo of William Powrie, Dean of Engineering and the Environment

“Our focus is on the development of engineering and scientific knowledge, and understanding how it can be applied to solve the major challenges facing society now and in the future. Our education and research is led by internationally renowned academics using our wide range of state-of-the-art experimental and computational facilities.”

William Powrie, Dean of Engineering and the Environment

Scroll down to explore our history

1882

Frederick Lanchester, the pioneer of automotive engineering, studied at the Hartley Institute (now the University of Southampton). Lanchester was famous for many things, including designing and building one of the first petrol driven four-wheeled cars in 1895, developing the first full theory of lift and drag, his aircraft stability research, and for inventing the disc brake.

Lanchester investigating the stability of flight
Lanchester investigating the stability of flight
An early Lanchester car
An early Lanchester car

Images courtesy of Hartley Library, University of Southampton;

1. MS 107/3: Lanchester with one of his model gliders used for investigating stability of flight

2. MS 107/4: An early Lanchester car

The Vickers Viscount turboprop aircraft
The Vickers Viscount turboprop aircraft

1950

Elfyn Richards OBE became Chair of Aeronautical Engineering, previously the Chief Aerodynamicist and a designer of the Vickers Viscount turboprop aircraft. Richards introduced and led the University’s research on the environmental and industrial effects of noise and vibration.

 

1952

The University of Southampton was granted its Royal Charter.

Scale model testing of the Sydney Opera House
Scale model testing of the Sydney Opera House

1959

To understand how the roof of the Sydney Opera House would stand up, our researchers developed micro concrete and photo-elastic modelling techniques to support computer models that ran on an early Pegasus digital computer. This modelling and analysis highlighted inadequacies of the original design and the need to replace the thin shell concept with a double skin to achieve the iconic soaring curved roof.

Students making aviation history – the first human-powered flight
Students making aviation history – the first human-powered flight

1961

A group of aeronautical engineering students made aviation history with the world’s first human-powered flight.

Directors of the ISVR from 1963 - 1978
Directors of the ISVR from 1963 - 1978

1963

The Institute of Sound and Vibration Research (ISVR) was established. Over its long history, members have continuously provided solutions to numerous challenges, from noise generation in aircraft engines to utilising ultrasonics for biomedical applications.

Concorde, made a reality by Geoffrey Lilley
Concorde, made a reality by Geoffrey Lilley

1964

Professor Geoffrey Lilley OBE, known as the Father of Aeroacoustics, was appointed Professor of Aeronautics. As leader of the Concorde technical team, he was involved in the design of the aircraft, and his expertise enabled it to fly to New York. Lilley persuaded politicians that the new supersonic aircraft could meet strict US noise restrictions. A few years later, the University started research into human response to sonic booms.

Many lives would have been poorer by far without personal knowledge of Geoff Lilley; his enthusiasm for science and life, his generosity of spirit and his irrepressible sense of humour have been – and indeed continue to be – an inspiration to countless students, colleagues and friends.

Professor Ian Castro - Professor of Fluid Dynamics
Early research in 15’ x 12’ section of our 7' x 5' wind tunnel
Early research in the 15’ x 12’ section of our 7' x 5' wind tunnel

1970s

The first moving ground in a UK university was installed in our 7’ x 5’ wind tunnel; revolutionising car design through research into vehicles in ‘ground effect’. Our facility was used by Formula 1 teams Brabham and McLaren, and for Richard Noble’s Project Thrust.

 

1979

The world’s first cryogenic wind tunnel, operating at liquid nitrogen temperature (-196 ºC) was designed and demonstrated at the University, before the principle was adopted by others, including NASA. This technology allows for large passenger jets to be modelled under cruise conditions.

Testing race car aerodynamics in the R.J. Mitchell Wind Tunnel
Testing race car aerodynamics in the R J Mitchell Wind Tunnel

1981

The R J Mitchell Wind Tunnel was presented to the University of Southampton by the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE), Farnborough, to support Formula 1 and IndyCar race development work. The moving ground section, still used today, is a major influence in race car design.

1988

Researchers at the ISVR conducted the first flight trials of an active noise control system in a propeller aircraft, in collaboration with British Aerospace. It was the dawn of the age of audible inflight entertainment.

Xray of audio implants
The University of Southampton Auditory Implant Service has been changing lives since 1990

1990

The ISVR Hearing and Balance Centre fitted their first cochlear implant device. Since then, the now renamed University of Southampton Auditory Implant Service, has transformed the lives of more than 1000 people and their research has formed the basis of NHS guidelines.

Sustainable expansion of rail networks through noise reduction
Sustainable expansion of rail networks through noise reduction

1996

Our researchers began work on European Union funded projects, Silent Freight and Silent Track, to provide new and economically viable solutions to reduce noise from railways. The subsequently developed rail damper has now been fitted to tracks in 16 countries.

Find out more
Bubble acoustics
Bubble acoustics

1998

Academics working on bubble acoustics co-authored the current guidelines for every foetal scan in the world – that’s around 700 million births to date.

 

Southampton University Driving Simulator
Southampton University Driving Simulator

1999

Research on the effect of automation on human tasks led to the first commercial implementation of adaptive cruise control in Jaguar vehicles.

 

Ellen MacArthur and Kingfisher during the Vendee Globe race
Ellen MacArthur and Kingfisher during the Vendee Globe race

2001

Towing tank and wind tunnel tests conducted by our researchers were used to design the Kingfisher yacht, sailed by Ellen MacArthur during her stunning performance in the Vendee Globe race.

Image courtesy of Thierry Martinez

Design by Humphreys Yacht Design and Owen Clark Design

ISVR was awarded the Queen's Anniversary Prize 2005
ISVR was awarded the Queen's Anniversary Prize 2005

2005

The ISVR was awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for improving the quality of life for the profoundly deaf and reducing noise pollution.

2007

A team from Southampton completed the first fully turbulent aerofoil flow simulations. Using high performance computers, they performed direct numerical simulations of compressible aerofoil flows with full resolution of the smallest scales of turbulence, paving the way for ongoing aeroacoustic simulations.

Ceramic hip

2008

First ceramic-on-ceramic total hip replacement surgery, after development with the University of Southampton. By 2015 over 10,000 had been implanted worldwide.

Chris Hoy

2008

Our engineers worked with British Cycling, helping them win Gold at the Beijing Olympic Games. Our expertise were also utilised by rowing, sailing and canoeing contributing to 15 of Britain’s 19 gold medals.

Fossil fuel free shipping

2008

Our researchers began work on the world’s first 100% fossil fuel-free cargo ship with B9 Shipping.

2010

University of Southampton students developed Amy Williams’ sled, Arthur, helping her win Gold at the Winter Olympic Games.

Amy Williams testing her sled 'Arthur'
Amy Williams testing her sled 'Arthur'
Amy Williams with her gold medal
Amy Williams with her gold medal
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StarStream® is a technology that allows a gentle stream of water to clean very effectively
StarStream® technology

2010

StarStream®, a device that uses low volumes of cold water and few or no additives to clean, is invented. This technology has the potential to clear leaves from railway tracks, fight against antimicrobial resistance, and clean medical equipment in a cost effective and efficient way.

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The world's first 3D-printed unmanned aircraft
The world's first 3D-printed unmanned aircraft

2011

Researchers at the University of Southampton designed, built and flew the world’s first 3D-printed unmanned aircraft.

 

 

 

2012

The University of Southampton was awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for innovation and world-leading expertise in performance sports engineering.

Opening of Boldrewood Innovation Campus in 2015
Opening of Boldrewood Innovation Campus in 2015

2015

Opening of the state-of-the-art Boldrewood Innovation Campus by Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal. The campus is the result of the strategic partnership between the University and Lloyd’s Register, representing the largest research collaboration and business partnership of its kind in the UK.

 

The ArterioSorbTM biodegradable scaffold
The ArterioSorbTM biodegradable scaffold

2015

In collaboration with Arterius Ltd, we have designed a biodegradable stent to open blocked coronary arteries, which then disappears enabling the vessels to recover normal function.

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