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The University of Southampton

1950: Elfyn Richards

Professor of Aeronautical Engineering and Founding Director of the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research

28 December 1914 - 7 September 1995

Elfyn Richards
Elfyn Richards

Professor Elfyn Richards played a key role in the establishment of our world-leading engineering research and education at the University of Southampton.

Before joining Southampton, Richards was the Chief Aerodynamicist and Assistant Chief Designer at Vickers Armstrong Ltd and was responsible for the aerodynamic design of the Viking, Viscount and Valiant.




Richards brought his interest in noise and acoustics to his role at the University, when he joined as Professor of Aeronautical Engineering in 1950. Using his experience in industry, he drove forward the notion of research being conducted alongside teaching and relaunched the undergraduate syllabus for Aeronautical Engineering. Alongside other academics, Richards also introduced the first short course on noise and vibration.

Vickers Viscount aircraft
Vickers Viscount aircraft

Richards introduced research into noise and vibration, hypersonics and ship science to the University; which are still major research interests today. During this time, the work of the ‘Department of Aeronautics’ was led by Richards’ research on sound and vibration, from helicopter and jet noise to underwater noise. His passion for his research stemmed from growing public concern for the social and environmental impacts of noise and vibration, and from his belief that it would soon become a ‘disease’ of new and emerging technologies. In 1958, he was awarded an OBE for his work on noise.



Vickers Valiant aircraft
Vickers Valiant aircraft

In 1963, Richards founded the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research (ISVR), as a centre for studies and research in fundamental and applied acoustics. The Institute’s focus ranged from aerodynamics, transport and workplace noise to hearing. Today, these are still major focuses of Engineering and the Environment, although the ISVR now works on a much wider range of topics, from aircraft to human responses to sound and vibration, and ultrasonics for biomedical applications. The ISVR also introduced postgraduate courses in noise and vibration.

In 1964, as Director of the ISVR, Richards was retitled Professor of Industrial Acoustics, and was succeeded as Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics by Professor Geoffrey Lilley. 13 years later, Richards left Southampton to become the first Vice Chancellor of Loughborough University, before returning in 1975 as Research Professor (Emeritus) and Acoustical Consultant. Richards continued his research, concentrating on industrial machinery, until his retirement in 1984. Elfyn Richards sadly passed away in 1995.


The Independent - Obituaries: Professor Elfyn Richards

Nash, S. and Sherwood, M. (2001) The University of Southampton: An Illustrated History. James & James Publishers Ltd, London.

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