Liveryman, Ludwik Finkelstein OBE, FREng (1929 – 2011) was one of seven engineers inducted into the newly launched City of London Engineering Hall of Fame on 10 December 2020.
Granted asylum by Britain at the end of the 2nd World War, he already had a London Matriculation Certificate gained overseas by self-study. He studied at the Northern Polytechnic, then an institution of the University of London, graduating in 1951 with a BSc in Physics and Mathematics. Working at Electronic Tubes Ltd and then at the Mining Research Establishment of the National Coal Board, he studied electrical engineering and physics part-time, graduating MSc from the University of London in 1959.
In 1959, he was appointed Lecturer in Instrument and Control Engineering at the Northampton College of Advanced Technology, then one of several Colleges of Applied Technology distributed around the UK, becoming City University in 1966. He remained there throughout his career, becoming Professor of Measurement and Instrumentation in 1970, and Pro-Vice Chancellor.
President of the Institute of Measurement and Control in 1980-81, and Senior Steward of the Worshipful Company of Scientific Instrument Makers.
Responding to a call for scientists to volunteer, he joined the Civil Defence Corps in 1952, becoming a senior staff officer before it was disbanded in 1967. He then worked in the Home Office scientific service for home defence until 1994, becoming Chief Regional Adviser for Greater London.
He was awarded the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977 and appointed OBE in 1990.
Contribution to Engineering during Lifetime
Ludwik Finkelstein bridged the gulf that separated practitioners from theorists, pioneering the systematic basis of measurement and the treatment of scientific instruments as elements in the processing of information. He was the pioneer in the UK of measurement and instrumentation as a scientific discipline in its own right – an approach to the subject widely recognized in Europe and Asia. He established many of the methods used today for the mathematical modelling of instruments, with pervasive impact upon industry and medicine.
He was inspired by the practical measurement issues faced every day in industry, recognising the potential impact that could follow from achieving a deep understanding of a routine problem. For example, at the City University, he developed instruments to measure the hardness of coal, enabling the assessment of new methods of extraction, which was a core issue for the UK in the early 1950s.
At Northampton College of Advanced Technology / City University, he established a new Measurement and Instrumentation Centre, which continues to hold a world-leading and influential position in the field.
In addition to his many well-cited research papers, his books on Measurement and Instrumentation have been seminal in the education of generations of scientists and engineers.
In spite (or perhaps because of) his war-time experiences, he took a highly international view of his subject and actively promoted reconciliation between and cooperation amongst scientists and engineers worldwide. He served as a Vice-President of the International Measurement Confederation (IMEKO). In all of this, he was able to draw on his wide linguistic skills.
He emerged as a leading educationist of his time, playing a key role in the establishment and subsequent growth of City University, where he served as a Head of Department (twice), founding Dean of the School of Engineering, and Pro-Vice-Chancellor, before retiring in 1993.
He is joined by John Rennie, designer of three Thames bridges and London docks, connecting the City to the south and the world; Sir Henry Bessemer, who made the production of steel affordable and fuel-efficient; David Kirkaldy, who created the world’s first material testing house in London; Dame Stephanie Shirley, IT entrepreneur and City philanthropist; Sir John Parker, engineer and naval architect sought out for his leadership of major FTSE companies and Sir Hugh Myddleton who engineered the first supply of clean water to London.
Gordon Masterton, Master of the Worshipful Company of Engineers and Chairman of Judges for the Hall of Fame, said at the launch event: “These magnificent seven span 450 years of engineering influence on the City as industrialists, designers, educationists, practical scientists, entrepreneurs, problem solvers, wealth creators, leaders, philanthropists. Every home nation of the United Kingdom is represented, plus Germany and Poland, and this is so typical of the City of London, the melting pot of nations where people from diverse backgrounds are welcomed and gain skills and talents to improve their own prospects, to the benefit of us all. What a testament to the City that through this lens, we also see such diversity.”