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White, Sir William Henry

WHITE, SIR WILLIAM HENRY (1845- ), English naval architect, was born at Devonport on the 2nd of February 1845, and at the age of fourteen became an apprentice in the dockyard there. In 1864 he took the first place in the scholarship competition at the Royal School of Naval Architecture, which had then just been established by the Admiralty at South Kensington, and in 1867 he gained his diploma as fellow of the school with first-class honours. At once joining the constructive staff of the Admiralty, he acted as confidential assistant to the chief constructor, Sir Edward Reed, until the lattcr's retirement in 1870. The loss of the " Captain " in that year was followed by an inquiry into designs for ships of war, and in connexion with this White, together with his old fellow-student, William John, worked out a long series of calculations as to the stability and strength of vessels, the results of which were published in an important paper read in 1871 before the Institution of Naval Architects. In 1872 White was appointed secretary to the Council of Construction at the Admiralty, in 1875 assistant constructor, and in 1881 chief constructor. In April 1883 he left the service of the Admiralty, at the invitation of Lord (then Sir W. G.) Armstrong, in order to undertake the difficult task of organizing a department for the construction of warships of the largest size at the Elswick works; but he only remained there for two and a half years, for in October 1885 he returned to the Admiralty in succession to Sir Nathaniel Barnaby as director of naval construction, retaining that post until the beginning of 1902, when ill-health obliged him to relinquish the arduous labours it entailed. During that period, which in Great Britain was one of unprecedented activity in naval shipbuilding as a result of the awakening of public opinion to the vital importance of sea-power, more than 200 vessels of various types were added to the British navy, at a total cost of something like ico millions sterling, and for the design of all 'of these, as well as for the work of their construction, Sir William White was ultimately responsible. In addition, he did much to further the knowledge of scientific shipbuilding. He was professor of naval architecture at the Royal School from 1870 to 1873, and when in the latter year it was moved to Greenwich to be merged in the Royal Naval College, he reorganized the course of instruction and acted as professor for eight years more. The lectures he gave in that capacity were the foundation of his Manual of Naval Architecture, which has been translated into several foreign languages and is recognized as a standard text-book all over the world. Sir William White, who was chosen a fellow of the Royal Society in 1888, also read many professional papers before various learned and engineering societies. He was created K.C.B. in 1895.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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