Professor Meredith Thring

Thring was a visionary who changed from science to engineering "because he wanted to make the world a better place".[1] In his 1977 book How to Invent, he wrote "One can envisage a society in which man lives in near-equilibrium with his environment, with the minimum use of raw materials by fuel economy, complete recycling of all metals, no throw-away goods, all consumer goods built to last many decades, and near zero pollution.".[2] In the same book he describes domestic and gardening tools, Intermediate Technology for less developed countries and robots to take the place of people in dangerous situations. However, these were not just imagining. At the University of Sheffield and Queen Mary College he was actively involved in robotics. He produced a stair-climbing robot, an autonomous fire-fighting robot, and one for clearing a table.[3] After his retirement he founded a charity called Power Aid to help developing countries.[4] In 1969 he predicted a future in which factories would be largely automatic, controlled by a central computer, and supposed that this would reduce the human working week to 10 or 20 hours.[5]

He studied combustion and other forms of energy generation, and was one of the founders of the International Flame Research Foundation.[1] This knowledge of energy was shown in his 1974 book Energy and Humanity which called essentially for a more rational and sustainable approach, with control of pollution. He was also known as a teacher, and for his belief that engineers had an ethical obligation to improve life for all, but notably the underprivileged and disabled.[6]

[1] Rob Thring (his son) The Independent, 30 September 2006
[2] M. W. Thring & E. R. Laithwaite (1977) How to Invent ISBN 0-333-22026-9
[3] New Scientist 19 Nov 1981 p 500 "The engineer's dilemma".
[4] Frank Fitzgerald, The Guardian, 10 November 2006
[5] The Times 11 September 1969 "Robots that will remove drudgery"
[6] Roy Crookes Combustion Institute, British Section Newsletter March 2007