Sir Leonard Bairstow

Sir Leonard Bairstow, Aviation Engineer, 1880 – 1963

Born in Halifax, Yorkshire, Leonard Bairstow won a scholarship to attend the Royal College of Science, where he conducted research into the explosive quality of gases.

He graduated with a Diploma in Mechanics, and began working for the National Physical Laboratory, where he became Head of Aeroplane Research.

Leonard's work was of great importance during the First World War. In 1915, Education Minister, Mr. Pease said:

Our success over our enemy in aviation is largely due to the investigations made into automatic stability by a young man who went through an elementary school, fought his way up to the Imperial College, went through a course at the National Physical Laboratory...invented and introduced the B.E.Plane.

Leonard's efforts were rewarded with a CBE in 1917.

During his later career, Leonard became Professor of Aerodynamics at the Imperial College of Science and Technology. He was a member of the Royal Society and Vice President of the Royal Aeronautical Society, 1930-34.

Bairstow also played a key role in the investigation into the loss of pioneering British airship R101. This crashed in France on 5 October 1930, during its maiden overseas voyage, killing 48 of its 54 passengers and crew. Leonard helped to identify the structural failure that caused the fatal crash over Beauvais.

For his pioneering work, Leonard was awarded a knighthood by King George VI - however the sovereign died before the investiture could take place. He therefore became one of the first people to be knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace on 27 February 1952.