Born on 4th of June 1910
Died in Winchester, Hampshire
Died on 1st of June 1999
Sir Christopher Cockerell was one of the most significant inventors of the twentieth century, famed mainly as the father of the hovercraft, though perhaps in years to come mankind will be more grateful still for his pioneering work in producing energy from wave power.
Cockerel was born in Cambridge on June 4 1910, his father a one-time secretary to William Morris, and for many years curator of the Fitzwilliam Museum. He was educated at Greshamís School, then Peterhouse Cambridge where he studied engineering, rather to his fatherís distaste. His early career was in radio technology, Cockerell obtaining his first patent in the field in 1935, and he had a significant in involvement in the wartime development of radar.
In 1950 a legacy enabled Cockerell to start a new venture, purchasing a boatyard in Norfolk. Though commercially unsuccessful it provided the environment that led to his hovercraft concept, initially tested with a kitekat tin, a coffee tin, and an industrial air jet. Quickly scaling up to an adapted punt his energy and enthusiasm drove the project on, in spite of bureaucratic and military indifference: on May 31 1959 Cockerell demonstrated a working prototype to the press, and on July 25 1959, 50 years to the day from Bleriotís first cross channel flight, the inventor and a two-man crew repeated his feat in a hovercraft.
Though the use of the hovercraft for mass transport has been only marginal, for coastguard, life-saving, supply craft, and above all military landing craft fields it certainly took off, as it were.
In the 1970s Cockerell turned his attention to using wave power to generate energy, filing several major patents and opening up another new field.
Cockerell was knighted in 1969, and made a fellow of the Royal Society two years earlier. He died in Sutton Scotney in Hampshire on June 1 1999.
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