BDAE Events

The History of Control Engineering – James Watt to Walking on the Moon

Presented by Professor Paul Stewart, University of Cumbria
Wednesday, 4th October 2023 @ 7.30pm
The Studio, The Forum, Barrow in Furness

BDAE Press Release: The History of Control Engineering – James Watt to Walking on the Moon

Of all the Engineering disciplines, Control is possibly the most mysterious. The other disciplines have concrete and cables, circuit boards and engines, stuff you can see and touch, with centuries of rich history. Control is a bit like a ‘Dark Art’, not really properly coming into its own until microchips took over from valves and mechanical devices, and changed everything.

All the maths that had been postulated could be applied, the AI theory that Control Engineers had used for decades in solving engineering problems suddenly got integrated into our mobile phones and became ubiquitous. All of the engineering disciplines stand on the ‘shoulders of giants’, Control’s giants actually got to see the outcome of their genius in their lifetimes – Harold Black invents the negative feedback amplifier in 1927 and passes away in 1983, Rudolf Kalman invents the Kalman filter and gets to hear Neil Armstrong reading the output estimations of height above the lunar surface to pilot Buzz Aldrin.

In this talk, we will have a look at the history of Control, and how it broke down the constraints around the entire discipline and ushered in modern engineering as we know it.

Professor Paul Stewart, University of Cumbria, served an apprenticeship in the automotive industry and then ran a small enterprise before going to Sheffield University, as a mature student. He completed his degree in Control Engineering before a PhD in the control of electric vehicle drive trains; he subsequently worked as a Post doctoral researcher and lecturer. His career has seen him continue to work with other universities in the automotive systems but also in applying control engineering across many subjects including: electric powered air propulsion systems, airport efficiency, hydrogen production and sustainable transport. He is currently developing novel intelligent sensor networks and data analytics in collaboration with Kidney Research UK, Nottingham University Medical School and Royal Derby Hospital Renal Unit.

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