The newspaper of Imperial College London
 Issue 140, 5 May 2004
Virus that can 'hit and hide'«
Learning curve for health minister«
Lambs clue to obesity«
Famous face in the crowd«
Call to stop spread of hepatitis C«
Daughter unveils Skempton memorial«
A crystal clear vision of women in science«
New use for domestic waste«
Low carbon incubator programme«
Universities'challenge... a school makeover«
In brief«
Media Spotlight«
What's on«

Daughter unveils Skempton memorial

by Tanya Reed

IN A memorial to Sir Alec Skempton, recognised as one of the most important engineers of the 20th century, the civil engineering building has been renamed the Skempton Building.

Judith Niechcial
Judith Niechcial admires the memorial to her late father, Sir Alec Skempton

The memorial was unveiled in the building's main entrance by Sir Alec's daughter, Judith Niechcial, who said her father would have protested modestly initially, but would secretly have been very pleased and deeply honoured.

"This building was a product of the massive expansion of university building in the early 1960s," she told guests who attended the event on 30 March. "Skem was very involved both in the decision to retain and strengthen the tower of the Imperial Institute, which was demolished to make way for this building, and the planning of the internal layout of the department.

"His friend the photographer Eric de Mare, who died only recently, was commissioned to provide the beautiful pictures of bridges and the Sheerness Boat Store, which embellish the staircase and landings."

The move to the building in 1963 was apparently traumatic for many of the staff of the section, she added. Quoting from Joyce Brown's book A Hundred Years of Civil Engineering in South Kensington, she explained: "Some academic staff never recovered from the disturbance of the strata of papers and books in their rooms in the old building."

In conclusion, she added: "It seems no time at all since Skem crossed this entrance hall daily, slightly stooped, brown trilby hat on his head and carrying his battered brown briefcase, making his way to his book-filled and cluttered room on the fifth floor.

"This beautifully-worded memorial is a wonderful and highly appropriate memorial to my father, and we all wish the Skempton Building a long, and distinguished future as a national and international centre of excellence in civil and environmental engineering."

Sir Alec Skempton, who was born in 1914, had a long and distinguished relationship with the department as an undergraduate, postgraduate, professor, head of department (1957-1981) and senior research investigator.

  • A Particle of Clay by Judith Niechcial, about Sir Alec, is available from Whittles Publishing on 01593 741240.
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