I bet you’ve never visited a materials testing house

It’s a (very) little known fact that, when I left school in Manchester, I thought I wanted to be a mechanical engineer. Indeed I obtained a place on a university degree course to study mechanical engineering, but deferred my entry by a year to go into industry for some practical training.

I learned very quickly that I was far more interested in people that machines and I managed to change my degree course to Management Sciences. The rest is history …

But, over half a century later, this weekend I visited a homage to mechanical engineering in the form of the Kirkaldy Testing Museum because it is located very close to where I now live on London’s South Bank.

On 1 January 1874, Scottish engineer David Kirkaldy opened the world’s first purpose-built, independent commercial materials testing house at 99 Southwark Street London. Inside, his patented 116-ton hydraulic-powered Universal Testing Machine could exert a force of up to 1,000,000 lb, bringing rigorous new understanding to the strength of construction materials.

Outside, he declared his independence over the door, ‘Facts Not Opinions’. The machine, and his challenge, are still here today.


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