Detailed history of UMIST
In 1824, several Manchester businessmen and
industrialists met in the Bridgewater Arms, High Street, to establish
the Mechanics' Institute in Manchester, where artisans could learn,
part-time, the basic principles of science, particularly mechanics
and chemistry. Of the hundreds of such institutions founded around
that time, it alone has survived to date as an autonomous body.
The meeting, convened by G Wood on 7 April
1824, was attended by some of the most prominent members of the
science and engineering community, including:
- Sir Benjamin Heywood - a prosperous banker.
- Robert Hyde Greg - a cotton mill owner and soon-to-be MP.
- Peter Ewart - millwright and engineer.
- Richard Roberts - machine tools inventor.
- David Bellhouse - builder.
- William Henry - pioneered scientific chemical industry and
developed his business into fizzy drinks.
- William Fairbairn - the versatile engineer, whose name is associated
with water wheels and machinery of every kind, and the Britannia
tubular bridge but above all with scientific engineering. He was
elected first Secretary of the Mechanics' Institute. Later in
his life he was made a Baronet.
- John Dalton - became known as the father of Atomic Theory.
He became the Vice President of the Mechanics' Institute in 1840.
- Sir Benjamin Heywood - acted as President of the Mechanics'
Institute 17 years (1824-1841).
- Oliver Heywood (Sir Benjamin's son) - also became President
of the Mechanics' Institute and was the first Freeman of the City.
In 1851, another institution - Owen's College,
Manchester - was founded. This became the University of Manchester
in 1904, having previously been part of the Federal Victoria University
In 1883, John Henry Reynolds, Secretary of
the Mechanics' Institution reorganised the Institution as a Technical
School using the schemes and examinations of the City and Guilds'
of London Institute.
Building a new future
The Institute's building (which now forms
the western end of the present Main Building) was commenced in 1895
and opened by Prime Minister Arthur Balfour in October 1902. By
this time the institution was called the Manchester Municipal School
of Technology and was a large and active force in the area.
Already the "Tech" had pioneered
Chemical Engineering as an academic subject in Britain as it was
to do immediately after the First World War with Management studies.
But the major leap forward early in 1905 was the setting up of a
small Faculty of Technology - responsible academically to the University
of Manchester - where a few students took BSc and MSc degrees. This
was the forerunner of the modern UMIST.
In 1918, the institution was renamed to the
Manchester Municipal College of Technology. The period of the two
world wars, separated by the depression and the decline of the Lancashire
cotton industry in the 1920s and 1930, was one of consolidation,
and one in which the part time courses were of major importance
to the region.
Time for a change
Full implementation of plans for an extension
to the new building, needed almost immediately after the 1902 opening,
was delayed until 1957. Nevertheless ONC, HND and PhD qualifications
were introduced and research was revitalised, starting in the 1921/3
period, with further renaming of the institution as the Manchester
Municipal College of Technology in 1918. By 1949 over 8500 students
were recruited, most taking non-degree courses.
Dr B V Bowden (later Lord Bowden of Chesterfield)
became Principal in 1953 and expansion started. In 1955/6 the Manchester
College of Science and Technology, as it had become achieved independent
university status under its Royal Charter.
In 1955/6, the Manchester College of Science
and Technology, as it had become, achieved independent university
status, under its Royal
Charter, and separate funding from the University Grants Committee.
In 1966, all non-degree work was moved to
the Manchester Polytechnic, now Manchester Metropolitan University.
In 1966, it became UMIST.
A first for UMIST
Prof Harold Hankins was appointed Principal
in 1984 and became UMIST's first Principal and Vice Chancellor in
It is really in the last quarter of a century
of our long history that the growth and development into a major
international research based university has taken place. UMIST performed
well in the UK's last Research
Assessment Exercise, in 2001, and now all its Departments are
rated 4, 5 or 5*. Since the 1990's UMIST has won four Queen's
Prizes for Higher and Further Education, two Prince
of Wales' Awards for Innovation and two Queen's
award for Export Achievement.
Throughout its history, UMIST has close links
with industry. In 1968, UMIST set up the first industry/academia
liaison group - now called UMIST
Ventures Ltd - which supervises technology transfer and research
contracts which lead to successful spin off companies in high-tech
UMIST's specialisms number Paper
amongst the more unusual areas plus highly rated leading edge Departments
and Centres such as Biomolecular
and Protection, the Management
School and Atmospheric
Cutting edge research
Staff and students today take part in well
over two hundred separate degree programmes and are at the forefront
of cutting edge research.
UMIST was the founding father of what is now
the Greater Manchester Museum of Science and Industry and honours
its wide range of successful and famous alumni, like Nobel Laureate
Sir John Cockcroft and aeroplane pioneer Sir Arthur Whitten Brown.
Those early industrialists might not have
understood genetic engineering or computational fluid dynamics but
they would have understood the ethos of UMIST, which remains true
to their foundation and their intentions, to be at the heart of
learning and research.
20 October, 2003