I’m an engineer through and through and proudly express myself as a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.
I studied natural sciences at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge which perhaps surprisingly provided an amazing education in all things practical.
The Otter Gs are very small controls I designed in the early 1960s, used as a temperature-sensitive thermostat or safety cut-out for electric blankets, hairdryers and other small domestic appliances. It is also current-sensitive, widely used in electric motors as in washing machines and the many electric motors in cars such as window lifts, windscreen wipers and seat movers.
Technological innovation has seen car design and production changes over the past fifty years, but the design of the Otter G electro-mechanical switch has remained the same.
This innovation is appreciated throughout Europe and beyond for protecting the winding on electric motors at -40c in the cold of the Arctic winters, to +50c in the heat of the desert.
An average of approximately a quarter of a million Otter G switches and derivatives are made every week, and this has been the case each week for the past fifty or so years. This is thanks to the switch’s versatility and its simple but intelligent, cost-effective design.
Many of the hundreds of patents that I hold are for domestic appliances, thermostats and electrical equipment. My most famous inventions include the series of thermostatic kettle controls that have universal use, plus the cordless kettle, all patented and used throughout the world.
It’s been calculated that over five billion of the bi-metal blades I designed – used in thermostats to switch off kettles – have been produced since their invention in the 1970s.
The company I founded, Strix, holds four Queen’s Awards, three for Export and one for Innovation, granted for my 360-degrees cordless kettle connector.
My personal interests include flying, first flying solo in 1953. I love aeronautical design – from the streamlined shape of the plane’s exterior to the dial and numerous ‘clock’ faces in the cabin.
I was awarded Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 2011 New Year’s honours list for services to business and horology.
My interest in innovation resulted in the design and building of innovative clocks, including the Corpus Christi Chronophage, which was donated to and on permanent display at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. I’ve also designed an intelligent pendulum.
Over the years I’ve made many contributions to educational establishments, including the support of the Centre for Manufacturing at UMIST, which opened in 2001.
I’ve been an active benefactor to my former Cambridge College, contributing £2.5 million in 2008 towards the construction of a new Taylor Library for students. I’ve also funded many scholarships and bursaries that are aimed to help shape the engineers of tomorrow.
An Honorary Doctorate from UMIST and the title of Visiting Professor of Innovation were awarded in recognition of my numerous patents. I am also an elected Honorary Fellow of Corpus Christi College.
I assisted in the funding of the new Taylor Centre which opened this year at the Royal Academy of Engineering in London, which serves as a resource to support enterprising engineers.
I was thrilled when the University of Cambridge announced its first Professor of Innovation, who was appointed on 1 October 2017. In the very important role, Professor Tim Minshall leads the engineers and inventors of tomorrow to see their ideas become reality and change the world.
This role was made possible through a donation of £2.5 million to the university. Professor Tim Minshall is a brilliant communicator and will make a huge impact on engineering students for several decades to come.