Record

Authorised form of nameWillis; Robert (1800 - 1875)
SurnameWillis
ForenamesRobert
Dates1800 - 1875
NationalityBritish
Dates and placesBirth:
London, England (27 February 1800)
Death:
Cambridge (28 February 1875)
ActivityEducation:
Pupil of Rev Mr Kidd at King's Lynn (1821); enters Caius College, Cambridge as a pensioner (1822); graduates BA, 9th Wrangler (1826)
Career:
Frankland Fellow of Caius College (1826); ordained deacon and priest (1827); Foundation Fellow of Caius writes on the Vowel Sounds (1829); lectures on sound at the Royal Institution; commissioned by SDUK to write treatise on machinery (1834) still unwritten in 1840s when the project collapses; lectures to the Cambridge Philosophical Society on tracery and vaults (1835); lectures to the Cambridge Philosophical Society on the entablature in Egyptian and Grecian architecture (1836); succeeded William Farrish as Jacksonian Professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy, Cambridge, invents the odontograph and the cymagraph (1837; designs the King's Walk Cemetary Chapel, Wisbech, survey of Hereford Cathedral, lectures to the Cambridge Philosophical Society on William of Worcester and on vaults, lectures to RIBA on vaults (1841); publishes paper on the cymagraph (1842); publishes papers on architectural nomenclature and the sextry barn at Ely (1843); President of the Architectural Section at the first BAA Congress in Canterbury and lectures on the cathedral, lectures to RIBA on nomenclature (1844); lectures on Winchester cathedral (1845); lectures at the Royal Institution on Architecture and at AI Congress on York Minster (1846); lectures at the Royal Institution on Architecture, to the RIBA on the Holy Sepulchre, to the AI on the conventual buildings of Canterbury and at AI Congress on Norwich and Ely Cathedrals and Yarmouth church (1847); lectures to AI congress on Lincoln cathedral and to RIBA on triforia (1848); member of Royal Commission to inquire into application of iron to railway structures, lectures to AI Congress on Salisbury Cathedral (1849); lectures to AI Congress on Oxford Cathedral, excavations at Ely (1850); juror of the Great Exhibition, lectures to AI Congress on Wells Cathedral, publishes a paper on the strength of iron beams; publishes a system of apparatus for the use of lecturers and experimenters in mechanical philosophy (1851); publishes a paper on the machines and tools for working in metal, wood and other materials shown at the Great Exhibition, for the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts Manufactures and Commerce (1852); lecturer in applied mechanics at the Government School of Mines, lectures to AI Congress on Chichester cathedral and to the Society of Antiquaries on the conventual buildings of Canterbury (1853); lectures to the AI Congress on the architecture of the University of Cambridge (1854); Vice-President of the Paris Exhibition and reporter on class for the manufacture of textiles (1855); lectures to AI Congress on Gloucester Cathedral and to the Architectural Society Congress on Ely cathedral and the architectural history of the University of Cambridge (1860); President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, chairs the debate which comes down in favour of Darwin's theory of evolution, lectures to AI Congress on Worcester Cathedral (1862); President of the Mechanical Section of British Association for the Advancement of Science, lecturers to AI Congress on Rochester Cathedral (1863); lectures to A I Congress on Glastonbury Abbey and Sherborne Minster, lectures to the Royal Institution on the architectural history of Eton College (1865)
Honours:
Legion d'Honneur (1857) for report on machinery for woven fabrics
RIBA Gold Medal
Royal Society activityMembership:
Fellow
Election Date:
22/04/1830
Council:
VP 1862-1864
RelationshipsIllegitimate son of Robert Darling Willis, physician to George III; married (1832) Mary Ann Humphrey ; father-in-law of William Henry Besant; brother-in-law of William Clark (through sister Mary);
SourcesSources:
Bulloch's Roll; DNB; DSB; Alexandrina Buchanan 'Robert Willis (1800-1875) and the Rise of Architectural History (unpublished PhD thesis, University College London, 1995)
References:
S Ross, 'Faraday Consults the Scholars: the Origins of the Terms of Electrochemistry' in NR 1961 vol 16 pp 187-220
R Robson and Walter F Cannon, 'William Whewell, FRS (1794-1866)' in NR 1964 vol 19 pp 168-191
F C Moon, 'Robert Willis and Franz Reuleaux: pioneers in the theory of machines' in NR 2003 vol 57 pp 209-230
Royal Society codeNA7518
Archives associated with this Fellow
Reference numberTitleDate
IM/Maull/004943Willis, Robertnd
IM/004944Willis, Robertnd
RR/1/26Referee's report by Robert Willis, on a paper 'On the vocal chords and acoustics' by John Bishop17 November 1835
EC/1830/22Willis, Robert: certificate of election to the Royal Society
MM/10/164Report from the Anemometers (Improvements) Committee on Eiffe's, Molyneux's and Parkinson and Frondheim's proposed improvements in Chronometers1841
RR/3/101Referee's report by Robert Willis, on a paper 'On the resistance of tubes to collapse' by William Fairbairn24 May 1858
RR/4/87Referee's report by Robert Willis, on a paper 'On the resistance of glass globes and cylinders to collapse from external pressure; and on the tensile and compressive strength of various kinds of glass' by William Fairbairn and Thomas Tate10 June 1859
RR/4/89Referee's report by Robert Willis, on a paper 'Experimental researches to determine the density of steam at different temperatures, and to determine the law of expansions of superheated steam' by William Fairbairn and Thomas Tate23 March 1860
RR/1/61Referee's report by Robert Willis, on a paper 'An experimental inquiry into the strength of wrought-iron plates and their riveted joints as applied to ship-building and vessels exposed to severe strains' by William Fairbairn26 June 1850
RR/1/100Referee's report by Robert Willis, on a paper 'Experimental researches on the strength of pillars of cast iron, and other materials' by Eaton Hodgkinson27 June 1840
RR/6/271Referee's report by Robert Willis, on a paper 'On uniform rotation' by Charles William Siemens26 May 1866
RR/6/258Referee's report by Robert Willis, on a paper 'On the mechanical description of curves' by William Henry Leighton Russell28 July 1869
RR/1/101Referee's report by Robert Willis, on a paper 'Experimental researches on the strength of pillars of cast iron, and other materials' by Eaton Hodgkinson24 November 1841
MS/426/532Copy letter from Edward Sabine, Treasurer of the Royal Society; to Lord Rosse [William Parsons], President of the Royal Society10 November 1854
RR/5/75Referee's report by Robert Willis, on a paper 'Experiments to determine the effect of impact, vibratory action, and long-continued changes of load on wrought-iron girders' by William Fairbairn7 March 1864
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