Tributes have been paid to Dr George Gainsborough, former secretary of the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE), who passed away on Friday 3 October.
Dr Gainsborough was born in the Shetland Isles and read Physics at King's College, London. He completed his PhD whilst employed by the Radio Division at the National Physical Laboratory. After secondment to the British Commonwealth Scientific Office in Washington he returned to London and transferred to the Administrative Civil Service. During his spare time he began to read for the Bar, as a member of Gray's Inn.
Following these successful careers he joined the IEE as secretary in 1962. Although he had only planned to stay for seven years, the Institution was in great need of his clear vision and energy, and he was to stay for 18 years, retiring in 1980.
Due to rebuilding costs, the IEE was substantially in debt and Dr Gainsborough transformed it into engineering's financially most thriving institution. This was achieved largely by developing its publishing services, and by expanding the newly launched Inspec database. This year, Inspec, which now includes articles from more than 4,000 scientific and technical journals, celebrated its 10 millionth record. Charging appropriate prices for these services meant the IEE no longer had to rely on its subscription income alone and this independence enabled the Institution to take a broader view of the future of the engineering profession.
Dr Gainsborough's international work for the profession began immediately on taking up the IEE post in 1962 with seven years as secretary of the Commonwealth Engineering Conference, and a further seven years from 1968 as secretary general of the World Federation of Engineering Organisations, which he helped to create.
Dr Gainsborough was widely acknowledged as being the focal point for change in the engineering profession. He was a strong supporter of the Council for Engineering Institutions (CEI) and sought support for a Public Inquiry, which he hoped would lead to a statutory body to take over where the CEI had failed. The lobbying he initiated led to the announcement by the secretary of state for industry in June 1977 that the Finniston Committee, an Inquiry into the Engineering Profession and the problems of manufacturing industry was to be set up.
Robin McGill, IET chief executive, said: "Dr Gainsborough provided exceptional leadership whilst at the helm of the IEE. He was instrumental in turning around the Institution's finances, while enhancing its reputation abroad so spectacularly.
"He was a decisive influence in changing attitudes towards engineers and it's a tribute to his clear analysis of the ills of the profession that many of the recommendations in the 1977 inquiry by the secretary of state for industry followed his own ideas. He possessed so many positive qualities, which came into play through his career. In particular, during his time with the IEE, where he demonstrated energy in undertaking numerous fact-finding trips abroad and in this country, he was incisive in exhorting opinion and explaining the issues to others, and was skilled as a host and a connoisseur of wine and food in oiling the wheels during meetings and events. His death is a loss to us all, in particular the engineering profession."
Dr George Gainsborough CBE PhD FIEE Barrister at Law passed away on 3 October at Speirs House, New Malden. Speirs House is managed by the IET Benevolent Fund, IET Connect.