A British engineer known across the world as the ‘father of composite materials’, has been recognised by the Royal Academy of Engineering for his “distinguished career”, spanning more than 60 years.

Professor Anthony Kelly CBE FREng FRS has been awarded the President’s Medal for contributing significantly to the Academy’s aims and work through excellence in engineering.

Since graduating with a first class physics degree from the University of Reading in 1949, Professor Kelly, now 82, has been a leading light in engineering. He held the post of Vice-Chancellor at the University of Surrey; was a lecturer at the University of Cambridge; was appointed Deputy Director of the National Physical Laboratory; and held the Presidency of the Institute of Materials. He also holds honorary degrees from the UK, Spain, USA and South Korea for his excellence in engineering. He has been a long standing consultant to important UK and international engineering companies. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (then the Fellowship of Engineering) in 1979.

Professor Kelly, who lives in Cambridge, is best known for his work into high-performing composite materials, which today form the basis of most major civil and mechanical structures, from vehicles on land, sea and air to buildings, bridges and engines. His book on the subject, Strong Solids, first published in 1965 is still regarded as the seminal work in the field.

Nominating Professor Kelly for the award, Professor Sir Colin John Humphreys FREng of the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy at the University of Cambridge, said: “Professor Kelly is an exceptional engineer. He has received many awards and honours from around the world for his research, and remains active today.

“Not only has he given birth to a new field in materials engineering, composite materials, he has also headed a university, created a science park and been a director of companies. It is rare to find contributions that are so distinguished and yet so broad. He is an exceptional winner of the President’s Medal.”

Lord Browne of Madingley, presented Professor Kelly with his award at the Academy’s annual awards dinner in London’s Guildhall on 6 June. He said: “This country has produced many exceptional engineers but few as distinguished as Professor Kelly. His research and work have had a profound impact not only in the UK but all across the world, and his epithet as the ‘father of composite materials’ is well-earned as his reputation is global.

On learning of his award, Professor Kelly said: “I am deeply honoured to receive this award and believe that it recognises the talents of the colleagues with whom I have been so fortunate to work. I have been blessed with an ability to convey concisely and, luckily at the right time, the essence and importance of the subjects of my interest.”

Notes for editors

  1. The President’s Medal

    The Royal Academy of Engineering President’s Medal was first awarded in 1987 to Air Marshal Sir Richard Wakeford KCB LVO OBE AFC. It is awarded bienially to an organisation or individual who has contributed significantly to the Academy’s aims and work through ‘initiative in promoting excellence in engineering’. Previous winners include Sir Alan Rudge and Jonathan Ive.
  2. The Royal Academy of Engineering

    Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship – comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers – provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.

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Ed Holmes on 0207 766 0655