Michael Rex Horne was borne on 29th December 1921 in Sheffield. From a young boy, Horne stated that he wanted to 'build bridges' when he was asked what he wanted to do when he grew up. Horne graduated from St John's College, Cambridge with a first-class honours degree in Mechanical Sciences and was awarded the Prize in Theory of Structures. After graduation, Horne worked as an Assistant Engineer for the River Great Ouse Catchment Board. After two years he entered his academic career at the University of Cambridge working on plastic theory and achieved a PhD.
In 1978 Horne was elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Academy of Engineering and in 1981 to the Fellowship of The Royal Society. In 1981 also he was appointed O.B.E. and received the honorary degree of DSc from the University of Salford.
In 1970 Horne fulfilled his ambition to ‘build bridges.’ In collaboration with his team at Manchester, he was appointed to establish design methods for building girder bridges following the collapse of the Box Girder Bridges in Melbourne, Australia. This work later led to establishing guidance and assessment criteria of the adequacy of 51 girder bridges, then in operation in the UK. Aspects of all this work were incorporated into the British Standard BS 5400 part 3, Code of practice for design of steel bridges, published in 1983. Horn died on 6th January 2000. He was remembered with so much regard and affection by the Council of the Institution of Structural Engineers that it was decided that a seminar should be held to honour his life and works. This was the first time that such a seminar was held in memory of a Past-President. Further information.
Plastic theory of structures
Horne was well-known for his plastic theory of structures and talent for developing complicated analysis into simplified design aids for practising engineers.
Behaviour of axially loaded stanchions
Amongst many contributions, one of Horne’s most important pieces of work concerned the behaviour of axially loaded stanchions (I-section columns) bent about two axes of symmetry. He was able to distil the complex mathematical expressions into a series of design curves that could be used simply in practice.
British Standard for the structural use of steelwork in building
The main components of this work were incorporated nearly 50 years later, into the present British Standard for the structural use of steelwork in building.
MR Horne. 1953. 'A Moment Distribution Method for the Analysis and Design of Structures by the Plastic Theory'.
Horne at Manchester
Horne left Cambridge in 1960 when he was appointed Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Manchester where he worked for 23 years until his retirement in 1983. Under his leadership the Civil Engineering department prospered in size and reputation. Such was the stimulating environment of the department that at least 12 members of his staff and research students later became professors of civil or structural engineering in the UK, with several more abroad. While at Manchester, and even after he became Beyer Professor and Head of the Engineering Department in 1978, Horne published approximately 23 sole publications, including a book 'Plastic Theory of Structures', and about 40 joint publications.