Professor George Gerald Stoney (1863 - 1942)

Professor George Gerald Stoney

Professor Stoney was born in Dublin on 28 Nov, 1863, the eldest son of Dr. G. Johnstone Stoney, FRS; and, as a boy, was educated at home by his father and mother. His father was an eminent Physicist and the boy had a good grounding in mathematics, physics, mechanics, chemistry and astronomy, as well as mechanical training in the workshops and laboratory at home.

In 1887 he graduated with a first class BA degree at Trinity College, Dublin. He took a first honours in Mathematics, graduated second Senior Moderator, and was a Gold medallist in experimental sciences.

For one year he became an engineering assistant to his uncle, Bindon Blood Stoney, FRS, who was engineer to the Dublin Port and Docks Board. In 1888 he joined the Hon. C.A. Parsons, who was then Junior Partner and Chief Electrical Engineer with Clarke, Chapman, Parsons & Co., Gateshead-upon-Tyne.

In 1889 Parsons founded his own works at Heaton, Newcastle-upon-Tyne; and, for a time, Stoney worked in the shops as a fitter. In 1893 his previous knowledge of the silvering of mirrors led to his appointment as manager of the Searchlight Reflector Department, and of the Test House where complete turbo-generators were tested, under steam, before dispatch. In 1912 he resigned from C. A. Parsons & Co., and took up consulting work on turbine matters, and to a peat factory in Dumfries.

He published several papers, mainly on steam turbines; and was a member of the IMechE committee that reported on what experiments should be done to improve the flow of steam in nozzles and turbines. The subsequent research was done at the Dickinson St. power station in Manchester; and Stoney was appointed reporter of the work.

In 1926 Stoney relinquished his professorship, and recommenced work at the Heaton Works as Director of Research on 23 August. His first report to the directors on 29 September discussed the general theory of exhaust losses in condensing turbines, and showed how model experiments must be carried out with the same Reynolds number. This led to the construction of standard apparatus for model tests, and was a major contribution to experimental methods.

Stoney carried out experiments on steam turbines, condensing plant, high-speed pumps, fans and other machines.

In 1930 he retired, but maintained active interests in the International Steam Tables Committee; the International Electrotechnical Commission and the British Standards Institution. He died at Heaton, 15 May 1942, in his 79th year.

Outstanding contribution to science

Steam turbine propulsion system

Stoney was one of the original crew that during the period 1894-1897 developed the steam turbine propulsion system for the vessel S. Y. "Turbina".

High-speed d.c. dynamos and alternators

In 1895, he was Chief Designer in the Steam Turbine Department, and later became Chief Electrical Engineer for both the high-speed d.c. dynamos and alternators, and then Technical manager of the Heaton works. He took part in much experimental work, and several patents were taken out with Parsons.

High-Speed electrical machinery

In 1908, with Mr A.H. Laws, he read a paper on "High-Speed Electrical Machinery" for which he received the highest premium award of the Institution of Electrical Engineers. Much of his work was in this field.


Stoney was Watt medallist of the Institution of Civil Engineers. In 1909 he read a paper before the Royal Society on "The tension of metallic films Deposited by Electrolysis" Proc. Roy. Soc. Lond. A, 1909, 82, 172-175. In 1911 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.

1908 High-Speed Electrical Machinery, courtesy of IEEE.
1908 High-Speed Electrical Machinery, courtesy of IEEE.

Stoney at Manchester

In 1917 he was appointed as a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the Faculty of Technology at the Victoria University of Manchester where he worked for 9 years.

Watt Gold Medal

In 1905 Gerald Stoney and Charles Parsons were joint recipients of the Watt Gold Medal from the the Institution of Civil Engineers.

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