18 June 2013

4th Harry Nicholson Distinguished Lecture in Control Engineering

In hProf Hounslow, Prof Smith, Prof Kadirkamanathan at Nicholson lectureonour of its founder, Professor Harry Nicholson, the Department of Automatic Control & Systems Engineering hosts an annual Nicholson lecture series. Its aim is to attract the most prestigious academics in the field today to present to staff, students and an invited audience from across the University.

Pro-vice Chancellor for Engineering Professor Hounslow introduced the event to the 110 strong audience of ACSE staff, students and Emeritus staff. The lecture, titled ‘Control systems and networks from the feedback amplifier to Formula One Racing’ was presented by Professor Malcolm C. Smith who is well-known for his invention of the inerter mechanical device currently used in Formula One motor racing and elsewhere.

MaMalcolm Smith at Nicholson Lecture photolcolm Smith is a Professor of Control Engineering and Head of the Control Group in the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge.  His research interests are in the areas of robust control, nonlinear systems, electrical and mechanical networks, and automotive applications. He received the 2009 Sir Harold Hartley Medal of the Institute of Measurement and Control for outstanding contributions to the technology of measurement and control. Professor Smith is a Fellow of the IEEE and the Royal Academy of Engineering and received the 1992 and 1999 George Axelby Best Paper Awards, in the IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control, both times for joint work with T.T. Georgiou.

‘Control systems and networks from the feedback amplifier to Formula One Racing’ traced the close interaction between control theory and networks from the 1920s to the present day. Professor Smith began with reviewing the classical pillars of both subjects: the network synthesis theorems of Foster, Brune and others, the invention of the feedback amplifier and the foundations of classical control. He discussed the aspects of the post-war development of these subjects, including those leading to H-infinity control and the study of active control and passivity, which led to the invention of a new mechanical network element - the inerter. A demonstration was given to the room of ACSE staff, students and Emeritus staff the development of the inerter and its widespread deployment in Formula One motor racing.

Inerter being viewed at Nicholson lectureThis prestigious event was concluded by the description of unsolved problems in classical network theory, some of which are brought to the fore again through the inerter and mechanical network synthesis. Our guest speaker rounded off the session by presenting recent insights and new results on these problems.

Professor Harry Nicholson’s vision of the relevance and potential of Control Systems Engineering as a distinct University subject area enabled the Department to begin its journey to the strong national and international profile it holds today. Professor Nicholson was instrumental in initiating and further developing both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, in developing research programmes and, crucially, in appointing academic, technical and clerical staff. We as a Department wish to honour him by naming our lecture series after him.