Lanchester, F. W. (Frederick William), 1868-1946

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In 1888 Lanchester began work as Assistant Works Manager for the Forward Gas Engine Company in Saltley, Birmingham. He became Works Manager in 1889, resigning the post in 1892 to visit America. Patents taken out by Lanchester during this time remained his own property. On his return from the United States in 1893, Lanchester set up a small business in Birmingham to make dust proof bearings for cycles to his own design. The venture was unsuccessful however, and was forced to close. From 1894 he worked at the development of his first motor car assisted by his brothers. In 1899 he formed the Lanchester Engine Company, and by 1901 the first motor car was in production.

Lanchester was now able to combine his twin interests of flight and aircraft with cars and manufacturing and in 1907 and 1908 he published a two volume work on aerial flight, known as Aerial Flight . In 1908, Lanchester joined Birmingham Small Arms as a consultant engineer and technical advisor, an association with them and with Daimler Company Ltd which lasted for 28 years. From 1908 he became involved with both the motor car and the aeronautical fields at a national level giving papers at many institutions. From 1909 he was on the Advisory Committee for Aeronautics where he worked on the military uses of aircraft, resigning in 1920. From 1911 he had gradually withdraw from the day to day management of the Lanchester Engine Company and was able to take up consultancies with many other organisations. In 1925 he formed Lanchester's Laboratories Ltd to give himself better research facilities and premises to carry out his consultancy work. The company produced radios and loud speakers for sale.

In the early 1930s, Lanchester became friends with Robert Lockhart, Professor of Anatomy at the University of Birmingham, and they began some experiments on eyesight. The friendship lasted until Lanchester's death. In 1935 he became an external examiner in mechanical engineering at Birmingham University which he very much enjoyed.

In his later life, Lanchester suffered from poor health and reduced financial circumstances. He earned a living writing books and technical papers. During the build up to the Second World War he was very critical of political and military affairs. He wanted to help the war effort, and in 1941 the Society of British Aircraft constructors offered him an appointment as a consultant. Lanchester's health was worsening and by 1942 he was almost blind in one eye. Lanchester continued to publish books and papers until his death in March 1946.

Reference: John Fletcher, editor, The Lanchester Legacy: A Celebration of Genius (Coventry University Enterprises Ltd, Coventry, 1996).

From the guide to the The Lanchester Collection, 1888-1999, (Lanchester Library, Coventry University)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn The Lanchester Collection, 1888-1999 Lanchester Library, Coventry University
creatorOf The Lanchester Collection, 1888-1999 Lanchester Library, Coventry University
referencedIn Papers relating to F.W.Lanchester, 1868-1946 University of Southampton Libraries Special Collections
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Birmingham Small Arms corporateBody
associatedWith Daimler Company corporateBody
associatedWith Lanchester Engine Company corporateBody
associatedWith Lanchester Frederick William 1868-1946 person
associatedWith Lanchester Motor Company Ltd corporateBody
associatedWith Lanchester's Laboratories Ltd corporateBody
associatedWith Lockhart Robert Professor of Anatomy person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Engineering Great Britain


Birth 1868-10-23

Death 1946-03-08



Ark ID: w6vv6whz

SNAC ID: 48010273