Institution of Mechanical Engineers IMechE

Guest Lecture - 'Community Engineering' Is What We Really Need

10 November 2009

Prof. H.S.Wolff  BSc. FIEE. FIBES FRCP(Hon) FRSA

After leaving school in Oxford Heinz worked for four years at the Radcliffe Infirmary at Oxford and at the Pneumoconiosis Research Unit near Cardiff, concerned with the design of medical and environmental measuring equipment before reading Physiology and Physics at University College, London.  In 1954 he graduated with First Class Honours.

He was initially employed in the Division of Human Physiology at the National Institute for Medical Research, where he specialised in the development of instrumentation suitable for fieldwork.  In 1962 he founded and became director of the Biomedical Engineering Division.

In 1971 Heinz founded a Division of Bioengineering at the new Clinical Research Centre at Harrow, which was concerned with a wide spectrum of applications of technology to medical research and medical care, and with technology transfer to industry.

Since 1975 he has held a number of honorary appointments with the European Space Agency and until July 1991 was chairman of the Microgravity Advisory Committee, responsible for making policy for the scientific exploitation of the low gravity environment present on orbiting spacecraft.  He has also served as one of the UK representatives on the European Science Foundation Space Science Committee.

In 1983 he founded the Brunel Institute for Bioengineering at Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex.  The Institute is financially totally self-supporting and holds contracts for work in space research, medical instrumentation and technology for the improvement of the quality of life for the elderly (Tools for Living).  In connection with the latter activity, Professor Wolff was given the Harding Award for 1989, awarded alternately by Action Research and RADAR.  In 1992 he was the recipient of the Edinburgh Medal, awarded in recognition of an outstanding contribution by a scientist to society. In 1987 he was made a Fellow of University College, London, and in 1989 a vice-president of the College of Occupational Therapists. In 1993 he received an Honorary Doctorate from the Open University and in 1993 was made a Fellow of the Institution of Electrical Engineers.  In 1994 he was made a Fellow of the Biological Engineering Society. He holds honorary doctorates from The Open University, DeMontford, Middlesex, Oxford Brookes and Brunel Universities and was made an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Physicians.

He has always been interested in the scientific and technical education of the young and lectures widely.  He is perhaps best know by the public for a number of television series, such as Young Scientist of the Year, the Great Egg Race and Great Experiments Which Changed the World.  His personal interests range from the invention of high technology devices to the widespread and sensible application of technology to the problems of the elderly and disabled.  He regards the communication of enthusiasm for science and engineering to the young as a very high priority.

He is now Emeritus Professor of Bioengineering at Brunel University but does much the same as he did before, leading a small team concerned with the use of technology for the improvement of the quality of life for elderly or otherwise vulnerable people. This seems appropriate because he is about to celebrate his 80th birthday.


Community Engineering - Is What We Really Need



Duration: 90 mins