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Professor Gordon Blair, BEng 1959 PhD 1962 DSc 1978

Published by Prof. Blair & Associates

Professor Gordon Blair died on October 21st 2010 after battling cancer for several years.  He will be fondly remembered, but greatly missed, by all of his family, friends and colleagues.

Gordon Purves Blair was born in Larne County Antrim in 1937 and educated at Larne grammar School.  He then went to Queen’s University Belfast to study Mechanical Engineering, where he obtained a BSc degree in 1959, a PhD in 1962 and a DSc in 1978 – this latter award is a “higher doctorate” awarded in recognition of a substantial and sustained contribution to scientific knowledge.

In 1962, having finished his PhD, Gordon Blair moved to the US where he then spent two years as an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at New Mexico State University.  In 1964 he returned to Queen’s University where he worked and remained until he retired early in 1996.

During his career at Queen’s University Gordon rose right through the ranks to become a Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Head of Department, Dean of Engineering, and finally Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University.  His published research work includes over 100 technical papers, three research text books and he was the editor of three research compilations.  He also had nine patents granted.  During his time in academia he also achieved many professional engineering distinctions.

Gordon Blair always had a love of motor cycles and in 1965 embarked on a journey that would not only enhance his research credentials and reputation around the world, but also that of Mechanical Engineering at Queen’s University in Belfast.  That was the year he began contesting the Irish road racing scene with machines designed and built in the mechanical Engineering Department at Queen’s.

By the end of the 1960s Gordon Blair’s research work on engines had produced validated computer simulation programs which were helping design more powerful engines and providing theoretical and design insights that were giving the Queen’s University team advantages over even the biggest factory motorcycle teams!  In 1969 these research and design efforts began bearing fruit when Queen’s rider Brian Steenson finishing second to the great Giacamo Agostini in the 1969 Ulster GP at Dunrod on a QUB 4-storke bike.

However Gordon knew that the future of GP racing was 2-stroke engines and his 2-stroke engine designs went on to power Queen’s rider Ray McCullough to many victories over the ensuing years, including seven Ulster Grand Prix victories to equal the greats such as Giacamo Agostini, Mike Hailwood and Stanley Woods.

1971 was a very important year for Gordon and the Queen’s team because that year they beat the works Yamaha team in the Ulster GP using a Yamaha engine which had been privately developed in the workshop and test cells at Queen’s University. Gordon Blair and the Mechanical Engineering Department at Queen’s were now on the radar of Yamaha in Japan who soon forged a technical agreement with him so that Gordon and his Queen’s colleagues would assist with the research and design of the company’s racing engines.  This relationship was to continue successfully for many years.

In 1984 Professor Blair became Dean of Engineering at Queen’s and so handed over the racing mantle to his colleagues who continued to fly the banner right up to the early 2000s with continued racing successes.

There is also a long list of other visionary engine design and development projects resulting from professor Blair’s tenure at Queen’s University which are far too many to mention here.

Professor Blair retired from Queen’s University in 1996 as Professor Emeritus.  Since that time to this he forged ahead with his interests in engine design and simulation.  Initially he worked with the US Company Optimum Power technology to commercialise the engine design software he had developed, based on the 30 years of research carried out by himself at colleagues at Queen’s.  However, he also decided to start a brand new chapter of work and educate himself in the area of engine design that he had previously had little experience and that was 4-stroke engine valve trains.

And this is where we came in.  For approximately the last 14 years we have been primarily engaged in developing computer software to design engine valve trains.  At Professor Blair and Associates Gordon was Senior Associate, and to date, he has succeeded in influencing the design offices of over 70 companies all around the world who use our software – he has also visited each once in turn to properly train and guide them in its use!

Many of these companies are currently involved in motorsport activities and regularly winning races, so, as our colleague and friend Hans Hermann so eloquently put it: ‘Professor there is a little bit of you in engines winning races all over the world’ – and long may it continue!



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