Sir William White (2 February 1845 – 27 February 1913) is a name unknown to many unless you are a maritime historian or a naval architect. During his time as chief constructor of the Royal Navy, he oversaw the construction of numerous battleships, cruisers, and unarmored warships. He retired in 1902 after suffering a nervous breakdown in 1901 due to a mishap involving the royal yacht Victoria and Albert. He went to work for Cunard as a consulting architect for RMS Mauretania. He also became president of Institution of Civil Engineers, Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and Institution of Marine Engineers. From 1909-1910 he was council chairman for the Royal Society of Arts, and was governor of Imperial College until his death in 1913.
His contribution to Titanic came during the American inquiry. He penned a long letter to The Times about how the media had sensationalized the story resulting in premature opinions as to what happened. While the lifeboat issue was certainly important, naval engineers had to come up ways to keep the ship from sinking when they collide with icebergs. Merely slowing down would not be enough (and passengers might not like moving slowly across the ocean).
White argued for improving the water-tight subdivision of ships. The Titanic used transverse compartments that ran the width of ship which did not work. He proposed future designs add longitudinal compartments that ran from bow to stern.
Many ships were retrofitted after Titanic’s sinking, like having their double bottoms extended up the sides to the waterline giving them double hulls (this was done on Olympic). Other ships altered the height of the bulkheads to make them fully watertight.
1. May 1912: The Titanic Inquiry(15 May 2013, The Engineer)
2. William Henry White (Wikipedia)
3. Institute of Mechanical Engineers, Engineering Heritage biography on William Henry White
4. An Expert On Titanic Wreck:Sir William White’s Deductions From Result of American Enquiry, Montreal Gazette, 31 May 1912 (available through Google).
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