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William John Macquorn Rankine

(1820 - 1872 / Scotland)

Biography of William John Macquorn Rankine

William John Macquorn Rankine poet

William J. Macquorn Rankine was born in Edinburgh on July 5th. He trained in the Edinburgh University as an engineer under Sir J. B. Macneill. He spent most of his schooling working on surveys, harbors and railroads. This training paid off, and at the age of 35 Rankine was appointed to the chair of civil engineering in Glasgow. He began to write, usually only subjects directly connected with his chair, but then branching out farther. He contributed weekly to the technical journals, such as The Engineer, and put out a series of textbooks on civil engineering, the steam-engine and other prime movers, etc. He also came to publish elaborate treatise called Shipbuilding, Theoretical and Practical.
Rankine was also a prominent and enthusiastic leader of the volunteer movement from its beginning. He also wrote, composed and sung several humorous and patriotic songs and poetry, such as The Three Foot Rule and They Never Shall have Gibraltar. He was also the earliest of the three founders of the modern science of Thermodynamics wrote on of the first formal treatise on the subject. These and other of Rankine’s writings have been extremely useful in the advancement and understanding of engineering and physics. Rankine died at Glasgow on the 24th of December.

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The Three Foot Rule

When I was bound apprentice, and learned to use my hands,
Folk never talked of measures that came from foreign lands:
Now I'm a British Workman, too old to go to school;
So whether the chisel or file I hold, I'll stick to my three-foot rule.

Some talk of millimetres, and some of kilogrammes,
And some of decilitres, to measure beer and drams;
But I'm a British Workman, too old to go to school,
So by pounds I'll eat, and by quarts I'll drink, and I'll work by my three-foot rule.

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