Jacksonian Professorship of Natural Experimental Philosophy

The Reverend Richard Jackson of Torrington in Herefordshire, a former fellow of Trinity College died in 1782. He left one fifth of the income from his estate to the chief gardener of the university physic garden and the remainder to endow a Professorship of Natural Experimental Philosophy.*

Experimental philosophy in the eighteenth century included subjects such as physics, mechanics, metallurgy, chemistry and applied sciences. His will laid down in great detail the qualifications and duties required of the holder of this office, one of which was to search for a cure for gout.

This Professorship was the forerunner of the Professorship of Mechanism and Applied Mechanics, which marked the start of the Engineering Department in 1875, because the will also stated that the lectures given by the Jacksonian Professor should promote "real and useful knowledge" by "showing or doing something in the way of experiment upon the subject undertaken to be treated." Thus it attracted scientists with a practical disposition.

* Text from "Engineering at Cambridge University 1783-1965", T.J.N. Hilken, CUP 1967