Harry Ricardo

Ricardo's Cambridge Years

Harry Ricardo came up to Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1903. This was the year that the Wright brothers made the first powered flight in the USA. The automobile was still an object of public hostility, and until the Motor Car Act was passed in 1904, cars were classed as light locomotives and their speed was restricted to 12 mph. By 1905, however, the motor car had already become a practical way of making a long journey.

Harry Ricardo had plenty of early contact with cars, as his grandfather was one of the first people to own one in 1898. However, although he was an enthusiast, he arrived at Cambridge intent on training as a civil engineer. The man who changed his chosen career path was Professor Bertram Hopkinson, who had just been appointed Professor of Mechanism and Applied Mechanics, at the age of twenty-nine.

Ricardo had an interview with Bertram Hopkinson at the end of his first year. They discussed Ricardo's plans to build a motor cycle on which he was to compete in the University Automobile Club's event. The competition was to see which machine could travel the furthest on a quart of petrol. Ricardo commented that during the interview he "fell victim to his (Hopkinson's) charm and personality. I sensed that he would attach more importance to my showing in the competition than to my end of term examinations."