The Development of Control Engineering in Britain
and the Cambridge Contribution continued...

Probably the first set of lectures on automatic control engineering (as a subject in its own right) at Cambridge were given by G.D.S. MacLellan (Pembroke) in 1946-7. By the late 1940s, the basic theory of closed loop systems was being given in a course on "mechanics of machines", taken by all engineering undergraduates, and was treated as an extension of the elementary theory of engine governors. For those who went on to Part II of the Mechanical Sciences Tripos (roughly the top 20% of students) there were more advanced lectures, for example, on the applications of control to the governing of prime movers (for mechanical engineers) and the theoretical background common to servo-mechanisms and feedback amplifiers (for electrical engineers). The principle of teaching the basics of classical control to all engineering undergraduates in their second year has continued until the present day, with the material being moved from the mechanics paper to a new information engineering paper in 1986. The teaching of control in the third year underwent a gradual unification (from separate mechanical/electrical treatments) which was fully achieved in 1987. This principle has continued after the introduction of the four-year M.Eng course in 1992.

The control research group at Cambridge was established in 1947 by R.H. Macmillan, and was expanded by J.F. Coales after 1952 who later became the first professor of control engineering at Cambridge and a founder member of the International Federation of Automatic Control (IFAC). A post-graduate course in control engineering was started in 1954 which was intended mainly for graduates who had spent some time in industry. This course continued until it was replaced by the M.Phil in control engineering and operational research in 1977, which itself continued until 1986. Research by the control group was carried out first in the areas of mechanical control systems, and later in nonlinear and optimal control with A.T. Fuller, and applications to industrial processes. After 1974, multivariable frequency response methods became a prominent research theme with the appointment of A.G.J. MacFarlane to the professorship in control engineering.