Professor Robert Barry Waterhouse JP CEng FICorr FRSA FIMMM (Obit)

Fellows' Lounge
22 Dec 2010

Professor Robert Barry Waterhouse JP CEng FICorr FRSA FIMMM, known as ‘Bob’, began his metallurgical career at the Woolwich Arsenal just before the start of the Second World War.


Higher education

In the 1940s he began a Natural Sciences Tripos at Cambridge, gaining a 1st Class Honours degree in Metallurgy. He decided to continue his studies and the subject of ‘fretting’ was suggested. After working in the Department of Colloid Science at Cambridge for three years, Bob successfully submitted a PhD thesis in 1955, entitled ‘Mechanical Aspects of Friction Processes which include Fretting’.


Career in academia

He became the fourth member of staff recruited to the Department of Metallurgy at Nottingham in the 1956-57 session. Bob taught crystallography to undergraduates and set up a research group on fretting wear, fatigue and corrosion. In the late 1950s he became Warden of Wortley Hall, a student hall of residence at Nottingham. This added responsibility did not prevent him from maintaining his research and teaching activities.

His reputation grew in the fields of fatigue and wear as he published his research findings, particularly as it was realised that a significant number of failures in aeroengines, automobiles, nuclear power generation and general engineering were occurring because of fatigue failures taking place at low levels of stress. This was due to crack initiation occurring at sites where relatively small (~50μm amplitude) movements between surfaces were taking place, ie fretting. Potential sites for failures were found in, for example, wire rope applications in mining, cranes, suspension bridges and hawsers for offshore rigs, where it is necessary to involve appropriate lubricants and/or regular maintenance or replacement schedules.

In 1972, Bob wrote a textbook on fretting corrosion and, in 1981, he published a second volume on fretting fatigue. Both books are still frequently referenced in papers, as they provide an understanding of the subject and advise how to prevent fretting by combining engineering design with an appropriate choice of materials and surface processing. Bob was promoted to Reader and then Professor in recognition of his publications in this field of research.

With the introduction of surgical replacements of hip joints in the late 1970s, fretting fatigue was a major factor in promoting their early failure in service in the body. Bob helped to introduce interactive research in this topic, between Nottingham’s Medical School and Faculty of Engineering. His reputation spread worldwide and he was a frequent invited speaker in Japan and the USA. Bob wrote an international review on fretting fatigue and was a joint editor of the proceedings of several international conferences. Many workers came to Nottingham to carry out research with him, particularly those from Japan and China. An opportunity came up in the mid 1980s to set up an exchange for personnel with the Shanghai Research Institute for Metals and Nottingham, which was jointly financed by the Royal Society and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Other interests

Over a period of 30 years Bob was an extremely popular Warden and this brought him into contact with a range of people who graduated from Nottingham. This allowed him to build up a circle of friends throughout the world from many professions and backgrounds.

He had a keen interest in the Arts, particularly as a watercolour artist, never failing to exhibit in the University’s salon each year. For many years he was a justice of the peace on the Nottingham and Sheffield benches and also a Prison Visitor.


After retiring from Nottingham in 1989, Bob lived in Dore near Sheffield. He continued to work on fretting problems at Nottingham and the University of Sheffield. His visits to Nottingham stimulated work in fretting among younger colleagues and this led to the Rolls-Royce UTC group on splines and drives.

Bob passed away suddenly on 4 October, aged 88 years, leaving a brother Norman and nephews Nigel, Colin and Keith.