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Wallis, Sir Barnes (Neville)

war aircraft lattice design

(1887–1979) British engineer: innovative designer and inventor of the ‘bouncing’ bomb and the geodetic lattice.

Wallis was trained as a marine engineer but he spent most of his professional life at Vickers in aeronautical design, joining them in 1913. After the Second World War he led their aeronautical research and development department.

Wallis’s reputation is based on diverse and brilliant inventions of great practical application. He designed a very successful airship, the R100 , and the geodetic lattice (a triangular lattice of great strength, which he applied to buildings and aircraft wings), and which led to the Wellington bomber. This was the dominant British bomber of the Second World War and over 11 000 were built; later in the war, the Avro Lancaster with four engines became the main RAF bomber.

Wallis’s most famous invention, however, was the ‘bouncing’ bomb, a spinning cylindrical device developed to enable the RAF to destroy the Möhne and Eder dams in 1943. Wallis was convinced that ‘big bombs’ were best for deep protected targets such as those housing the flying bombs that attacked London in 1944, and 12 000 lb (26 400 kg) Wallis bombs were used effectively against them, and to destroy the battleship Turpitz .

After the war he continued to work on aircraft design, developing the principles of the swing-wing aircraft, employed in the Tornado fighter. He also worked on bridge design, commercial submarines and large radio telescopes, notably the Parkes Radio telescope in Australia, completed in 1961. Characteristically, Wallis wanted it to have a 1000 ft (305 m) diameter dish; cost limits cut this to 210 ft (64 m).

Walls, Josiah(1842–1905) - Congressman, Launches Political Career, Chronology [next] [back] Wallis, John

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