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Frank Barnwell

Aircraft Designer
Born 1880, Lewisham, Kent, England.
Died 2 August 1938.

A pioneering aircraft designer who achieved the first powered flight in Scotland.

Connection to the University of Glasgow: Alumnus
GU Degree: BSc, 1905; Science and Engineering,

Discover more aircraft engineers on the University of Glasgow Story website


The following achievement is associated with Frank Barnwell:

Establishing fundamental principles in aircraft design
Frank Barnwell's approach to aircraft design established principles that are as valid today as they were when he first conceived them during the First World War.


Frank Sowter Barnwell (1880-1938) was a graduate of the University who, in partnership with his brother, went on to achieve the first powered flight in Scotland.

Barnwell was born in Lewisham Kent in 1880 and later moved to Balfron, Stirling. His father, Richard, was a Managing Director at Fairfields Shipping and Engineering Co, Govan. He was educated at Fettes College in Edinburgh and first matriculated at the University in 1900 to study Natural Philosophy and Chemistry. He returned for his second session in 1902 studying Naval Architecture and Engineering. He received a BSc in 1905.

After two years travel abroad following graduation, Frank and his brother Harold built a total of three aircraft in the years 1908-10. They achieved the first powered flight in Scotland at Stirling on July 28, 1909.

Frank joined Bristol Aircraft in 1911, enlisting in the Royal Flying Corp after war broke out. Aircraft and pilot losses were high and the British aircraft were clearly inferior to the German ones. In 1915 he was sent back to Bristol as Chief Engineer where he achieved fame as designer of the Bristol Fighter.

Tragically Barnwell died in a flying accident in 1938 while testing out one of his new designs.