Sir William James Larke (born on 26 April 1875 at Ladywell, Kent; died 29 April 1959 at his home at Sidcup, Kent) was a British engineer and industrial administrator.
William Larke was educated at Colfe's School, Lewisham, and at Regent Street Polytechnic. As an apprentice he received his engineering training at H. F. Joel & Co. In 1895, he joined Siemens Brothers & Co Ltd, in Woolwich and was in charge of their calibrating and instrument-testing department.
Around 1900, he worked in a technical function at the British Thomson-Houston Company Ltd, and became there manager of the power and mining department and executive engineer. In 1914 he joined the Ministry of Munitions, where he worked in several positions before he became director-general of raw materials.
His services during World War I were acknowledged by receiving the O.B.E. in 1917, the C.B.E. in 1920 and the K.B.E. in 1921. After World War I, he became Techncial Adviser to the Secretariat in connection with demobilisation and reconstruction, Chairman of the Committee on Utilisation of Surplus War Materials, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Disposal of Mechanical Transport, Chairman of Engineering Commission to inspect German factories in the occupied territories, as well as Member of the Co-ordinating (Supply and Demobilisation) Committee.
The National Federation of Iron and Steel Manufacturers, was set-up in 1922 to encourage co-operative research in the iron and steel industry, watch over its economic interests and initiate efforts to increase its technical efficiency. Sir William became first director of the Federation and held this office, even after the Federation by the British Iron and Steel Federation until he retired in 1945.
Ahead of his time, he led a delegation of British Industrialists to Germany in 1939 with the aim of ‘being made in readiness for individual negotiations between representatives of British and German industries with a view to settlement of their own difficulties’.
During World War II he fulfilled important roles regarding the war effort and tackled problems of reconstruction in the post war era.
He was a member of many learned societies and a president of several of them.
He promoted the recognition of welding as a specialized branch of technology and initiated the formation of the Institute of Welding, and was 1938/39 its president. Later he became the first president of the British Welding Research Association.
He joined the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) as an Associate in 1897 and became a Member in 1906. He participated in the Birmingham Local Section Committee from 1910 to 1913.
He served as president of the Institute of Fuel, the British Standards Institution, the Junior Institution of Engineers and the Institute of Engineers-in-Charge.
He was an honorary member and vice-president of the Iron and Steel Institute and received the Institute's highest award, the Bessemer Gold Medal, in 1947.
He was a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and an honorary doctor of sciences of the University of Durham and was awarded the Fox Gold Medal by the Institute of British Foundrymen in 1953.
Sir William Larke commented on the British steel costs and prices in an interview from 1944, reproduced in German in the News for Foreign Trade (Nachrichten für Außenhandel, Berlin), No 251 of 26 October 1944. He saw high coal prices as the main handicap and reported that further modernization was planned:
He was the eldest son of William James Larke, builder, and his wife, Rosa, née Barton. He was married to Louisa Jane Milton on the 11 April 1900 at St John the Evangelist in Blackheath, England, and they had a son and a daughter. His wife died before him in 1959.
The Welding Institute, the professional membership arm of TWI, awards annually the Applied Technology Award in memory of Sir William Larke and Sir Charles Lillicrap to the individual or team who has had most influence or impact upon the practical application of novel welding or joining knowledge or technology. It combines, from 2009, the Sir William J Larke Medal and the Sir Charles Lillicrap Medal.
The subject may be presented in a published academic or research paper but the nomination will be assessed on its practical application value and impact on welding and joining in real-world engineering. Engineering project applications may well be used to support nominations but it is essential that the technical content has been published to the benefit of the welding and joining community.