Biography of Percy Pilcher
Percy Pilcher and "Bat"
Percy Sinclair Pilcher (1866-1899), mechanical engineer and pioneer aviator, was an assistant and lecturer in the Department of Naval Architecture at the University during the 1890s. He was one of the two original vice-Presidents of the Glasgow University Engineering Society. The Pilcher Memorial Lecture is named for him.
Born in Bath, Pilcher served in the Royal Navy during the 1880s and in 1887 became an engineering apprentice with Randolph, Elder & Co on Clydeside. He worked for the Southampton Naval Works (SNW) from 1889 to 1892 and then returned to Glasgow as an assistant to the University's recently-appointed John Elder Professor of Naval Architecture, John Harvard Biles (1854-1933), perhaps to assist the professor with his consultancy work for SNW. In 1894 he was appointed a private assistant to Professor Biles, to lecture on Marine Engineering to the Naval Architecture students. He left the University in 1896 to work for Maxim & Nordenfeld and in 1898 he formed a business partnership, Wilson & Pilcher.
Pilcher was intrigued by the prospect of manned flight, and built his first protype glider in Scotland in 1895. He developed three more and was able to glide for up to 750 feet in demonstration flights. In 1898 he developed a prototype triplane with a screw propellor powered by a small oil engine. He never flew the triplane, however, as he crashed his glider during a demonstration flight near Market Harborough in September 1899 and died shorly afterwards of his injuries.