City of London - Engineering Hall of Fame

Ludwik Finkelstein OBE FREng (1929-2011)

Engineer, scientist and educationist who became a world authority on measurement and a founder of City University, London.

City of London Connections

Granted asylum by Britain at the end of the 2nd World War, Ludwik Finkelstein already had a London Matriculation Certificate gained overseas by self-study. He studied at the Northern Polytechnic, then an institution of the University of London, graduating in 1951 with a BSc in Physics and Mathematics. Working at Electronic Tubes Ltd and then at the Mining Research Establishment of the National Coal Board, he studied electrical engineering and physics part-time, graduating MSc from the University of London in 1959.

Ludwik Finkelstein at the Mining Research Establishment, National Coal Board
Ludwik Finkelstein at the Mining Research Establishment, National Coal Board.

In 1959, he was appointed Lecturer in Instrument and Control Engineering at the Northampton College of Advanced Technology, then one of several Colleges of Applied Technology distributed around the UK, becoming City University in 1966. He remained there throughout his career, becoming Professor of Measurement and Instrumentation in 1970, and Pro-Vice Chancellor 1991-94.

He was President of the Institute of Measurement and Control in 1980-81, and Senior Steward of the Worshipful Company of Scientific Instrument Makers.

Responding to a call for scientists to volunteer, he joined the Civil Defence Corps in 1952, becoming a senior staff officer before it was disbanded in 1967. He then worked in the Home Office scientific service for home defence until 1994, becoming Chief Regional Adviser for Greater London.

He died in London on 27 August 2011 at the age of 81.

Ludwik on a Civil Defence Corps Exercise
Ludwik on a Civil Defence Corps Exercise.

Contribution to Engineering during Lifetime

Ludwik Finkelstein bridged the gulf that separated practitioners from theorists, pioneering the systematic basis of measurement and the treatment of scientific instruments as elements in the processing of information. He was the pioneer in the UK of measurement and instrumentation as a scientific discipline in its own right – an approach to the subject widely recognized in Europe and Asia. He established many of the methods used today for the mathematical modelling of instruments, with pervasive impact upon industry and medicine.

He was inspired by the practical measurement issues faced every day in industry, recognising the potential impact that could follow from achieving a deep understanding of a routine problem. For example, at the National Coal Board, he developed instruments to measure the hardness of coal, enabling the assessment of new methods of extraction, which was a core issue for the UK in the early 1950s.

Ludwik Finkelstein
Ludwik Finkelstein.

At Northampton College of Advanced Technology / City University, he established a new Measurement and Instrumentation Centre, which continues to hold a world-leading and influential position in the field.   

In addition to his many well-cited research papers, his books on Measurement and Instrumentation have been seminal in the education of generations of scientists and engineers.

In spite (or perhaps because of) his war-time experiences, he took a highly international view of his subject and actively promoted reconciliation between and cooperation amongst scientists and engineers worldwide. He served as a Vice-President of the International Measurement Confederation (IMEKO). In all of this, he was able to draw on his wide linguistic skills.  

He emerged as a leading educationist of his time, playing a key role in the establishment and subsequent growth of City University, where he served as a Head of Department (twice), founding Dean of the School of Engineering, and Pro-Vice-Chancellor.   

In 2009, City University named the Finkelstein laboratory of electrical engineering in his honour.

At the opening of The Finkelstein Laboratory, 2009


Ludwik Finkelstein regarded his greatest achievement to be in the education of scientists and engineers.

City University established a new bursary fund in his memory in 2009.

Ludwik Finkelstein
Ludwik Finkelstein

Decorations and Recognition

He was awarded the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977 and appointed OBE in 1990.

He was a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.

He had Honorary Doctorates from City University, London and St. Petersburg Technical University

References and Further Reading

Obituary. The Times, 2nd September 2011.

Finkelstein Family Tribute

Contribution to Sustainable Development Goals

Ludwik was dedicated to the education of scientists and engineers and increasing access to high quality technical, vocational and entrepreneurial skills equitably. He had strong beliefs in global reconciliation and cooperation for the benefit of the future.

SDG Targets 4.3; 4.4; 4.5

All images courtesy of the Finkelstein family

Year of Induction
Sponsoring Livery Company
Scientific Instrument Makers