Henry Moseley (Ingenieur)

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Henry Moseley (* 9 July 1801 Newcastle-under-Lyme, United Kingdom; † 20 January 1872 Olveston near Bristol, United Kingdom) was a British engineer and Anglican clergyman


Henry Moseley grew up in the town of his birth and attended grade school. There his parents, Dr. William Willis Moseley and Margaret Moseley née Jackson, operated a large private school. At 15 or 16, Henry transferred to a school in Abbeville, attended a naval school in Portsmouth for a short time, and in 1819 began studies at St John’s College (Cambridge)[1], from which he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1826. 10 years later, Moseley received a master’s degree from his alma mater[1].

In 1827 Moseley entered the ministry of the Anglican Church. After his ordination he worked as an assistant vicar in West Monkton near Taunton and in 1831 was promoted to Professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy and Astronomy at King’s College London, a position he held until 1844; in February 1839 Moseley was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. It was during his London period that Moseley’s most important work on structural analysis was produced, prominent among which is his 1843 monograph, edited and annotated in Germany by Hermann Scheffler in 1845 and in the United States by Dennis Hart Mahan in 1856.

Moseley was the first to acquaint his fellow Britons with the work of Coulomb, Navier, and Poncelet. In particular, Moseley popularized Navier’s theory of continuous beams, which he extended and popularized with his student William Pole (1814-1900) and others so that it could be used in the construction of the Britannia and Conway bridges. Moseley was the first to distinguish the concept of the line of resistance from that of the reverse line ofpressure, thus giving the theory of vaulting a boost in its development. His principleof least resistance inspired Scheffler and later James Henry Cotterill to further basic research[2] to further fundamental research. In his 1865 essay “On an extension of the dynamical principle of least action”, Cotterill took Moseley’s principle as a direct starting point and, years before Castigliano, formulated the energy method in structural analysis. Moseley also published a groundbreaking paper on the dynamic stability of ships in 1850 and in 1860 became a co-founder of the Royal Institution of Naval Architects, for which he served as vice president until his death.

In 1851 Moseley was appointed to the jury for the Great Exhibition. Despite these scientific successes, Moseley continued his clerical career at Bristol Cathedral (1853) and Olveston (1854), and in 1855 was appointed chaplain to the Royal Court[1].

Moseley’s contributions to structural analysis influenced theory formation in Britain, the United States, and Germany during the middle of the disciplinary period of structural analysis (1825-1900). Moseley was a corresponding member of the Académie des sciences (Institut de France) from 1848.[1][3]


  • On a new principle in statics, called the principle of least pressure. The London, Edinburgh and Dublin Philosophical Magazine, Ser. 3, 1833, Vol. 3, pp. 285-288.
  • On the theory of resistances in statics. The London, Edinburgh and Dublin Philosophical Magazine, Ser. 3, 1833, Vol. 3, pp. 431-436.
  • On the equilibrium of the arch. Cambridge Philosophical Transactions, 1835, Vol. 5, pp. 293-313.
  • On the theory of the equilibrium of a system of bodies in contact. Cambridge Philosophical Transactions, 1838, Vol. 6, pp. 463-491.
  • The mechanical principles of engineering and architecture. London: Longman 1843.
  • The Mechanical Principles of Engineering and Architecture, Part 1. Translation from the English by Hermann Scheffler. Braunschweig: Verlag der Hofbuchhandlung von Eduard Leibrock 1845.
  • The mechanical principles of engineering and architecture. Ed. by D. H. Mahan. New York: Wiley 1856.


  • Karl-Eugen Kurrer: The History of the Theory of Structures. Searching for Equilibrium, Ernst & Sohn 2018, p. 229ff and p. 1034f (biography), ISBN 978-3-433-03229-9.

Individual references

  1. a b c d Henry Moseley.Cambridge Alumni Database, retrieved April 17, 2019 (English).
  2. Prof. J. H. Cotterill, F.R.S.International Journal of Science, January 26, 1922, accessed April 18, 2019 (English).
  3. List of members since 1666: letter M.Académie des sciences, retrieved 26 January 2020 (French).