Belfast Telegraph

Blue plaque for Dungannon war hero and aviation pioneer Harper

By Adrian Rutherford

A forgotten Northern Ireland mathematician who fought and died at the Somme will be honoured tomorrow.

Edgar Henry Harper, from Dungannon, Co Tyrone, contributed greatly to aviation theory.

His work helped shape the science behind the stability of the aeroplanes that now crowd our skies.

Mr Harper also served as professor of mathematical physics at Cork University - he was chosen ahead of Eamon de Valera - but relinquished the role to volunteer in the service of his country. He was killed at the Somme in July 1916.

Now, more than a century later, his life will be celebrated with a Blue Plaque in his home town.

It will be unveiled by Mark Glasgow, the deputy chair of Mid-Ulster District Council, at Mr Harper's former home at Northland Place in Dungannon tomorrow morning.

It has been organised by the Ulster History Circle, a voluntary, not for profit organisation which puts up blue plaques in public places to celebrate people of achievement. Chris Spurr, the chairman of the group, said: "Edgar Henry Harper was a distinguished mathematician whose knowledge made a significant contribution to the theory of aeronautics. Sadly he is numbered amongst the thousands of Irish-born soldiers who died at the Somme.

"The Ulster History Circle is pleased to commemorate this son of Dungannon with a blue plaque at his former home."

Born in July 1880, Edgar Henry Harper was the eldest of eight children.

He attended Royal School Dungannon from 1892 to 1899 before entering Queen's College, Belfast (later Queen's University) where he studied mathematics. After continuing his studies at Trinity College in Dublin, he returned to his old school in Dungannon to teach maths, before taking up a position as lecturer at Bangor University in Wales.

There he took particular interest in the mathematics of flight, and was appointed assistant to Professor George Hartley Bryan, who had been carrying out similar research in the stability of the early aeroplanes.

By 1910, Mr Harper had co-published Aerial Locomotion, looking at the principles involved in aeronautical theory, with an introduction by Professor Bryan. Mr Harper also made a big contribution to Bryan's own book, Stability of Aviation, which is considered one of the seminal books on the subject.

As the First World War took hold, Mr Harper relinquished his position and volunteered in the service of his country, but was killed on July 10, 1916 at the Somme.

His body was never recovered and he is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial, France, and the memorial at Trinity College.

The Ulster History Circle said the Blue Plaque "will ensure that his contribution to aviation is long remembered".

Belfast Telegraph

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