William Hovgaard (1857-1950)
William Hovgaard was born in Aarhus, Denmark 28 November 1857. After grammar school, he studied mathematics and physical science at the Aarhus Cathedral School, then contiued at the Danish Naval Academy at Copenhagen, where he won the Gerner Medal for excellence in scientific studies. He graduated as sub-lieutenant in 1879 and was promoted lieutenant in 1880. In 1883 he was enrolled in a three-year course in naval architecture and ship construction at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, from which period he acknowledged the influence of Sir W. E. Smith and W. H. Whiting (preface to his "General Design of Warships".)
In 1886, he started at the Royal Dockyard in Copenhagen, then at the Burmeister and Wain Shipyard in Copenhagen, returning to the Royal Dockyard in 1898 where he completed the design studies for a submarine in 1901, after which he retired with the rank of Commander. The following year he went to the United States to continue his work on submarines, at which time he accepted an appointment at M.I.T. as Professor of Naval Construction starting in January 1902 and from which he retired in 1933.
His major work "Structural design of warships" was published in 1915 (London, E. & F. N. Spon), based on his teaching course notes, with a revised and expanded edition published by the United States Naval Institute in 1940. His paper on "Submarine Boats", first published in 1887, underwent a major update, probably first made public by the Royal Canadian Institute in 1915 (these pages) which was published in 1917 and was awarded the 1917 Gold Medal of the Institution of Naval Architects in London. While he did publish on other subjects (e.g. "The Voyages of the Norsemen to America"), he is best remembered for numerous technical papers published in major journals, particularly the "Transactions" of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, for which he was awarded the David W. Taylor Medal in 1943 for "long service and notable achievemnts in Naval Architecture". He received honourary doctorates in engineering from the Polyteknisk Læreanstalt, Copenhagen, in 1929 and the Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, N.J. in 1934.
Doctor Commander William Hovgaard passed away in 1950 in Morristown, N.J. at the age of ninety-two.