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Woolley, Joseph (DNB00)

WOOLLEY, JOSEPH (1817–1889), naval architect, born at Petersfield in Hampshire on 27 June 1817, was the younger brother of John Woolley [q. v.] He was educated at Brompton grammar school, and afterwards, it is stated, at St. Paul's school, though his name does not occur in the admission register. In 1834 he matriculated from St. John's College, Cambridge, and in 1839 was elected a scholar, graduating B.A. as third wrangler in 1840 and M.A. in 1843. He was incorporated M.A. at Oxford on 28 May 1856. In 1840 he was elected a fellow and tutor of St. John's College. Among his pupils was the astronomer, John Couch Adams.

In 1846 Woolley married, relinquished his fellowship, and was ordained a curate in Norfolk. In the following year he was presented to the rectory of Crostwight in the same county by Edward Stanley (1779–1849) [q. v.], bishop of Norwich. In 1848 he was appointed principal of the school of naval construction, newly founded by the admiralty, at Portsmouth dockyard, retaining this post till the abolition of the school in 1853. During this period he had under his tuition many well-known naval architects, including Sir Edward James Reed and Sir Nathaniel Barnaby.

Woolley's mathematical attainments and the interest which he took in applying his scientific knowledge to the solution of problems connected with ship design and construction enabled him to render valuable services to the science of naval architecture. While in the position of principal of the school of naval construction he devoted his attention to advancing technical knowledge. In 1850 he published ‘The Elements of Descriptive Geometry’ (London, 8vo), which he intended as an introductory treatise on the application of descriptive geometry to shipbuilding. The second volume, however, though almost ready for press, never appeared owing to the abolition of the Portsmouth naval school. On quitting his post at Portsmouth Woolley was appointed admiralty inspector of schools, and in 1858 he was nominated a government inspector of schools.

In 1860 Woolley had a large share in founding the Institution of Naval Architects, and he afterwards assisted to carry on the institution. One of the earliest efforts of the new society was directed to influence government to re-establish a technical school for naval construction. In 1864 the Royal School of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering was founded, and Woolley was appointed inspector-general and director of studies. This post he held until the school was merged in the Royal Naval College at Greenwich in 1873. Shortly after the loss of the Captain in 1870 he was nominated a member of Lord Dufferin's committee which was appointed to consider many doubtful points concerning the design of ships of war. In 1874 and 1875 he was associated with (Sir) E. J. Reed as editor of ‘Naval Science,’ a quarterly magazine for promoting improvements in naval architecture and steam navigation. Woolley remained a clergyman until 1865, when he took advantage of the clergy relief bill to divest himself of his orders. He died on 24 March 1889 at Sevenoaks in Kent. In 1846 he married Ann, daughter of Robert Hicks of Afton in the Isle of Wight. Five papers by Woolley on naval architecture are printed in the ‘Transactions’ of the Institution of Naval Architects.

[Transactions of the Institution of Naval Architects, vol. i. pp. xv–xx, vol. xxx. pp. 463–465; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1715–1886; Times, 26 March 1889.]

E. I. C.