David Gordon Wilson

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David Gordon Wilson outside his home workshop, 2005

David Gordon Wilson (11 February 1928 – 2 May 2019)[1] was a British-born engineer who served as a professor of engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States.[2]

Born in Warwickshire, England, Wilson went to the US on a post-doctoral fellowship in 1955. He returned to Britain in 1957 to work in the gas-turbine industry. He taught engineering in Nigeria from 1958 to 1960. He started a branch of a US company in London and in 1961 was moved to the US. In 1966 he joined the MIT faculty and taught engineering design, wrote two textbooks on his specialty gas-turbine design with co-authors and also pursued a long-standing interest into human-powered transport, coauthoring Bicycling Science. He is credited, along with Chester Kyle, with starting the modern recumbent bicycle movement in the US.

In 1980, Wilson and Richard Forrestall developed a recumbent bicycle, the Avatar 2000. In 1982, Tim Gartside (Australia) rode a fully faired version as the Avatar Bluebell (UK) in a US event to a world record of 51.9 mph for 200 metres with a flying start.[3]

Wilson held more than 60 patents; in 1982, he told the Boston Globe, "It’s a bit of a pain that all I’m known for is the bike. I’m very keen on some of the other things I do."[1] He was also active in environmental causes, proposing a forerunner to the carbon tax in 1973, and leading a group that called for a smoking ban in public places.[1][4]

In 2001, Wilson and Bruce co-founded Wilson TurboPower to commercialise two energy technologies developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)—the Wilson Heat Exchanger, for which the company received $500,000 in funding from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative in 2008,[5] and the Wilson Microturbine, which was described as a "high-performance 300 kW microturbine [that] will dramatically improve energy economics by producing over 50% electrical efficiency."[6] In 2010, the company changed its name and its focus, becoming the Wilson Solarpower Corporation.[7][8]

Wilson lived in Winchester, Massachusetts with his second wife, Ellen.

Notable publications[edit]

  • Wilson, David Gordon; Schmidt, Theodor; et al. (May 2020). Bicycling Science (4th paperback ed.). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
  • Wilson, David Gordon; Korakianitis, Theodosios (September 2014). The Design of High-Efficiency Turbomachinery and Gas Turbines (2nd paperback ed.). Prentice Hall. ISBN 978-0-13-312000-4.
  • Beck, Douglas; Wilson, David Gordon (January 1996). Gas-Turbine Regenerators (hardcover ed.). Springer. ISBN 978-0-412-98331-3.


  • Wilson, David Gordon (April 2018). Born, Blessed and Blitzed in Britain, but Battered by MIT (paperback ed.). West Wareham, MA: Omni Publishing Co. ISBN 978-1-928-75800-6.


  1. ^ a b c Bryan Marquard (7 May 2019). "David Gordon Wilson, MIT professor and father of modern recumbent bicycles, dies at 91". Boston Globe. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  2. ^ "MIT MechE - David Gordon Wilson". Retrieved 5 September 2010.
  3. ^ Wilson; Forrestall; Henden (1984). "Evolution of Recumbent Bicycles and the Design of the Avatar Bluebell". SAE International Congress and Exposition Technical Paper 840021. Retrieved 22 January 2017.
  4. ^ Berdik, Chris (10 August 2014). "The unsung inventor of the carbon tax". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 11 August 2014.
  5. ^ Buderi, Robert (20 May 2008). "Xconomy: Wilson TurboPower Boosted by 500K". Xconomy. Retrieved 18 May 2019.
  6. ^ "Wilson TurboPower, Inc. (copy @ Wayback Machine)". Archived from the original on 1 January 2007. Retrieved 18 September 2014.
  7. ^ "Wilson Solarpower Corporation: Private Company Information - Bloomberg". www.bloomberg.com. Retrieved 18 May 2019.
  8. ^ Alspach, Kyle (15 July 2010). "Wilson TurboPower changes name, appoints law vet as CEO". Boston Business Journal. Retrieved 18 May 2019.

External links[edit]