Control Group

Cambridge University Department of Engineering

The Cambridge Control Group was established in 1947 by R.H. Macmillan, and was later expanded by J.F. Coales after 1952. Research by the Control Group was first carried out in the areas of mechanical control systems, and later in nonlinear and optimal control with A.T. Fuller, and applications to industrial processes. Multivariable frequency response methods became a prominent research theme after 1974, with the appointment of A.G.J. MacFarlane. From the mid 1980s onwards, the group was recognized for work in H-infinity control with Prof Keith Glover. A wide range of theoretical and applied subjects are now represented among the research interests of the current faculty of Keith Glover, Jan Maciejowski, Rodolphe Sepulchre, Malcolm Smith and Glenn Vinnicombe.

Historically, Cambridge has links with the early development of control theory through James Clerk Maxwell and Edward John Routh. Maxwell's 1868 paper "On Governors" is often considered to be the start of control theory in the modern sense, while Routh's Adams prize essay of 1877 derived his well-known stability criterion. Routh and Maxwell were, famously, senior and second wrangler in the Cambridge Mathematical Tripos of 1854 and were declared first equal in the Smith's prize examination. Routh remained in Cambridge as a private tutor (coach) for the mathematical tripos, while Maxwell held chairs at Aberdeen and King's College London before returning to Cambridge as first Cavendish Professor in 1871.

Further reading:

  • Special issue on control education - The United Kingdom, by M.C. Smith, IEEE Control Systems Magazine, pp. 51-56, April 1996. (Abridged version for the Cambridge University Engineering Department 125th anniversary web site.) (link as on current web page)
  • A.T. Fuller, Obituary, International Journal of Control, vol. 73, no. 6, 457-463, 2000
  • Routh, Edward John (1831-1907), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  • Maxwell, James Clerk (1831-1879), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography