Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame

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Donald MillerSir Donald John Miller (b. 1927), engineer who played a major role in the development of an electricity supply system in Scotland that has been reliable and cost effective for many decades.

Engineering achievements

Donald Miller is one of the foremost power systems engineers of his generation. Between 1966 and 1992 he had a central role in the development of the Scottish electricity system that has been a reliable and cost effective resource for the people of Scotland for many decades. He is an engineer who has combined a very high level of attainment in both technical and business expertise. Although the Central Electricity Generation Board was effective in managing the electricity system in England and Wales, it was recognised that the management of the system in Scotland resulted in better productivity and lower costs for consumers. Sir Donald Miller's leadership for innovation and excellence was an important element in this achievement.

Donald Miller was brought up on a farm on Deeside, Aberdeenshire, and studied engineering at the University of Aberdeen. Following graduation he accepted an offer of a graduate apprenticeship at Metropolitan Vickers, Manchester. At MV he was selected for an extended apprenticeship covering design and manufacture of all types of electrical plant and protection as well as systems analysis. He was appointed as a design engineer for large hydro-electric generators and the development of special purpose machines such as those for naval destroyers. From Manchester he moved to be Technical Planning engineer for the high voltage system with the South Eastern Division of the British Electricity Authority.

In 1955 he joined the Consulting Engineers Preece Cardew and Ryder where he worked with the noted engineer Francis J Lane on the technical and economic assessment and design of generation and transmission schemes worldwide, including Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Nigeria, Canada and the USA. It was to F J Lane that he credited his mastery of the art of presenting his proposals to non technical audiences and politicians in a straightforward but persuasive manner, training that would prove invaluable in later years.

In 1966 he was appointed Chief engineer of the North of Scotland Electricity Board and became responsible for the design and construction of new pumped storage and thermal generating stations as well as all engineering operations.

In 1974 he was invited to join the South of Scotland Electricity Board as Director of Engineering, responsible for all engineering operations including the completion of the Longannet coal fired station, the Hunterston nuclear and the Inverkip oil fired stations. He was appointed General Manager/ Deputy Chairman in 1977 and Chairman two years later. As such he was closely associated from the beginning with the successful Torness nuclear station which was completed to time and budget using British technology and British contractors.

Donald Miller argued strongly in the privatisation of electricity for a structure that would allow the enormous talent within Scottish electricity to be deployed for the benefit of Scotland and Scottish consumers while retaining the benefits of vertical integration.

In 1990 the SSEB became Scottish Power and he was appointed the Company's first Chairman. He retired in 1992.

His Life

Age Event Year
Born in London on 9th February 1927
11 Entered Banchory Academy 1938
17 Matriculated, University of Aberdeen 1944
20 Graduated Bsc (1st Class Hons) in engineering, University of Aberdeen 1947
20 joined Metropolitan-Vickers, Manchester 1947
26 Technical Planning Engineer, high voltage system, British Electricity Authority-SE Division 1953
28 Consulting engineer, Preece, Cardew and Rider 1955
Fellow of Institution of Electrical Engineers
Fellow of Institution of Mechanical Engineers
39 Chief Engineer, North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board1966
47 Director of Engineering, South of Scotland Electricity Board 1974
50 Chairman, Power Division, IEE (now IET) 1977
52 Deputy Chairman, SSEB 1979
54 Fellowship of Engineering (now Royal Academy of Engineering) 1981
55 Chairman, Scottish Power 1982
63 Knight Bachelor for services to industry 1990
65 Honorary Doctorate of University, University of Strathclyde 1992
66 Chairman, Premium Trust 1993
70 Honorary Doctorate of Science, University of Aberdeen 1997
88 Inducted into the Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame 2015
88 Honorary Fellow of IESIS 2015

His Legacy

The technical and managerial abilities of Donald Miller were fully deployed to ensure the reliability and effectiveness of the Scottish electricity system, a legacy which endured for many decades.

More Information

Foyers pumped-storage project. D.J. Miller, A.T.L. Murray, C.C. Marshall, G.G.R. Argent. Proceedings of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, Vol. 122, No. 11, November 1975.
Download: Sir Donald Miller's acceptance speech Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame, James Watt Dinner, 2 October 2015

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