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Launch of the Lanchester Interactive Archive!

April 26

Discover the genius of the ‘British da Vinci’ for the first time, thanks to National Lottery players, through an interactive augmented reality archive project at Coventry University.

Praised as the Leonardo da Vinci of his time, 19th century polymath and engineer Frederick Lanchester designed and created the first all-British 4-wheel motorcar, and wrote seminal papers theorising the scientific principles of flight, a decade before the reality of powered flight.

Fred’s forward thinking creations have now come to life in the largest display of its kind, at Coventry University’s Lanchester Interactive Archive, which aims to spread word of his unsung genius and inspire new engineering minds across the city, and beyond.

The National Lottery and Coventry University funded archive includes Fred’s original notebooks and sketchbooks showing his drawings and calculations related to his workings, around concepts of flight, automotive designs, and his many other interests. The collection also includes hundreds of blueprints, patents, volumes of correspondence and original photo plates. Augmented reality technology brings to life some of his wide-ranging theories and designs including power steering, turbo charged engines, disc brakes, stream-lining, wing capping, military models and strategies, and his first car. A suite of ‘serious games’ enable young people and older enthusiasts alike to uncover the concepts behind some of his designs through gameful digital play.


The space – open to the public after the formal launch on 26th April, in the Lanchester Library, Gosford St Coventry University – includes a model in situ of one of the company’s early cars, and tells the story of Fredericks’s life and his work.

Jacqueline Cawston, Deputy Director, Disruptive Media Learning Lab and Lanchester Project Director said:

“Frederick Lanchester was a creative genius, engineer and entrepreneur; he embodied the spirit of the Coventry people and the students of Coventry University. We were gifted his amazing archive of notebooks, blueprints and drawings and with the support of the National Lottery and Coventry University we have brought his story to life. We digitised the archive and have brought it to a digital generation through augmented reality and online games. We have fused the past with the future, and I think Fred would be very proud”.

Cathryn Thompson-Goodwin, Project Manager on the project, said:

“Frederick Lanchester had a brilliant mind. When you consider he was inventing things before the turn of the 20th century, and coming up with so many ideas we still use today, it is staggering, and somewhat saddening, to see the breadth of his unacknowledged creative genius.”


Chris Clark is the Lanchester Historian, who has worked with the university over many years to put together the Lanchester Collection and raise awareness of the man said:

“I am delighted that my long-standing ambition to create a Lanchester exhibition for the public’s enjoyment has come to fruition.  I am also pleased to be part of the dedicated team at Coventry University’s Lanchester Interactive Archive that has achieved all this.  I have no doubt that the exhibition’s contents will be of great interest to all who visit, whether it be to sit in the driver’s seat of the 85-year-old Lanchester car or by using the very latest technology for augmented reality.  Indeed, the exhibition seems the perfect way to further promote the genius of Dr Frederick Lanchester: scientist, engineer, mathematician, and inventor.”

The Lanchester Interactive Archive project has a website that will go live for the launch on 26th April 2017 at www.lanchesterinteractive.org 

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April 26