What, precisely, does Mike the Micrometer measure? Foolish attempts by those who dare steal any mascot — especially those daring enough to try to nick Mike, who lives under the President’s watchful eye.

Past incarnations:

Herbert, a cast metal phoenix (1952), a lamppost, the Queen’s Tower (1958)

Current version:

Mike (1966)


Imperial College Union





Details and dimensions:

Mike is a large, four-foot long, scale-accurate model of a micrometer that measures minute distances. He is the chunky 170lb (77kg) mascot of the Union itself.

Made-for-telly history:

“Temporary insanity” is what alumnus Ralph Cornforth called his actions in 1965.

Cornforth volunteered to be part of a committee comprising representatives from each college to create Mike. “I am still not clear what happened to lead me to volunteer to be the Royal College of Science representative. My best defence is temporary insanity and a background of machining acquired from my father,” says Cornforth.

You see, the College had a history of mascots going missing.

Consider the sad tale of Herbert, the previous year (1964). Herbert was a cast-metal Phoenix — so selected after a popular literary magazine (aptly called The Phoenix). He was named after writer H.G. Wells, once a student at the College. Well, Herbert had the misfortune of being nicked by two female students! These ‘ladies’ (of Churchill College, Cambridge) managed to seduce their way into the Herbert bearer’s flat, get him piss drunk, and make off with Herbie. Unable to retrieve him, the Union contemptuously decided to donate Herbert to the same college.

(Herbert’s male caretaker was so embarrassed he made great attempts to erase his name from our history books. Do you know who he was?)

Determined to save the next mascot from so ignoble a fate, the Union chose a lamppost, but this mascot and idea was quickly discarded. Next, students selected Colcutt’s tower (known today as the Queen’s Tower) to replace Herbert. Surely a tower with 60-foot piling was almost unstealable?

Perhaps… but the Queen’s Tower was essentially impractical to participate in mascotry. (“Oh, look. A big immovable object that is impossible to move and does nothing. Fantastic!”)

Cornforth explains how present-day Mike forged his way into history books and hearts:

“I haunted every machine shop in Imperial College until I got to know the great bunch of guys who ran them and together we worked out how to make Mike from the material available in their stores. The barrel and thimble were made from various sizes of heavy steel tubing. The anvil and fake ratchet were made from solid round steel stock. The frame was cast from brass.”

With due respect, Mr Cornforth, that is crazy. Crazy like a genius!

At the time no other college or university on the planet had a four-foot, brass micrometer as a mascot. (If you wondered, ICU still holds this rare distinction.)

So, it was determined that Mike should be on permanent display in the Union building. A concrete plinth was formed. The sturdy base included a safe with four locks.

These measures didn’t prevent Mike from being violated by University College London in his first year. “They had to cheat massively to do it,” explains Mr Cornforth.

“They hid a sneaky scumbag in the Union building after a dance. In the middle of the night, this apology for a human being let other low-lifes into the building via the back door. These disgusting creeps brought with them oxy-acetylene cutting equipment and used it to cut the clamps securing Mike to the plinth. All of this was, of course, completely against universally accepted mascot-stealing rules — but what else can you expect from University College?”


Can chains hold him? Apparently not; Mike has a very chequered history having been stolen by several colleges in London. Maybe Mike prefers the open road — after all, he is also very well travelled, having made many appearances on the University Challenge TV programme.

In addition, Mike is known to venture into the bar on many occasions… His favourite drink is a matter of great debate. However, it’s agreed Mike drinks like he has a hollow thimble.

First violated:

1965, by UCL (University College London)

Last violated:

On 10 July 2002, he disappeared at the President’s dinner, of all times, before being recovered three months later from behind a phone box outside the Royal College of Music.


It’s said that the best way to carry Mike is with the assistance of a ‘six-footer’ pole held by two people of equal height. The Live! Union website reports that Mustafa Arif (C&G President and ICU’s ‘Mike-bearer’ is Mike-bearer for life… which begs the question, is this just a snarky comment, or can university doctrine join man and mascot for life?


Mike the Micrometer attends all important Union events at the discretion of the President. The President appoints a ‘Mike-bearer’ if he or she feels incapable of bringing Mike to any event. (See rumour above regarding length of ‘Mike-bearer’ title.)


At the moment Mike is the most securely stashed mascot in the history of mascotry. Doors to all offices surrounding him were immediately locked following a brash daylight thievery of C&G’s mascot, Spanner, in 2004…


Is Mike really the most heavily guarded mascot… or is it just good PR and melodramatic fans? Share your comments below.



  1. The best security feature for Mike when I was President was the tendency of the lifts in the Union building to break down. Bouncing him down the stairs tends to attract too much attention and a nasty bill …

  2. Ralph Cornforth (RSM) was the gent who actually got construction of Milke underway – but he was working from drawings that I had prepared earlier in 1965 while attempting to fail my third year (I passed!).

    If I remember correctly, the idea was conceived by members of The Wooden Horse Club – the then mascot acquiring body of IC. Quite why I ended up producing the drawing, I dont really know – it may have seemed a good idea at the time – and I had a drawing board at home! I guess as a Civil Engineer I was supposed to be able to draw things properly to scale…

    Sadly I never retained a copy – and even more sadly I’ve never seen the finished article – but at least it was a small part played in IC mascot history!

  3. A couple of tales on Mike, it used to sit in my office when I was ICU president and nobody seemed to bother trying to nick it. Maybe the “scary” Scottish accent was enough. Also, by the time I became ICU president, the old fellow was in a bit of a state and so I repaired him in my mate’s dad’s workshop. It would have been 1992 or there abouts so I’d be interested to see if he has had any work done since.

  4. ICU Council decided to make me “Mike Bearer for Life”, for reasons I don’t fully understand as I was not present at the meeting. Subsequently, as ICU President, I did make a habit of taking Mike, ceremoniously, to Council meetings, although I think I got fed up of doing so about half way through my second term. There were no attempts to steal it and it was on prominent display in my office.

  5. The drawing that Hugh made was used as a concept drawing. I made the working drawings myself from an actual 1 inch micrometer that my dad used every day at his work. My dad was a skilled machinist and gave me lots of advice on how to approach the machining of the pieces of steel tubing and bar that I scrounged from the guys in the Mechanical Engineering workshop.
    I did the majority the machining myself. However, it was the great guys from the CivEng workshop who finished it for me. The lathe I was using to cut the Acme thread had too much slack in the head bearing to make the final cuts down to the size needed to fit the internally-threaded nut inside the sleeve. The CivEng machinists finished it for me. They also did the knurling on the thimble and the (fake) ratchet. They milled the holes in the D-frame into which the anvil and the sleeve fitted. They did the engraving on the D-frame, the sleeve and the thimble. The CivEng guys then even arranged to have everything but the D-frame chrome plated.
    The wooden mold for the casting of the D-frame was made for me in the carpentry workshop. The brass casting was done in the Royal School of Mines’ foundry by Mac and a few representatives from the three colleges. The brass came from rifle cartridges from the Rifle Club. The carpentry workshop made the wooden form used to cast the original plinth upon which Mike sat.
    Without the amazing guys from all of the workshops, Mike would never have been completed.
    I still have the original working drawings I made. I may even have Hugh’s drawing. I have photos of the team that cast the D-frame in the Royal School of Mines’ foundry and of Mike in pieces, but loosely assembled, after the machining was complete. I have one photo taken of Mike on his plinth with a female model sitting on top.
    BTW, I read physics in RCS, not RSM.
    I was assisted by Jim McCloud from RSM and Roger Cross from C & G.

    Ralph Cornforth
    Arroyo Grande, CA, USA

    • Thanks Ralph for filling in the details! I only vaguely remember the drawing now – after all it is nearly 50 years remove! I think the idea originated with the Wooden Horse Club as I said earlier, but the names of those involved escape me now!

      if you ever do unearth my original drawing a photo of same would be a welcome addition to my archives! 😉

      Hugh Ainsley

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