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British Industrial History

Bryan Donkin, Junior

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1902.

Bryan Donkin, Junior (1835-1902)

1835 Bryan Donkin, Junior, of New Kent Road, an engineer, became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.[1]


1902 Obituary [2]

BRYAN DONKIN was born in London on 29th August 1835, and was the son of the late Mr. John Donkin, and grandson of the late Mr. Bryan Donkin, F.R.S., who in 1803 founded the well-known works at Bermondsey, and invented the first practical paper-making machine.

After having been educated at various schools, he studied at University College, London, and later on at the Ecole Centrale des Arts et Manufactures, where he passed in French an examination for Technical Education.

At the age of twenty-two he entered his grandfather's engineering works, and went through the various workshops.

In 1859 he was sent to St. Petersburg to superintend the erection and completion of the largest paper-mill in Europe for the making of Imperial Bank notes and State papers. He continued in Russia for three years, acting as resident engineer at the paper-mill, which employed nearly throe thousand workpeople. The paper-mill and machinery are still in working order, and all the paper money in Russia is made there.

In 1868 he became a partner in the firm, and when it was converted into a company in 1889 he was made chairman, and continued to hold this position after its amalgamation with Messrs. Clench and Co., of Chesterfield, in 1900.

In 1871 the firm introduced the Farey engine — Mr. Farey being a partner. The tests on it were the forerunners of the many numerous trials which le conducted during his life. He was specially interested in steam-boilers, gas-engines, condensation in steam-engine cylinders, and centrifugal fans, and had erected an experimental engine at the Bermondsey Works, where for many years a large number of experiments were carried out.

In 1888 he perfected his "Steam Revealer," fi a simple apparatus by which he was able to snake diagrams illustrative of the extent of condensation under varying conditions; and the long series of trials made by himself, and in collaboration with others, including Professor Alexander B. W. Kennedy, Professor T. Hudson Beare, Lieut.-Colonel English, &e., has borne direct practical results.

Early in the "nineties" he directed his attention to the subject of internal-combustion motors, and read in 1894 before the Incorporated Institute of Gas Engineers a Paper on the comparative merits of steam and gas motors.

In 1893 he brought out his standard work on "Gas, Oil, and Air Engines," and translated Diesel's work on "The Theory and Construction of the Rational Heat Motor." At the same time he was engaged in original research work on internal-combustion engines, and acted as a judge for the Royal Agricultural Society and at other competitions.

He was joint author with Professor Kennedy of "Experiments on Steam Boilers," and published in 1897 his book entitled "Heat Efficiency of Steam Boilers," a work giving details as to the heat value of fuel, analyses of gases, evaporation, &c.

He introduced at his works the Perrot system of forced draught, the manufacture of which apparatus was taken up by his firm and successfully developed. On this subject he read a Paper in 1892 before the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers.

In conjunction with Mr. J. Holliday, he also did some experimental testing with fuel calorimeters. Centrifugal fans formed the subject of other investigations; while about twelve years ago he worked upon the velocity of air through pipes with anemometers at the Vauxhall Waterworks. The results in all three cases were given in Papers to the Institution of Civil Engineers. In later years motor cars absorbed much of his attention, both as a member of the Automobile Club and as a manufacturer of the motor.

To this Institution he contributed several Papers. Among them are the following:— "Cylinder Heat Losses" (Proceedings 1893, page 480); "Steam-Engine Experiments" (1895, page 90). In conjunction with Professor Beare he made a Report to the Steam-Jacket Committee on "Steam-Jacketing a Locomotive Engine" (1896, page 466); and collaborated with Lieut.-Colonel English on a Paper on "Heat Transmission" (1896, page 501). To Professor Hele-Shaw's Paper on "Road Locomotion" he added an Appendix on Tests of Motor Carriages at Richmond and Birmingham (1900, page 238).

He frequently took part in the discussions at this Institution and at the Institution of Civil Engineers. He was elected a Member of this Institution in 1873; and was a Member of Council from 1895 to 1901, when he became a Vice-President. In addition, he served on various committees, such as the Research Committee on the Value of the Steam-Jacket, on Marine Engines, on Gas-Engines, and on the Steam-Engine Research Committee. He was a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, and acted on their Committee on the Efficiency of the Steam-Engine, and on the Committee for Reporting on Standard Forms for Tabulating Results of Trials on Steam-Engines and Boilers.

In addition, he was a Watt medallist and Telford and Mauby prizeman, and was a Member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, of the Verein der deutschen Ingenieure, of the Societe Industrielle de Mulhouse, and a Member of the Jury for the English Section at the Paris Exhibition of 1900. He had been lately troubled with an affection of the heart, and had been advised to give up some of the work to which he had devoted himself.

Having had occasion to visit Brussels, in connection with an engine trial, he retired to his room at night, after having been engaged on experimental work during the day, and expired before medical aid could reach him.

His death took place on 4th March 1902, in his sixty-seventh year.


1902 Obituary [3]

BRYAN DONKIN a died suddenly of heart failure, at the Grand Hotel, Brussels, on the 4th March, 1902, in his sixty-seventh year.

Born in London on the 29th August, 1835, he was the eldest son of a well known engineer, John Donkin, and the grandson of a still more brilliant engineer and scientist, Bryan Donkin, one of the first Vice-Presidents of the Institution, who founded the works in Bermondsey in 1803, and effected improvements in both printing and paper-making machinery with which his name will always be associated.

Bryan Donkin, Junior, as he was known for many years, was educated at private schools and at University College, London. On the completion of his studies in London he went to the Ecole Centrale des Arts et Metiers in Paris, where he spent two years.

Just after his twenty-first birthday, he entered the works in Bermondsey, then managed by his uncles, his father having died in April, 1854. He served his apprenticeship in the works till 1859, when he was sent to St. Petersburg to superintend the completion and erection of the then largest paper-mill in Europe, for the making of Imperial bank notes and state papers.

In 1860 he paid a flying visit to England, arriving at the time of his grandfather’s death. Permanently leaving St. Petersburg in January, 1862, he was employed for the next six years at the Bermondsey works, by his uncles, in designing and in superintending the erection of many important undertakings, several of which were on the Continent. There is no doubt that at this time he laid the foundation of an acquaintance with European engineers and machinery practice which served to influence his after career, for it is certain that his friendship with Professor Dwelshauvers-Dery, Hirn, and others, directed his energies into those paths of experimental research along which he subsequently worked, to the best advantage of the profession.

He became a partner of the Donkin firm in 1868, and when the business was converted, in 1889, into a limited liability company, he was appointed Chairman, and continued to hold that position after the amalgamation with Clench and Co, of Chesterfield, in 1900. At this time, however, he relinquished active participation in the management of the works.

In the early seventies circumstances had so affected the paper-making industry that it had ceased to engage the works so fully as formerly ; and thus the subject of this memoir had his attention directed to the scientific side of engine-design.

About this time the firm introduced the Farey engine - Mr. Farey being a partner. In this design the cylinders were placed in line, back to back; the high-pressure cylinder was situated near to the crankshaft, while the low-pressure cylinder worked with its piston away from the crank. Both piston-rods had separate crossheads, which were connected by rods passing along each side the cylinder, and so arranged that the pistons were supported through the crosshead slides, which had ample bearing surfaces - an arrangement that prevented the pistons from dragging on the bottom of the cylinders and minimised wear.

An engine so made for a paper-mill in Devonshire was very effectively tested with the view of arriving at its efficiency. Such trials me quite common to-day ; but were then very exceptional, mill owners accepting a rough approximation of economy, arrived at by a comparison with the conditions which formerly prevailed, irrespective of any standard upon which to base such deduction. The results of the trial, showing a consumption of 20.55 lbs. of water per horse-power hour and a coal-consumption of 1.9 lb., are set out in 'Engineering' of the 3rd November, 1871.

This was the first of a long series of tests of engines and boilers undertaken to the end, for the last was made with a boiler at Fraser's Bow Works in February, 1902 ; the report was prepared, but never signed. It is difficult to fully appraise the wide influence of such successive trials, of the lessons they inculcated, and of Mr. Donkin's incessant advocacy of such scientific measurements as to the true possibilities of all prime movers. Even today there is too great readiness to accept results in mechanics generally which seem favourable, without fully determining their real merit or 'hunting for remediable defects in detail.

As long ago as the 5th February, 1875,' 'Engineering' commended Mr. Donkin's work, while pointing out the simplicity of such steam consumption tests, measured as they were then by the weight of water flowing over a tumbling bay, on which subject he and the late Frank Salter contributed a Paper to the Institution.

Perhaps his first most effective examination was in connection with steam pumps for the Barnet Waterworks, where he made a complete balance-sheet to show the effective work done, as measured by the water pumped, and its proportion to the heat value of the fuel used.

From this general work to investigations toward improvements in detail was but a natural step ; and one department in which Mr. Donkin did specially valuable service had reference to steam condensation in cylinders, its reduction by jacketing and superheating, and to the investigation of the laws governing the transmission of heat through cylinder walls. From the early seventies this subject had fascination for him, and in dealing with it he became directly associated with Professor Dwelshauvers-Dery ; but it was not until about 1888 that he perfected his 'revealer' - a simple apparatus, frequently described, wherewith ho was able to make diagrams illustrative of the extent of condensation under varying conditions. By this apparatus definite knowledge of the state of the internal walls of cylinders was afforded ; and the long series of trials made by himself, and in collaboration with others, including Dr. Kennedy, Professor Hudson Beare, and Lieut.- Colonel English, has borne direct practical fruit.

It is scarcely necessary here to review at length his recent work in this direction. It established the advantage of the covers as well as the barrels being jacketed, and the value of superheated steam in reducing :such initial condensation ; but, on the other hand, he continued doubtful as to whether the very high degree of superheat in some modern apparatus brought a gain corresponding to the cost expended in the process and the practical troubles involved.

Early in the nineties Mr. Donkin directed his attention to internal-combustion motors, and found in them also a subject congenial to his inquiring disposition and facile pen.

In 1894 he read a Paper before the Incorporated Institute of Gas Engineers, reviewing tho comparative merits of steam and gas motors ; and in the same year prepared for the Manchester Association of Engineers a review of the scientific work of Hirn, which is as lucid as it is instructive and sympathetic.

A year later Messrs. Griffin published the first edition of his standard work on 'The Gas Engine,' now in its third edition, and later he translated Diesel’s work on 'The Theory and Construction of the Rational Heat Motor.' At the same time he was himself engaged in original research-work in connection with internal combustion engines, and he acted as a judge for the Royal Agricultural Society, and at other competitions.

The steam boiler was always to him a source of inspiration, and together with Dr. Kennedy he made most exhaustive tests of twenty-one different types of boilers which were published some eight years ago in the columns of 'Engineering' and were subsequently issued by that journal in book form. While establishing desiderata, they diagnose ills, and from this point of view stand as records for guidance in design, construction and working.

He also published, through Messrs. Griffin, in 1898 a book on the steam boiler, with details as to the heat value of fuel, analyses of gases, evaporation, &c. He introduced at his works the Perret system of forced draught, the manufacture of which apparatus was taken up by his firm and successfully developed. In this system deep and thin bars are used, the lower portions of which are immersed in a trough of water, over which the forced draught is carried on its way between the bars, the aim being to keep the grate cool, so that dust and fine coal can be burned without any clinker adhering.

On this subject he read a Paper in 1892 before the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers. In conjunction with J. Holliday, he also did some experimental testing with fuel calorimeters. Centrifugal fans formed the subject of other investigations, while about twelve years ago he worked upon the velocity of air through pipes with anemometers at the Vauxhall Water Works: the results in all three cases being given in Papers to this Institution. In later years, too, motor-cars absorbed much of his attention as a member of the Automobile Club and as a manufacturer of the motor.

Space forbids fuller reference to these and other subjects which occupied Mr. Donkin’s versatile and active mind. There are few volumes of the Proceedings of the leading technical Institutions without some contribution from him, for he was as willing as he was able from his extensive practice to add to the profit derivable from any discussion. Well informed, precise in his methods, clear in his deductions, his Papers were always appreciated, while his intervention in debate, even if it were only to ask for elucidation of some indefinite point was ever welcome.

He was a Vice-President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, a Member of the Royal Institution, of the Societe Industrielle de Mulhouse, of the Verein Deutscher Ingenieure, and of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers ; and alike for his great ability and his geniality, he was widely beloved, and his loss will be deeply regretted.

Mr. Donkin was twice married, first, in 1869, to Georgina Dillon, daughter of Mr. Frank Dillon, and secondly in 1887 to Edith Marshman Dunn, nee Edith Marshman, who survives him, and who in latter years rendered him valuable assistance in his literary work.

Mr. Donkin was elected a Member of the Institution on the 5th February, 1884. In addition to the Papers already referred to he contributed to the Proceedings : 'A Method of taking the Temperature of the Cylinder Walls of a Steam-Engine at Different Depths in the Metal,' 'Thermometers in and about the Cylinder Walls of Steam-Engines, with some Experiments on the Temperature of the Metal under Different Conditions,' 'Experiments on the Condensation of Steam in Cylinders of Iron and other Metals,' and 'Motive Power from Blast-Furnace Gases.'

For his Papers he was awarded by the Institution a Watt Medal, Telford Premium, and a Manby Premium. He also rendered valuable service as a Member of the Committees appointed by the Institution on the Thermal Efficiency of Steam-Engines and on Steam-Engine and Boiler Trials.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1835 Institution of Civil Engineers
  2. 1902 Institution of Mechanical Engineers: Obituaries
  3. 1902 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries