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British Industrial History

Douglas Strutt Galton

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1899.

Sir Douglas Strutt Galton (1823-1899)

1862 Captain Douglas Galton, R.E., War Office, Pall Mall, London.[1]

1899 March 10th. Died.


1899 Obituary [2]

Sir Douglas Strutt Galton, E.C.B., was born on 2nd July 1822, at Hadzor House, Droitwich, being the second son of Mr. John Howard Galton; his mother was the daughter of Mr. Joseph Strutt, of Derby, by whom the Derby Arboretum was presented to his townsmen. He first went to a school in Birmingham, and then spent three years in the house of a Swiss pastor near Geneva, where he acquired knowledge of the French language.

He was afterwards educated at Rugby School (Proceedings 1898, page 204); and at the age of fifteen entered the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, having chosen the army as a profession. Here he achieved the distinction of taking the highest place in every subject that was included in the final examination. Receiving his commission in the Royal Engineers in December 1840, he was at once employed under Sir Charles W. Pasley in the destruction of the 'Royal George,' which had sunk at Spithead in 1782 with such disastrous loss of life, and had ever since proved an obstruction to the navigation of the Solent. The first attempt to blow up the wreck had been made on 29th August 1839, the fifty-seventh anniversary of the vessels sinking ; but it was not until the end of 1840 that it was finally destroyed, by means of explosives fired for the first time by a voltaic battery.

From 1843 he served for two or three years in connection with the fortifications at Gibraltar and Malta; and on returning to England in 1846 was engaged for a short time in the Ordnance Survey Office at Southampton. Being appointed upon the Railway Commission in 1847, he became associated with the Board of Trade, where he was first in charge of the statistical department.

The breaking down of the railway bridge over the river Dee at Chester led to the appointment of a royal commission to investigate the application of iron to railway structures; he was then Lieutenant Galton, and was appointed secretary to the commission, and conducted the various experiments for them. At the Birmingham meeting of the British Association in 1849 (Report, page xxvii) he assisted Professor Willis in an experimental demonstration of the result arrived at by the investigation.

In 1853 he took his commission as captain in the Royal Engineers; and in 1854 he was appointed an inspector of railways. In 1856 he became Secretary to the railway department of the Board of Trade, and in this capacity visited the United States officially in the same year, and drew up a report upon American railways. From the experience so acquired he contributed to the Institution of Civil Engineers a paper on railway accidents, showing the bearing which existing legislation had upon them (Proceedings Inst. C.E., 1862, vol. 21, page 363); he pointed out that the deaths due to railway disasters were not abnormal, and deprecated the acquisition of railways by the state, as well as undue legislative control. Important improvements which he also urged in the organisation of railway management resulted in advantages of which the value is now fully realised.

In 1857, as one of the referees for the main drainage of London, he urged that Barking and Crossness were too near to the metropolis to be suitable sites for outlets into the river; and suggested that the sewage should be taken by means of a tidal channel to Sea Reach, some twenty or twenty-two miles further down the river, whereby a large amount of pumping would be avoided, and the sewage would be diluted on its way down the channel, and would be finally discharged into a large volume of water where it would be innocuous. Subsequent experience has fully confirmed his view that the volume of tidal water at the two higher points in the Thames is too small for thorough dilution of the sewage.

When the first submarine telegraph cable laid across the Atlantic in 1857 had failed, and the failure had also occurred of the cable laid in 1859 in the Red Sea as part of a line to India, he was made chairman of the committee of investigation appointed by the government in 1859 ; the report drawn up by him and published in 1861 formed a valuable guide in all matters of submarine telegraphy; and later he was appointed a member of the consultative committee charged with advising upon all points concerning the laying of the 1865 cable from England to America.

Having been a member of Sir Robert Rawlinson’s commission formed in 1858, which had reported so unfavourably upon the state of barracks at home and in the Mediterranean station, he was appointed in 1860 Assistant Inspector General of Fortifications, and was entrusted by Lord Herbert with the design and construction of the Herbert Hospital at Woolwich, at that time the largest military hospital in the world, having as many as 650 beds; here he carried into practice his views regarding sanitation, alike for dwelling houses and for barracks. These views he published in three works entitled "Hospital Construction," "Healthy Dwellings," and "Healthy Hospitals."

From 1862 to 1870 he was Assistant Under Secretary of State for War; and in 1870 was appointed Director of Public Works and Buildings, at what was then H.M. Board of Works; from the latter post ho retired in 1875. In 1866 lie was appointed a member of a Royal Commission to enquire into the charges made for conveyance on the several railways of Great Britain and Ireland, and to ascertain whether it would be practicable to effect any considerable reduction in the charges, with a due regard to safety, punctuality, and expedition. Their principal report, which he joined in signing, was presented in 1867, and contained numerous recommendations since carried into effect; it also confirmed the opinion he had previously expressed in 1862 as to the inexpediency of the state purchasing or constructing railways.

In 1876 he made a second visit to the United States, as one of the judges on this occasion at the Philadelphia Exhibition; and on his return he communicated to the Institution of Civil Engineers (Proceedings 1878, vol. 53, page 28) notes on railway appliances at the exhibition.

In 1878 he entered upon that historical series of experiments on the effect of brakes upon railway trains, which have perpetuated his name in the annals of engineering. These experiments were made with the assistance of Mr. Westinghouse on the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway, the North Eastern Railway, and the Paris Lyons and Mediterranean Railway; and the results were fully reported and discussed by himself in three papers which he contributed to this Institution (Proceedings 1878, pages 467 and 590; and 1879, page 170); by these were elucidated for the first time the laws of friction in relation to railway brakes.

In 1871 he became general secretary of the British Association, and retained the post for twenty-four years, until elected President for 1895-6. In his presidential address at the Ipswich meeting in 1895 (pages 31-4) he strongly urged that the government should establish a National Physical Laboratory, on the principle of the Reichs-Anstalt at Charlottenburg near Berlin. In order to make himself fully acquainted with every detail of that great institution, he paid two visits to Berlin, and prepared a report to present to the British Association. Later he summed up his conclusions in the evidence he gave before the royal commission, which was appointed by the government to report upon the scheme suggested in his address at Ipswich in 1895. The last occasion of his attending a meeting at the Royal Society was in order to take his place upon the committee appointed to consider the preliminary steps in connection with the grant promised by the government for the purpose of a National Physical Laboratory.

He was made a Companion of the Bath in 1865 when at the War Office, and a Knight Commander of the same order in the Queen’s jubilee year 1887. He was made a Commander of the Legion of Honour in 1889, and afterwards a Knight of Grace of the order of St. John of Jerusalem in England; and he held the orders of the Crown of Prussia and of the Medjidie of Egypt. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1868, and was also a Member of the Council; and he received the honorary degrees of D.C.L. from Oxford, and of LL.D. from Durham and Montreal.

Having been an Associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers from 1850, he was elected an Honorary Member in 1894. He became a Member of this Institution in 1862, and was a Member of Council from 1888, and a Vice-President from 1892. In the arrangements for the new House of the Institution he took an active part throughout, attending numerous committee meetings, and advising upon the many details coming up for decision; and he was present for the last time at the opening meeting in the new building on 9th February 1899.

In 1876 he joined in founding the Sanitary Institute, of which he was a Vice-President from its incorporation in 1888; and his last public appearance was as chairman at a meeting of the Institute on 13th February. The subject under consideration was the water supply of London; and he expressed the opinion that it would be prudent for London to be content with the Thames area, and as far as possible to improve the water obtained from this area by storing it and by removing the sources of pollution which exist in the upper valley of the Thames and in the valley of the Lea. On this occasion he spoke of himself as now experiencing the effects of advancing years, and he appeared to be slightly indisposed. Some days later, blood poisoning set in, which resulted in his death on 10th March 1899 in the seventy-seventh year of his age.

He was a justice of the peace for Worcestershire, and also a county councillor. The interment took place at Hadzor Church, adjoining his birthplace. A memorial service was held in St. Peter's Church, Eaton Square, London, at which an address was delivered by the Dean of Gloucester, Dr. H. Donald M. Spence, appreciating from personal knowledge the practical importance of his life's work to the health, happiness, and welfare of his fellow-countrymen, and of mankind at large.


1899 Obituary [3]

SIR DOUGLAS STRUTT GALTON. E.C.B., D.C.L. (Oxon and Durham), F.R.S., Honorary Member of the Institution, died on the 10th March, 1899. He was, for the greater part of his life, known as Captain Galton, having been a distinguished member of the corps of Royal Engineers. . . [more]


Read his obituary in The Engineer 1899/03/17.

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1862 Institution of Mechanical Engineers
  2. 1899 Institution of Mechanical Engineers: Obituaries Minutes of the Proceedings
  3. 1899 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries