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Edwin Clark

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1850. Britannia and Conway Tubular Bridges
1850. Britannia and Conway Tubular Bridges
1850. Britannia and Conway Tubular Bridges
1850. Britannia and Conway Tubular Bridges
1850. Britannia and Conway Tubular Bridges
1850. Britannia and Conway Tubular Bridges
1850. Britannia and Conway Tubular Bridges.
1850. Box Girder Bridge at Chalk Farm London and North Western Railway.
1850. Box Girder Bridge at Gateshead, Newcastle.
1857. Machinery for raising ships for repair.
1868. Hydraulic Lift Graving Dock for Bombay.
1880. Hydraulic lift on the river Weaver at Anderton. See Anderton Boat Lift
1880. Hydraulic lift on the river Weaver at Anderton. See Anderton Boat Lift

Edwin Clark (1814-1894), of Edwin Clark, Punchard and Co

Brother of Josiah Latimer Clark

Initially was a mathematics master at Brook Green.

Surveyor in the west of England

1846 Moved to London and came to know Robert Stephenson, who appointed him superintending engineer for the Britannia Bridge across the Menai Strait (opened 5 March 1850.)

1850 Clark published "The Britannia and Conway Tubular Bridges".

1850 In August he became engineer to the Electric Telegraph Co. Took out patent on electric telegraphs.

Worked in both electric and hydraulic engineering.

1856 Patent for "suspending insulated electric telegraph wires".

By 1861 Edwin Clark, M. Inst. C.E., had designed some additions to the Central Transept of the Crystal Palace, Sydenham, in order to strengthen the structure.

Most of his patents were for improvements in docks, repairing ships and constructing piers.

1894 Died in Marlow.

1895 Obituary [1]

EDWIN CLARK was well known in the engineering profession; in the first instance from his position as Robert Stephenson’s chief representative in the construction of the great Britannia and Conway bridges, and from the superb work published by him in description of them; secondly, from valuable services rendered in the early history of the electric telegraph; and lastly, by general engineering works of importance, including inventions of much public utility. And, moreover, he was a man possessing a large store of scientific knowledge, which he applied with singular practical ability. But, his career was of such an original character, and so unlike those ordinarily chronicled in these memoirs, that it possesses a peculiar interest, and deserves a somewhat full description.

He was born on the 7th of January, 1814. His father, who lived at Great Marlow, was a manufacturer of pillow lace (an industry for which the whole of Buckinghamshire was renowned at that period), and was moreover esteemed by his townsmen for his superior education and good sound sense.

Edwin, the eldest of three sons, went as a child to an old school in the town, and at the age of eleven was sent to a French Academy in Normandy, kept by one of the retired professors from the Military College at Marlow. He remained there three years, during which time he not only learnt Latin and geometry, but obtained such a mastery over the French language that a translation made by him of one of Walter Scott’s minor works is said to have been published in France.....

... In March, 1846, he called at Mr. Stephenson’s office in Great George Street : it was the busiest time of the year and he was told there was little hope of getting an interview ; but he persevered, and contrived, by amusing accounts of his travels and adventures, to impress Mr. Saunderson, Mr. Stephenson’s secretary, so favourably, that this gentleman was induced to get him one day a stealthy entrance into the sanctum santorum. Mr. Stephenson, with characteristic courtesy, spoke with him, and also with his usual quick discrimination saw that he was a man of ability. He tried to dissuade Mr. Clark from taking to subordinate engineering work in its then depressed state ; but hearing of his mathematical knowledge, he kindly offered him a few days’ work in regard to a problem on which he was then engaged, namely, the nature of the strains on the great Britannia Bridge tubes, under certain hypothetical conditions. This led to discussions, in the course of which Mr. Stephenson was so struck with the criticisms and suggestions offered by Mr. Clark, that he at once placed the matter in his hands. A room was provided for him in the Great George Street office, and the result was, that in a short time Mr. Clark, a man who had received no engineering education and to whom engineering work was almost entirely new, was first entrusted with the experiments and designs, and finally elevated to the position of absolute control, its Resident Engineer, of what was then the greatest and the boldest engineering work in the world. And Mr. Stephenson never regretted the step he had taken.

....The Act sanctioning the Bridges was passed on the 30th of June, 1845, and the first stone of the Britannia Bridge was laid on the 10th of April, 1846. References continually recur to important and responsible work of various kinds performed by Mr. Clark, until the 19th of October, 1850, when the Bridge was completed and opened for the double line.

.... About 1846 a company had been incorporated for the development of electric telegraphs, called the Electric Telegraph Company, and on its direction were the names, now so well known, of Cooke and Wheatstone, G. P. Bidder, Thomas Brassey, Lewis Ricardo, and Mr. Clark's special friend, Robert Stephenson....

....When the Bridges were approaching completion, an opening occurred for an engineer to this great undertaking, and although Mr. Clark had hitherto had no experience whatever in electrical work, yet Robert Stephenson, having now had many years’ acquaintance with him, unhesitatingly recommended him to the post, and in August, 1850, he was appointed, accordingly, Engineer- in-Chief to the Company, a position he held for many years.

....Mr. Clark’s telegraph work comprehended many other improvements, particularly in regard to the insulation of the overground wires, then in a very defective state. He invented and patented the “Dew Cap Insulator,” which afterwards came into universal use. Many other advantageous changes in the details of the novel and complicated apparatus required for the electrical work were due to him, and to his brother, Mr. Latimer Clark, F.R.S., who, after aiding him on the staff of the Bridges, succeeded him in his electrical position.

.... One of Mr. Clark’s most brilliant engineering achievements was his invention and perfection of the “Hydraulic-Lift Graving Dock,” now so well known. The history of this dates from about 1857, when, the Victoria Docks at Blackwall being just completed, it was part of the plan of Mr. Bidder, the engineer, to construct a graving dock as an adjunct to that establishment. Serious difficulties however arose, and it occurred to Mr. Clark that vessels might be lifted bodily out of the water for repair or examination by the same means which had been adopted in raising the huge tubes of the great bridges, namely, hydraulic-power. The problem was simply to raise a given weight to a moderate height in the most rapid and economical manner, and there appeared no reason why a vessel should not be dealt with in the same manner as any other load. The proposal was duly considered, and ultimately a structure of the kind was built in the Victoria Docks by Mr. Clark for an independent company under the title of "The Thames Graving Dock Company." The process consisted of two distinct operations - first the direct raising of the ship upon a shallow pontoon; and secondly the transport of the vessel on the pontoon to any convenient position for its repair....

1894 Obituary [2]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 1895 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries
  2. The Engineer 1894/10/26, p365.
  • Biography of Edwin Clark, ODNB [1]