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Frank McClean (1837-1904)

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Frank McClean (1837-1904)

Born the son of John Robinson McClean

1904 Obituary [1]

FRANK McCLEAN was born in London on 13th November 1837, being the son of the late Mr. J. R. McClean, M.P., F.R.S., President of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1863.

At the age of twelve he entered Westminster School, and three years later proceeded to Glasgow University, where he studied Senior Mathematics and Natural Philosophy under Sir William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), to whom he attributed his love of science. During this period, 1853 to 1855, he obtained numerous prizes, chiefly in connection with Natural Philosophy. In October 1855 he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, being placed a wrangler in 1859, and for the next three years he was a Bachelor Scholar of Trinity.

In 1859 he was apprenticed to Sir John Hawkshaw for three years, and during this period he was engaged on the middle level drainage of the Fens and on Penarth Docks, and in the London office amongst other work on the calculations for the Charing Cross Bridge girders.

He was afterwards engaged on railway surveys in Moldavia for the firm of McClean and Stileman, in which he was admitted as a partner in 1863. In May of that year he became resident engineer on the doubling of the Ulverston to Lancaster section of the Furness Railway, work which included viaducts over the rivers Leven and Kent, and in the following year also held a similar post at the Barrow Docks during the construction of the Devonshire and Buccleuch Docks and large warehouses.

Then in 1865 he was in charge of the Furness and Midland Railways new line between Winmsington and Carnforth, which included a viaduct over the River Loose. After the completion of this work he returned to the London office, where he continued to take charge of the Furness Railway undertakings.

In 1871 he retired from engineering work in order to devote himself to science, chiefly electricity and astronomy, but he continued to take a lively interest in all engineering works.

His patent star spectroscope was brought out in 1875, and in the same year he completed a private observatory at Ferncliffe, Tunbridge Wells, and began work with his 15-inch reflector, chiefly observing solar prominences.

In 1884 he removed to Rusthall House, Tunbridge Wells, re-erecting his 15-inch reflector in the new observatory. There his polar heliostat was fitted up in the roof of the house, and with a grating spectroscope and electrical appliances, many of them of his own construction, he began his studies of the solar and metallic spectra, and later on, had a large telescope with 10-inch refractor erected in place of the old reflector.

During the years 1895 to 1897 he was engaged on the survey of the Northern Hemisphere, and for six months of the latter year on the Southern Hemisphere at Cape Town. In that time he had secured 292 photographs of the required 116 stars.

He was a Fellow of the Royal Society and of the Royal Astronomical Society, a Doctor of Laws of Glasgow, and a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers; also a Justice of the Peace. He became a Member of this Institution in 1874.

His death took place at Brussels from pneumonia on 8th November 1904, in his sixty-seventh year.

He bequeathed £5,000 to the Newall Observatory at Cambridge for improving the instrumental equipment, £2,000 each to the Royal Society, the Royal Institution, and the Royal Astronomical Society, £5,000 to the University of Birmingham, to be applied in the department of physical science; and to the University of Cambridge, for presentation to the Fitzwilliam Museum, he left his collection of illuminated manuscripts and early printed books.

1905 Obituary [2]

FRANK McCLEAN, M.A. (Cantab.), LL.D. (Glasgow), F.R.S., only son of the late Mr. J. R. McClean, Past-President, died at Brussels on the 8th November, 1904, in his sixty-seventh year.

Born in 1837, he was educated at Westminster School, proceeding subsequently to Glasgow University and to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated in 1859.

Adopting his father's profession, he was apprenticed in the same year to Sir John Hawkshaw, Past-President, during which period and subsequently he was engaged on the works of the Penarth Docks and the Middle Level Drainage.

On completing his pupilage, he acted as Resident Engineer to McClean and Stileman by whom he was employed on the doubling of the Furness Railway between Ulverston and Carnforth, which included some heavy works, and on the construction of the Furness and Midland joint railway.

He also carried out surveys for railways in Moldavia, and in 1863 he was made partner in the firm. Between this date and 1871, when he gave up his professional pursuits, Mr. McClean represented his firm on many works carried out by them, including the Barrow Docks, and the Furness and Midland Railway, surveys and borings at Piel Bar, and the extension of Piel Pier and railway.

After his retirement, Mr. McClean devoted the remainder of his life to astronomical science. The results of his labours were embodied in various important Papers communicated by him to the Royal Society and the Royal Astronomical Society, and in 1899, he was awarded the gold medal of the latter society for his researches in solar and stellar spectroscopy.

In 1890 he founded the Isaac Newton studentships at Cambridge, and in 1895 he presented the Victoria photographic telescope to the Cape Observatory.

The honorary degree of LL.D. was conferred upon him by Glasgow University in 1894, and in the following year he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Mr. McClean married in 1865 Ellen, daughter of Mr. John Greg, of Escowbeck, Lancaster.

He was elected an Associate Member of the Institution on the 5th April, 1864, and was transferred to the class of full Members on the 10th December, 1867.

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