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British Industrial History

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George Swinburne

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George Swinburne (1861-1928)

1928 Obituary [1]

The Hon. GEORGE SWINBURNE, who was a member of the Australian Advisory Committee of the Institution, held Cabinet rank as Minister of Water Supply and Agriculture from 1904 to 1908, and left his mark on the legislative history of Australia, having rendered great public service by his work in connexion with the irrigation policy. He framed and introduced the Acts which nationalized the waters of the rivers and streams of the State, and conducted the negotiations which resulted in the agreement for the control of the Murray River waters.

He was born near Newcastle-on-Tyne in 1861 and until he was 21 was trained for a commercial career.

In 1882 he came to London at the invitation of his uncle, Mr. John Coates, to gain experience in engineering, and during the following two years he acquired knowledge of hydraulic engineering in connexion with the products of Messrs. John Abbot and Company of Gateshead-on-Tyne, and of gas engineering in connexion with the products of Messrs. Dempster and Sons, who, in 1884, sent him to Vienna to take charge of the erection of large gas plant.

In 1886 he went to Australia, again at the invitation of his uncle, and he became a partner in the firm of John Coates and Company who designed and erected a large number of new gas works and extensions throughout Australia and New Zealand, and a number of waterworks and dock and harbour equipments. They also initiated, equipped, and managed successfully the Melbourne and Sydney Hydraulic Power Companies.

In 1913 Mr. Swinburne, who was also a director of many other engineering companies, gave up active practice as an engineer and devoted the whole of his time to public duty. He was a member of the Commonwealth Inter-State Commission, and of the Electricity Commission of Victoria, and during the War he was in charge of the regulations controlling the formation and reconstruction of all companies and the issue and raising of all new capital, and chairman of the Business Board of the Defence Department. He was afterwards a delegate representing Australia at the League of Nations Assembly at Geneva, and he held many other important public positions.

His death on 4th September 1928 called forth a generous tribute to his work and ability from the Prime Minister of Australia.

He became a Member of the Institution in 1897.

He was also a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

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