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John Switzer Owens

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1933. New Instrument for Measuring Smoke Emissions made by C. F. Casella and Co.

Dr. John Switzer Owens (1871-1942)

1871 July 28th. Born at Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford, the son of George Carley Owens (1840-1876) and his wife Mary Ann Warren (1840- )

1942 December 6th. Died. 'The death of Dr. J. S. Owens on December 6 removes a most useful and public-spirited man of science. For nearly thirty years Dr. Owens has been the moving spirit in the investigation of atmospheric pollution on its quantitative side. He devised the instruments in use, and co-ordinated, tabulated and prepared for publication all the data on which the progressive changes in the amount of pollution in the atmosphere are evaluated.'[1]


1943 Obituary [2]

JOHN SWITZER OWENS. M.D., B.Ch.. B.A., was an authority on atmospheric pollution, to which he had devoted a great deal of attention, especially of recent years. For the purposes of his researches into the subject he had devised some notable instruments. He was technical adviser to the London Smoke Abatement Society and since 1912 had been Superintendent of Observations on Atmospheric Pollution in the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. He was joint author with Sir Napier Shaw of a book on "The Smoke Problem of Great Cities", published in 1926, and also presented papers to the Institution on "The Smoke of Cities", in 1936, and "Identification of the Source of Deposited Matter", in 1939.

Dr. Owens, who was one of the very few qualified engineers ever to hold a medical degree, was born at Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford, in 1871. With the intention of entering the medical profession, he was admitted to Dublin University at the early age of sixteen, where he graduated B.A., M.D., and B.Ch. In 1897 he abandoned his career as a doctor and served his apprenticeship with Messrs. Hindson Brothers, Gateshead, and later with the Wallsend Slipway and Engineering Company, meanwhile attending classes in the engineering course at the Durham College of Science. In 1899 he became assistant to Mr. E. Case, of Westminster, and in 1902 was appointed chief engineer to the Case Sea Defence Syndicate.

Two years later he began to practice on his own account, with an office in Westminster, and besides being responsible for the design of plant for concrete mixing and conducting experiments in connection with transport by water, acted as adviser to the East Sussex County Council on schemes for coast defense. He became a recognized authority on coastal erosion. In 1915 he was appointed consulting mechanical engineer to the San Domingo Mines, Portugal. Since 1929 he had held the position of consultant to the Rio Tinto copper mines and was instrumental in developing a large belt-loading scheme in addition to the design of much new equipment and railway rolling stock. For thirty years he had also been consulting engineer to Messrs. Mason and Barry.

Dr. Owens was elected a Member of the Institution in 1931. He was also an Associate Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers. His death occurred on 6th December 1941.


1942 Obituary [3]




See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. Nature
  2. 1943 Institution of Mechanical Engineers: Obituaries
  3. 1941 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries