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John Thomson (d.1866)

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John Thomson ( -1866), CE, an engineer of great practical experience in laying submarine cables.

1851 Established partnership with W. J. Macquorn Rankine in Glasgow. They revived a project for supplying Glasgow with water from Loch Katrine, and surveyed the proposed route.

1855 They patented machinery for laying submarine cables[1]

1857 Assistant engineer to the East India Railway Co[2]

1866 September 30th. Died


1866 Obituary [3]

TRE LATE MR. JOHN THOMSON, C.E. On the 30th of September died Mr. John Thomson, C.E., resident engineer of the Albert Harbour works, at Greenock. His death was somewhat unexpected at last, but the earnest prosecution of his business had so greatly injured his health that there had been of late little hope of his being a long liver.

He was the son of Professor William Thomson, M.D., of Glasgow University. For the following particulars of his career we are partially indebted to the Greenock Advertiser.

He was a student of Mr. Gordon, formerly Professor of Engineering in that university ; and after serving his term of apprenticeship as a civil engineer with Messrs. Gordon and Hill and as a mechanical engineer with Mr. Randolph, he joined the locomotive department of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway.

He was afterwards with Messrs. Liddell and Gordon, engineers, Westminster, and then became superintendent for Messrs. Newall and Co., wire-rope makers, of their works at Sunderland. He had the charge of making and laying the following telegraph cables: - Dover and Ostend, seventy miles; Portpatrick nnd Donaghadee, twenty, six: miles; three cables to Holland, 368 miles; Edinburgh to Burntisland, eight miles; Broughty Ferry and Dundee, one and a half miles; and the Spezzia and Cape Corso line, of 110 miles, and was, in fact, the layer of the first successful ocean telegraph cable.

Mr, Thomson also superintended the making of cables to cross the Great and Little Belts, to cross tho Mississippi, from Prince Edward's Islann to Newfoundland, and from Cronstadt to Peterhoff.

In 1852, in conjunction with Mr. Macquorn Rankine, he revived the project of supplying Glasgow with water from Loch Katrine, which had been first proposed in 1845 by Messrs. Gordon and Hill, and which was afterwards executed by Mr. Bateman. The adoption of that project by the Corporation of Glasgow was, in a great measure, brought about by the representation of its advantages made to them by llfessrs. Rankine and Thomson.

Mr. Thomson went to India in 1854, and remained till 1859 as a resident engineer on the East Indian Railway; and his zeal in carrying out that work during the rainy season laid the seeds of the illness from which be long suffered, and which brought him to an untunely grave.

On the 2nd October, 1861, Mr. Thomson became resident engineer of the Albert Harbour, at Greenock, under the chief-engineers, Messrs. Bell and Hiller. He also ~superintended the construction of the esplanade and other works at Greenock, and deservedly won the highest confidence of the harbour trustees. He was a man of first-rate ability, and was held in the highest repute amongst engineers; indeed, but for his shattered health, he would have risen to the top of his profession. He was specially distinguished by a thorough knowledge of the practical details of every sort of engineering work, which he had acquired through long experience and careful observation.

Mr. Thomson was full of pluck and energy, gentlemanly and honourable in his conduct, and most amiable and pleasant in disposition. Altogether he was such a one as cannot pass away without leaving a sorrowful blank in tho hearts of all his friends.



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Sources of Information

  1. The Engineer 1857/10/02
  2. The Engineer 1857/09/11
  3. The Engineer 1866/10/19, Page 290.