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Philip North Brockedon

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Philip North Brockedon (1822-1849)


1851 Obituary [1]

Mr. Philip North Brockedon the only son of Mr. Brockedon (F.R.S.), equally known for his mechanical ingenuity and his taste for the fine arts, was born at Florence, on the 27th of April, 1822.

His education was commenced at the London University; and was finished at King’s College, where his proficiency in the classics, mathematics, natural philosophy, the living languages, and especially those branches of study connected with his future profession, gained the highest testimonials from the Professors, and he became in less than the usual time an Associate of the College.

He began his professional career in 1841, as the pupil of Mr. Cubitt (President Inst. C.E.), by whom he was placed with Mr. Simms (M.Inst.C.E.), and then with Mr. Turnbull, (M.Inst.C.E.), resident engineers on the South Eastern Railway, under whom he assisted in the construction of most of the principal works on the line.

He then went to the Bristol and Exeter line, where, with Mr. Froude (M.Inst.C.E.), he set out and completed a large portion of the permanent way.

He was then, in 1844 and 1845, engaged on the parliamentary sections of the 'Wilts and Somerset,’ and the ‘North Devon’ lines, and then became assistant engineer on the East Lancashire Railway, under Mr. Cawley (M.Inst.C.E.)

In 1846 he became one of the resident engineers on the Great Northern Railway, under Mr. J. Cubitt. (M.Inst.C.E.), where he directed the construction of the portion of the line between Lincoln and Gainsborough.

Besides these regular engagements, he was employed on numerous surveys in England, and accompanied Mr. Simms, on the general survey of the proposed railways from Bordeaux to Cette. In fact, from the earliest age, he never was unemployed. This constant application, however, preyed on his constitution, and he resolved to visit Spain and the Mediterranean, but he unfortunately decided to to make a previous excursion to Holland and Belgium, where he passed a few weeks, during which time, as testified by his copious notes, and a large collection of sketches, he must have worked early and late, and he returned home a greater invalid than he left it.

In a short time, the worst apprehensions of his friends were realized, and rapid decline ensuing, the rupture of a small blood-vessel terminated, prematurely, a life which promised to be as useful to the world as it was brilliant during its too brief duration.

At the early age of twenty-seven, his mental and bodily energies, such as few men possessed, had completely worn him out; indeed an enumeration of the labours he accomplished, would appear an exaggeration, for besides the closest attention to his professional duties, he found time to make most copious notes relative to all the works on which he was engaged, with several hundred drawings and tracings of engineering works, which, with a consideration deserving of the highest eulogium, he bequeathed to the Institution of Civil Engineers.

He left a very large collection of drawings and sketches, made during his numerous short tours, and which attest considerable talent and taste for the fine arts. Upwards of thirty MS. volumes of notes, in all branches of science, as well as a journal, extending over fifteen years of his life; a meteorological journal, and a series of observations on the habits of migratory birds, and of hibernating animals and insects; a cabinet of specimens of insects taken by himself; collections of specimens illustrative of geology and mineralogy, and the process of various manufactures, attest his indomitable industry and perseverance.

Yet amidst all this labour, he could find time for archaeological researches, and for the cultivation of all the accomplishments of society. A mild and gentle character rendered him an universal favourite; and had his life been extended, there can be little doubt that his ultimate career would have been as useful, as its commencement was promising and brilliant. Few young men have lived so beloved and respected, and died so regretted; and of still fewer can it be truly said, as was written of him by an intimate friend, on hearing of his death, In all our unreserved and confident intimacy, 'I never heard him express a thought, or utter a word, that he would now recall.'

He was elected an Associate of the Institution, in the year 1847, and whilst he evinced his great attachment to the Society, by his frequent attendance at the meetings, he set a noble example, in bequeathing the results of his labours, for the use of his brother members.

He died unexpectedly, November 12th, 1849, admired by all who knew him, and beloved as few men ever have been.


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