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Robert Reginald Burnett

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Robert Reginald Burnett (1841-1883)

1884 Obituary [1]

ROBERT REGINALD BURNETT was born in London on the 30th of April, 1841, and was educated in Germany, and at the Athenee Royale in Antwerp.

He was one of the Assistant-Engineers on the Riga and Dunaberg Railway, under Sir J. Hawkshaw and Mr. T. C. Watson.

On the completion of that line he went to Prussia, and was occupied for nearly two years on the Ordnance Survey of that country.

For the next five years he was Chief Resident-Engineer in the department of Cojormala, Peru, where he was engaged in laying out and making roads, constructing waterworks and bridges, opening out and working silver-mines, and surveying the country generally.

In 1866 he returned to Europe, and for some time was Resident-Engineer at Berne in the employment of the Swiss Government.

He was next appointed Chief Engineer to the Prussian Mining and Ironworks Company, Westphalia, by whom six shafts were sunk from 600 to 1,200 feet in depth; he was also largely employed in the chemical analysis of ores; this appointment he held for ten years.

He returned to England in 1876, and was then chiefly engaged in Cornwall in examining and reporting upon various mining works.

Towards the end of 1877 he was offered and accepted the post of Engineer-in-Chief to the Chinese Engineering and Mining Company. During his stay of nearly six years in China he prospected, started and brought to a successful issue the coal-mines at Haiping, near Tientsin; constructed a railway on the 4 feet 8.5 inches gauge, about 7 miles in length, and a canal 22 miles long, both in connection with the above-named mines. This railway, which is still in operation, was the first line constructed in China, with authority, and on which locomotives have been permitted to run. The first of the three locomotives now in use was built at Kaiping, was named the "Rocket of China," and made its first trip on George Stephenson's centenary.

Mr. Burnett was latterly employed under the same company to inspect and report on the capabilities of coal and iron mines in the valley of the Yang-tse-kiang, and it was during this occupation that he unfortunately caught the typhoid fever, to which he succumbed at Shanghai on the 19th of August, 1883.

Mr. Burnett was elected a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers on the 6th of February, 1877. Besides being a clever engineer, he was an accomplished linguist, speaking in addition to his native tongue, German, French and Spanish. He possessed great tact in managing large bodies of men, and was much liked and appreciated by all who worked with him and under him.

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