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Walter Raleigh Browne

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1873.

Walter Raleigh Browne (1842-1884).

of Victoria Chambers, London SW



1885 Obituary [1]

WALTER RALEIGH BROWNE, late Fellow of Trin. Coll. Camb., was born in 1842. He was the third son of the late Rev. J. Murray Browne, vicar of Almondsbury, and honorary Canon of Gloucester Cathedral.

He was educated at home till he went to Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1861.

In 1863, he obtained a College Foundation Scholarship, and graduated, after a University career of much distinction, as 19th Wrangler and (bracketed) 10th Classic in 1865. He obtained the Wrangham and Leigh gold medal and prize, granted only to those Trinity College men, who, besides being in the first class in both triposes, have also been invariably in the first class in the college examinations.

Whilst at Cambridge he read Greek Testament largely, being College and Dealtry prizeman for two successive years. He became Fellow of his college in 1867.

His love of mechanics decided his profession, and he served his time as an engineer, first with Messrs. Losh, Wilson and Bell of the Walker Engine works on the Tyne; and afterwards with Mr. Howard, resident engineer of the Bristol Dock and Harbour works. Whilst there he took an active part in important works connected with the docks which were then in progress; and the result of his experience and observations was given in a Paper 'On the Strength of Lock-Gates,' read before the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1871, for which a Telford premium was awarded.

On the completion of his apprenticeship, he entered, as junior managing partner, the Cookley Ironworks, near Kidderminster, but soon retired from the firm and returned to Mr. Howard early in 1872, as confidential adviser and assistant during the temporary ill-health and absence of the latter. During this pear, he read before the Institution of Mechanical Engineers a Paper 'On the Strength and Properties of Riveted Joints,' which has since been recognized as an authority on the subject.

In 1874 he became managing Director of the Bridgewater Engineering Company. Always throwing himself heartily into whatever work he had to do, he gave his attention to the construction of railway-wagons, and embodied his conclusions in a Paper read before the Inst. C.E. in 1876, 'On Railway Rolling Stock.' This Paper was placed first in order of merit amongst those read during the session, and received a Telford medal and premium. Depression in trade caused the Bridgewater works to be closed, and he then became Secretary to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, a post which he held for six years. He resigned it, however, together with his membership, in January 1884, and started as a consulting engineer. with every prospect of success. He was employed by the Mersey Dock and Harbour Board, in connection with the proposed Manchester Ship Canal, and this necessitated frequent visits to the Continent during the last six months of his life.

The subject, dealing as it did with harbour and tidal versus upland waters, was one in which he had long been interested, and on which he had contributed a Paper in April 1881 to the Inst. C.E. In that communication on 'The Relative Value of Tidal and Upland Waters in Maintaining Estuaries,' he gave, amongst other information, the results of some experiments made for him in the River Avon, by Professor H. S. Hele Shaw of Bristol University.

A series of articles, dealing thoroughly with the question, was to have appeared in the Engineer,” but a fragment, produced on his voyage to Canada, is all he had put on paper.

In August 1884 he went to Canada, with his wife, in order to attend the meeting of the British Association. The morning after his arrival in Montreal he was so unwell that medical aid was sent for. On Thursday, August 28th, typhoid symptoms became apparent, and he was moved from the house where he had been most hospitably received, to a private ward in the General Hospital, where everything that human care and attention could suggest was done. But by Sunday, inflammation of the lungs had set in, and he died at midnight on Thursday, September 4th, at the early age of 42.

The funeral took place in the Mount Royal Cemetery on the following Saturday, and was attended by Sir W. Dawson, and other professors of M‘Gill University, as well as by some of the leading citizens of Montreal.

During his residence in London, Mr. Browne devoted much attention to the theory of mechanics. He wrote a series of articles in the 'Engineer,' entitled 'The Foundations of Mechanics,' which were reprinted, and were followed by a book dealing with the same subject, entitled 'the Student’s Mechanics.' Besides these, he read before the Physical Society, and published in the 'Philsophical Magazine,' &c. Papers on 'Action at a Distance,' 'Central Forces and the Conservation of Energy,' 'The Reality of Force,' &c.

He was early attracted to the much disputed point of glacier motion, not only as an enthusiastic mountaineer and member of the Alpine Club, but also by the friendship of the late Canon Moseley, who advanced the theory of the Dilation of Ice, and which Walter Browne was engaged in defending at the time of his death. It was long before he was able to endeavour to establish Moseley’s theory by Papers read before the Royal Society, Physical Society, and the French Academie des Sciences.

Besides the above mentioned writings on physical science, he translated Clausius’s 'Mechanical Theory of Heat,' and Schwackhofer’s 'Fuel and Water.' To the latter work, he acted as editor in order to fit it more to the needs of English steam-users, and prefixed a clear and concise account of the Mechanical Theory of Heat.

In the spring of 1884, he read before the Iron and Steel Institute, by special request of the President, a Paper on 'Iron Sleepers.' His literary ability made him a valuable writer on scientific subjects, and he contributed more or less frequently to the 'Engineer,' 'Nature,' 'Athenaeum,' 'Church Quarterly Review,' 'Builder,' 'Electrician,' 'Coal and Iron Trades Review,' &C., &c.

Mr. Browne was a member of the Geological, Royal Geographical, Physical, Philological, Psychical-Research and Aristotelian Societies, and as a connecting-link between his scientific and his philanthropic work, the Christian Evidence Society. All these societies have lost an active and interested member.

He contributed several Papers to the Philological Society, of which he was a Member of Council; amongst others, two on 'Scotch and English place-names ' (compiled mainly during leisure evenings), and on 'the Origin of Technical Terms,' chiefly engineering, which disclosed some curious and interesting facts. Besides this, he took an active interest in and contributed to the Society’s 'New English Dictionary.' He was one of the founders of the Society for Psychical-Research, and the metaphysical questions debated at the Aristotelian Society possessed great interest for him. In connection with these problems, he has left in MS. an 'Essay on Evidence' - the result of many years’ thought, and which he considered as the work of his life.

The interest felt and work done in philosophy was not a mere matter of 'intellectual gymnastics,' but was prompted by an earnest desire to know the truth, and to do what he could for the cause of religion. He frequently lectured for the Christian Evidence Society, and in 1876, held, at their request, a public debate, lasting two evenings, with Mr. Bradlaugh, in the Victoria Hall, Leeds; the subject being 'Can Miracles be proved possible?' For work such as this, his gift of public speaking and unfailing temper and courtesy, rendered him peculiarly fit. Amongst his published papers connected with this subject may be mentioned a review of the Autobiography of J. S. Mill, and a brilliant Paper on the 'Limits of Authority and Freethought,' which attracted much attention at the Derby Church Congress two years ago.

In 1880 he published a volume on 'The Inspiration of the New Testament,' which was favourably noticed by the late Archbishop of Canterbury. He was thus enabled to put before His Grace a point he had much at heart, namely, the necessity for some high-class organization to correct the unbelieving tone adopted by the daily press, and in a great measure by the leading periodicals, and a private conference of leading scientific men was subsequently held at Lambeth Palace to discuss the matter.

In philanthropic work he was active in encouraging emigration, and he held strong views on the paramount importance of maintaining and fostering good relations with the colonies, which he expressed in a Paper on 'The Causes and Remedies of Bad Trade,' read before the Society of Arts in 1882.

While at Bristol he started the branch of the Discharged Prisoners Aid Society which exists there, and he was a member of the Central Committee in London. He was interested in the vexed question of the education of pauper children. He joined the 'Churchmen’s Union' when first started by Dr. Wilkinson, now Bishop of Truro, and was an original member of the Church of England Purity Society.

In controversy he hit hard, but never ungenerously. In business he showed to all with whom he came in contact due consideration, patience and perfect courtesy, and he was always ready and pleased to lend a helping hand to any young man at the outset of his career. In society he was a pleasant companion, and a good talker; while those who had the privilege of knowing him intimately and in his home, know with what unfailing chivalry the best qualities of heart and mind were at the disposal of those with whom he had to do.

Mr. Browne was elected an Associate of the Institution on the 7th of April 1868, and was transferred to the class of Members on the 27th of May 1879.


1884 Obituary [2]

WALTER RALEIGH BROWNE, SOH of the late Rev. T. Murray Browne, honorary canon of Gloucester, was born at Standish, Gloucestershire, in 1842, and was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated in 1865 as nineteenth wrangler and tenth classic, obtaining his fellowship in 1867.

He afterwards served his apprenticeship to engineering with Messrs. Losh Wilson and Bell, Walker Iron Works, Newcastle-on-Tyne; and with Mr. Thomas Howard, resident engineer of the Bristol Dock and Harbour Works.

He was for a short time a partner in the firm of Messrs. John Knight and Co., Cookley Iron Works, near Kidderminster; and subsequently managing director of the Bridgwater Engineering Works.

He was elected a Member of this Institution in 1869, and was appointed secretary in 1878, continuing to occupy that position till January 1884.

In 1872 (Proceedings, page 53) he contributed a paper on riveted joints; and in 1878 (page 617) a note on the theory of the action of brakes upon the wheels of a train.. He was fellow of many scientific societies, and member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, from which he obtained two Telford premiums and one Telford medal for papers contributed to their Proceedings.

In August 1884 he went to Canada to attend the meeting of the British Association; but was suddenly attacked with typhoid fever, and died at Montreal on 4th September 1884, at the age of forty-two.



See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1885 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries
  2. 1884 Institution of Mechanical Engineers: Obituaries