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Frederick Morris Avern

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Frederick Morris Avern (1845-1886)

1886 Obituary [1]

FREDERICK MORRIS AVERN was educated in the Engineering Department of King’s College, London ; he subsequently served a pupilage of two years to Mr. C. P. B. Shelley, M.Inst.C.E., and was for some months employed on the works of the Charing Cross Railway Bridge, under Mr. Joseph Phillips, Assoc.Inst.C.E.

In June 1863, at the notably early age of eighteen, he passed the competitive examination for the Indian Public Works Department, and entered that service as a Stanley engineer. He rose rapidly in the department, thus fulfilling his early promise. He was at first employed in a subordinate position on the Nuddeah River Improvements and other fluvial works, but three years after entering he was appointed to the charge of the Calcutta Port and Hooghly Improvement Works, with the rank of Executive Engineer.

In August 1871 he took charge of the Sutlej Bridge Division of the Indus Valley (State) Railway.

In September 1872 he was transferred to the Punjab Northern State Railway, in charge of various divisions of surveys and construction, but his most important employment was the superintendence of the erection of the greater part of the superstructure of the Jhelum bridge, of which he presented an account to the Institution. This remarkable structure is nearly 1 mile long (actually 4,867 feet between the abutments), and consists of fifty spans of 97 feet 6 inches, on well-foundations. It crosses the Jhelum - the ancient Hydaspes - at a point where the river is encumbered by a bed of boulders, and by sandbanks, and is altogether a great work of engineering.

After sixteen years’ service in India, Mr. Avern found his health begin to suffer, and he resigned his appointment. He experienced great difficulty in getting his resignation accepted, such was the value put upon his services, but he eventually left the country in order to reside in Australia.

In 1881 he again sought professional employment, and was appointed District Engineer in charge of the Great Western Railway of New South Wales. His untiring zeal and energy in this position procured for him, three years later, the post of Deputy Engineer for all the existing lines of the colony. In this capacity he rendered most important service in re-organizing the department, a class of work for which he had unusual talent. It is agreed, by all acquainted with the facts, that in this difficult and arduous task Mr. Avern’s services were simply invaluable.

He possessed the rare faculty of being strict and exacting without giving offence, or becoming in the least unpopular. But, as frequently happens where so much labour is compressed into so short a span, Mr. Avern’s life-work was finished at an age when that of most men has scarcely reached its meridian. He died on the 14th of March, 1886, when but little over forty.

He was elected an Associate on the 3rd of May, 1870, and transferred to Member on the 28th of November, 1876, both dates signifying nearly the earliest age at which he was qualified for the distinction.

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