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Lawrence Ernest Harris

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Lawrence Ernest Harris (1892-1959) of Sulzer Brothers and author

1959 Obituary [1]

WE regret to record the death on April 5 of L. E. Harris, A.M.I.Mech.E., M.I.W.E., F.R.Hist.S., president of the Newcomen Society for the Study of the History of Engineering and Technology.

Lawrence Ernest Harris was born at Sydenham, London, in 1892. After leaving Mercers School, London, he studied from 1910 to 1912 in the Civil and Mechanical Engineering Department at the City and Guilds (Engineering) College, South Kensington, where he won a Mitchell scholarship.

He was apprenticed to C. Isler and Co., London, artesian well engineers.

He served in the Royal Fusiliers and Machine Gun Corps from 1914 to 1919, being invalided out of the Army on account of war wounds.

After a post-war refresher course at King's College, London, he joined Sulzer Brothers, Ltd., as an estimating engineer in the London office for four years.

In 1923, after spending three months at the Winterthur works of that firm, Harris became its manager in India for thirteen years, during which period he was responsible for the installation of several power stations and pumping stations driven by steam and diesel engines or electric motors.

Returning to England he was, from 1937 till his death, the district manager and engineer for the Sulzer organisation in the Fen area, specialising in fen drainage and pumping machinery. He lived at Histon, Cambridge. He also installed Sulzer pumping plant for the Somerset River Board's drainage schemes.

Harris became an authority on the history of the Fens and his book, 'Vermuyden and the Fens', published in 1953, contained the results of much research. He was the author of various papers to the Newcomen Society, including "Sir Cornelius Vermuyden, an Evaluation and an Appreciation," and "On the Early Development of Centrifugal Pumping Machinery, 1689- 1856." Hi presidential address in 1958, entitled "A Neglected Genius of Seventeenth Century Technology," gave credit, long overdue, to Cornelis Drebbel (1562- 1633) of North Holland. He also wrote the chapter on Land Drainage and Reclamation" in Volume III of A History of Technology , 1957.

Harris conceived the idea of forming a Trust to preserve the Stretham beam engine complete with scoop-wheel being the last surviving example of its kind in the Fen district. He became the first chairman of the Trust in 1958. The Trust recently issued an appeal, to which reference was made in THE ENGINEER of March 6.

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