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Alexander Theodore Lavalley

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Alexander Theodore Lavalley (1821-1892)


1893 Obituary [1]

ALEXANDER LAVALLEY was born in November 1821, his father being a professor at the Academy of Medicine in Moscow, and his mother a Russian.

He was educated at an English school in Tours, and entered the Ecole Polytechnique, Paris, in 1840.

Having decided to become a mechanical engineer, he spent two years in England in the works of Messrs. Bury, Curtis and Kennedy, Liverpool, and in the evenings lectured on mechanics to the foremen and workmen.

Returning to Franco he was for a short time under M. Tetard, engineer of the Northern Railway of France; and was afterwards employed by M. Le Chatelier on different sections of the line from Paris to Lyons.

In 1846 he became engineer and manager of the works of Messrs. Ernest Gouin and Co., Paris, for the construction of locomotives and machinery.

In 1853 he came over to England again, for the purpose of studying the design and construction of the Menai Bridge; and on his return to France the firm of Messrs. Ernest Gouin and Co. were the first to start the building of iron bridges in France, of which they constructed a large number for that and other countries. Besides erecting a great number of bridges in Russia, the firm undertook the execution of the only tunnel on the St. Petersburg and Warsaw Railway.

In 1862 they undertook the completion of the Northern Railway of Spain across the Pyrenees, a formidable work which was accomplished in two years.

Owing to ill-health consequent upon incessant devotion to his duties, he then retired from the firm with a view to rest and recovery.

He was next induced by M. de Lesseps to undertake the construction of the Suez Canal. The position of the work at that time was critical, owing to the Viceroy's withdrawal of the forced labour, which he had promised to furnish. In conjunction with M. Borel he succeeded by means of mechanical appliances in place of manual labour in bringing the undertaking to a successful issue, and the canal was opened for navigation on 17th November 1869, three months before the expiration of the time allowed, and without exceeding the amount of the contract.

Besides excavating the canal, he also accomplished the gigantic operation of filling the Bitter Lakes with water from the Mediterranean.

On the completion of the work he was appointed engineer-in-chief of the canal, his partner M. Borel having died a month before the opening.

In 1878 he undertook with M. Molinos the construction of a harbour for the island of Reunion, which was completed in 1886; and also constructed a railway all round the island, in spite of the many natural difficulties that had to be overcome.

His great services to his country were recognized by his being elected a Senator in 1885, after he had already been created a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour in 1853, and an Officer in 1868, and had received many other distinctions.

He died on his estate at Bois-Thillard, near Pont l'Eveque in the department of Calvados, Normandy, on 20th July 1892, in the seventy-first year of his age.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1881, and was also a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, and President in 1877 of the Institution of Civil Engineers of France, as well as a member of various other societies.


1893 Obituary [2]

ALEXANDER THEODORE LAVALLEY was born in November, 1821, and was educated at Tours and at the Ecole Polytechnique, Paris, from which he passed out as a sub-lieutenant of military engineers. He soon however resigned his commission, and proceeding to England entered in 1843 the works of Bury, Curtis and Kennedy, engineers, of Liverpool, passing through the shops and drawing-office, in order to gain a thorough knowledge of mechanical construction and detail.

Having spent two years in this way, he returned to France and passed twelve months in the drawing-office of the Chemin de Fer du Nord, under the direction of Mr. Clapeyron, engaged in the design of locomotives and of railway plant generally.

Mr. Lavalley was now to reap the benefit of the practical experience he had thus gained. In 1846, when only five-and-twenty years of age, he was appointed to the important post of Engineer and Manager of the well-known works of Messrs. Ernest Gouin and Co., at Paris, where he remained until 1863.....[more]


1892 Obituary [3]



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