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Benjamin Warnes Thurston

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Benjamin Warnes Thurston (1816-1885)


1885 Obituary [1]

BENJAMIN WARNES THURSTON was born in 1816, at Brooke, in Norfolk, and was educated at Norwich, after which he acted for upwards of thirteen years as Sub-manager, &c., at the gasworks in that city, for the British Gaslight Company, and there acquired a knowledge of gas-manufacture and gas-engineering.

In 1846 he accepted an appointment as Resident Engineer to superintend the completion of the construction of the Hamburg Gasworks, which post he filled with great advantage both to the contractors and to the Company, who were much troubled owing to the works being on an island in the River Elbe liable to overflows. The whole of the immense buildings and gas-holders rest on piles driven to a great depth through peat and sand. The difficulty of his task was increased by the German workmen in those days being little skilled in engineering, as well as by the intense frosts and inundations to which the Elbe was subject. Mr. Thurston, however, overcame all obstacles by his remarkable force of character and ability, which led to his being appointed sole Engineer and Manager to the Hamburg Gas-Company, positions he held until 1874, when the thirty years' concession to the Company expired, and the works became the property of the State of Hamburg. During the twenty-nine years he held these offices, large additions were made to the works. The financial results of his administration were dividends which ultimately reached 66 per cent. per annum.

Mr. Thurston was much consulted by other Gas-Companies on the continent, and was employed to design and construct gasworks for many towns in Germany, Finland, and Poland. He was also Engineering Director of several gasworks. He invented improvements in apparatus for gas-purification, and in furnaces for utilizing coal-tar as a fuel for carbonizing coal, both of which were extensively adopted on the continent. He was one of the first to use hydraulic cranes for unloading steam-colliers. He continued in practise as a Consulting Engineer until the end of 1875, when he retired after forty-three years’ hard work, and lived at Eimsbuttel, a suburb of Hamburg.

Mr. Thurston died on the 26th of May, 1885, leaving a widow and grown-up family to lament. his loss. He was elected an Associate of the Institution on the 3rd of April, 1857. In writing to the Secretary in 1878, he expressed regret that circumstances had prevented his being an active member, owing to his numerous engagements on the continent, which occupied all his time, and required his undivided attention. Mr. Thurston’s mental characteristics were very marked. He possessed great energy and perseverance, a powerful memory, natural constructive ability, and a facility for thoroughly and clearly thinking out the consequences of any course of action he might have under his consideration. His upright character and kindness of heart won for him a large circle of friends.



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