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Charles Aaron Haslett

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Charles Aaron Haslett (1822-1872)

1873 Obituary [1]

MR. CHARLES AARON HASLETT was born at Hallowell, in the State of Maine, in the year 1822. At an early age he manifested precocious talents in mathematics.

He attended a High School, and was trained as a teacher, more especially with reference to that branch of science. His health, however, would not permit him to follow that comparatively sedentary calling, and he therefore commenced a course of studies in civil engineering, under Mr. Mason of Cambridge, Massachusetts. This was about the year 1848; and he soon after became eminent as a railway surveyor, and compiled “The Engineer’s Pocket Field Book,” which became at once the reference and the companion of railway Engineers in the United States and Canada. It gives a compendium of the American system of laying out curves on railways, and embraces numerous tables and original formula.

It is believed that Mr. Haslett was the first to introduce the system of calculation by Versed Sines, by which many problems of field work are abbreviated.

After the publication of this book, Mr. Haslett’s services as a 'Locating Engineer' were eagerly sought after by railway companies.

The principal railways in which he was engaged were the European and North American and the St. Andrew’s, in New Brunswick, where he served under Mr. A. L. Light, M. Inst. C.E. ; the Intercolonial railway of Canada, under Mr. H. G. C. Ketchum, Assoc. Inst. C.E. ; the San Paulo railway of Brazil, where he was employed in the construction of the celebrated inclines, and of the Mugi Viaduct, designed by Mr. Brunlees, M. Inst. C.E. ; the Virginian Central, the Union Pacific, the Western Pacific, and many smaller railways of the United States ; and finally, Mr. Haslett was chief of the surveying staff on the Southern Pacific railway of California, where he died in June, 1872.

He had just completed the survey of the last-named railway, and was returning to San Francisco, where he had left his family, when he was suddenly seized with bilious colic, accompanied by violent cramps. All the remedies that could be procured by the surveying party were immediately applied and administered, but without avail. No physician was within reach he was in the midst of a sandy desert, where the intense heat and the alkaline nature of the waters seemed only to increase his sufferings and accelerated his death. His body could not be brought to San Francisco, owing to the distance it would have to be carried over the sand and through the heat. Consequently, definite measurements wore taken by the surveying party to determine the spot where he was buried, so that when the railway should be completed the body could be removed.

Mr. Haslett was highly esteemed and respected by all who enjoyed his acquaintance ; but those only who were admitted to his friendship knew his sterling worth as a Christian gentleman, his abhorrence of all that was mean or dishonourable, his modest estimation of self and of his high attainments, and his simple but earnest character. At the time of his death it is known that he was finishing a more comprehensive work on engineering than his “Field Book;” and it is to be hoped that this contribution to engineering literature, embracing as it no doubt does the results of his valuable and extended experience, will not be lost to the profession.

He was elected an Associate of the Institution on the 23rd of May, 1865.

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