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George Clarisse Dobson

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George Clarisse Dobson (1801-1874)

1840 George Clarisse Dobson of Holyhead, became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.[1]

1875 Obituary [2]

MR. GEORGE CLARISSE DOBSON was born in France in May 1801. His father and grandfather, both engaged in engineering pursuits, had for some time been resident in that country, and his mother was a Frenchwoman.

Few particulars have been retained as to his earlier years. He was often heard to say that, as a boy, he remembered entering Paris along one side of the Seine, while the Russians were entering it on the other. This would probably be in 1814.

After this date he came to England and was apprenticed to Professor John Millington, whose “Elements of Natural Philosophy,” 1838, once enjoyed considerable reputation. How long this apprenticeship lasted is not known; but there are evidences of it in the illustrations to Millington’s “Epitome of Natural and Experimental Philosophy,” 1823, the frontispiece to which bears Mr. Dobson’s name ; and it is understood that the whole of the lithographic plates, then much less used for purposes of illustration, were from the same hand.

After this he appears to have been occupied in various forms of engineering work, and notably in mining operations, being certainly employed at the Lanescot mine, near Fowey, in 1829.

From about 1831 to 1837, Mr. Dobson was chiefly engaged in assisting Mr. J. M. Rendel, Past-President Inst. C.E., and was occupied among other things on the drawings of the floating bridges established at Torpoint and elsewhere in 1832-34.

In 1839 Mr. Dobson was appointed by the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty as Assistant and Draughtsman to Mr. W. Stuart, M. Inst. C.E., Superintendent of the Breakwater Department of the Plymouth Dockyard, succeeding Mr. Claringbull. In this capacity he continued until 1846, when, upon the recommendation of Mr. Rendel, he received from the Admiralty the appointment of Resident Engineer for the purpose of superintending the works to be carried out for the improvement of Holyhead Harbour, Mr. Rendel being the Engineer-in-Chief. At Holyhead, Mr. Dobson continued to perform his duties until the completion, in 1873, of that stupendous work.

How much the undertaking owed to Mr. Dobson’s undivided solicitude is not perhaps sufficiently known. Nor is it generally known that the original idea of the ‘coal-scuttle’ iron-tipping wagon, used at Holyhead, and since so successfully employed at Portland and elsewhere, was Mr. Dobson’s. “I take this public opportunity,” said Mr. Charles Rigby, Assoc. Inst. C.E., one of the Contractors for the works, at a dinner given in April 1857, “of stating that the credit of the invention of the iron-wagon is due to Mr. Dobson, who brought it out in a modest plan . . . . We made one full size, and tested its use. Napier and others had been scheming the mode of doing this, but the ‘coal-scuttle wagon’ has proved to be our best friend, and Mr. Dobson the best of all.”

Mr. Dobson did not long survive the termination of the great work with which his name will mainly be associated. He died on the 29th of November, 1874. This brief and imperfect notice of him cannot better be concluded than by quoting some words used elsewhere: “The long usefulness of lives like Mr. Dobson’s consecrated entirely to the carrying out of lengthy constructions, is often in danger of being overlooked in comparison with more varied or less unobtrusive careers. But many are still alive who will remember his undeviating integrity of purpose, and can recall the pride and courtesy with which, in the earlier and more active days of the works especially, he explained and exhibited their details to visitors.”

Mr. Dobson was elected an Associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers on the 31st of March, 1840, and was transferred to the class of Member on the 13th of March, 1849.

He left a daughter and five sons. One of them, Mr. Hamilton Stuart Dobson, died recently in South America, while engaged in surveying the Brazilian coast under the direction of Sir John Hawkshaw, Past-President Inst. C.E.

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