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George Rowdon Burnell

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Civil engineer (c1814-1868)

1865 Published "Rudimentary Treatise on Limes, Cements, Mortars, Concretes, Mastics ..." By George Rowdon Burnell[1]

1887 13th edition of his book on "Limes, Cements, Mortars". [2]


1871 Obituary [3]

MR. GEORGE ROWDON BURNELL, after receiving a partial education as an architect, was in early life a partner in a large iron foundry, which he left in 1840.

He then visited America, and on his return, after a short stay in Belgium and the North of France, was engaged under the late Mr. Joseph Locke, Past President Inst. C.E., in superintending the construction of a portion of the Paris and Rouen railway, and subsequently of the Rouen and Havre railway.

On the completion of these works he was appointed superintending architect to the Havre Docks and Warehouse Company; but in the year 1848, like many of his fellow countrymen, he found it expedient to return to England, as the cry was at that time raised 'La France pour les Franqais.'

During the seven years that he resided abroad he contracted a great admiration for the talents of the French, and hence the strong colouring which pervaded most of his writings, in which he so constantly held them up for study and imitation. By degrees, however, after his return to England, he became more and more exclusively literary.

He was as well known as a writer on architectural subjects as on those connected with engineering ; and was one of very few who have united a Fellowship of the Royal Institute of British Architects with a Membership of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

Mr. Burnell though possessed of considerable engineering talent did not actively follow the practice of the profession, but was principally occupied in literary pursuits connected with it. He was the author of several rudimentary works, including one on limes and cements.

In 1861 and afterwards he wrote 'The Annual Retrospect of Engineering and Architecture.' He edited for some years 'A Builder’s and Contractor’s Price Book,' and 'The Engineers’ and Architects’ Pocket Book,' was connected, too, for a long time with the 'Journal of Gas-lighting,' contributed to 'Brande’s Dictionary of Science,' the 'Dictionary of Architecture,' as published by the Architectural Publication Society, and wrote largely and constantly for the 'Building News.'

In addition to these strictly professional works, he wrote occasionally on general literature for the 'Eclectic,' and other reviews. His incessant literary labour, from which he never rested, brought on the disease which so prematurely closed his career; an attack of paralysis of the brain in the summer of 1866 quite incapacitated him from any further labour, and after a tedious illness of two years, with no hope of recovery from the first, he died on the 25th of July, 1868, aged fifty-four, a great loss to his fellow-professional men, to whom his unbounded store of facts and universal information were always liberally open.

Mr. Burnell was elected a Member of the Institution on the 6th of February, 1866. He had previously, as a visitor, often attended the meetings and taken part in the discussions, besides contributing a Paper 'On the Machinery employed in sinking Artesian Wells on the Continent,' for which he was awarded a Telford premium in books. After his election as a Member he presented a Paper 'On the water supply of the City of Paris,' and for this also he was awarded a Telford premium in books.


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