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Henry Law

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Henry Law (1824-1900)

5 Queen Anne's Gate, London. [1]

Died 1900 aged 76. [2]


1900 Obituary [3]

HENRY LAW was born at Reading on the 15th April, 1824.

At an early age he was sent to school at Hackney, but trouble with his eyes necessitated his leaving school when only 8 years old. Three separate operations for cataract were performed, but the sight of one eye was never recovered.

At 10 years of age he went to school again, remaining there until he was 13, and during that time he made several mechanical models and drawings. These were brought to the notice of Sir Isambard Brunel, who took Henry Law into his office for two months, and subsequently gave him articles as a pupil. He was then placed on the Thames Tunnel staff, and remained on those works until their completion in 1843.

He was next employed by Mr. Thomas Page, who had been chief of the Thames Tunnel engineering staff, to assist in taking soundings and in making surveys of the River Thames.

In 1844 Mr. Page became Engineer to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, and Mr. Law entered his office as an Assistant. In that capacity Mr. Law assisted in the design and survey of several works connected with the Thames, and acted as Resident Engineer for the Windsor Improvements, including the Victoria and Albert Bridges, finally leaving Mr. Page in 1850.

In 1852 Mr. Law began to practise on his own account, and in 1853 was joined in partnership by Mr. John Blount. He erected three bridges over the River Wye, and also spent some time in Portugal with Mr. Thomas Rumball, making surveys for the Central Peninsular Railway.

In 1855 he went to Rio de Janeiro to report on a proposal to construct a slip at Bahia. This brought other work, and he remained in Brazil until 1863, carrying out a number of important works there, among which may be mentioned the Ilha das cobras Doak, Bahia Gasworks, Ceara Gasworks, and Pernambuco Drainage.

He returned to England in 1865, but made several visits to Brazil until 1875, when h0 once more settled down to practise in England.

In 1878 he entered into partnership with Mr. George Chatterton and the connection lasted until 1887. Mr. Law, as senior partner in the firm of Law and Chatterton, enjoyed a large practice as a consulting engineer, and was employed by the late Metropolitan Board of Works to act in conjunction with their Engineer, the late Sir Joseph Bazalgette, on most of their Parliamentary Bills.

He was engaged in the long series of inquiries which finally resulted in the freeing from toll of all the Metropolitan bridges.

He was also engaged on the Thames Flood Prevention Bills, and in both the protracted inquiries dealing with the discharge of the London sewage into the Thames at Barking and at Crossness.

After the Tay Bridge disaster he was instructed by the Government to report fully on the cause of the accident, and in 1892 he was appointed by the Foreign Office to consider, with German and French colleagues, the various schemes for the drainage of Cairo submitted to the Egyptian Government.

During Mr. Law’s long and varied career he was associated with many works in various parts of England, but for some years past he was more intimately concerned with works of sanitation, his latest being the drainage of Oldham and Broadstairs, and the prevention of flooding at Eastbourne.

Mr. Law possessed mathematical powers of a high order, and his calculations were most refined and accurate. He was of a very inventive turn of mind, and devised for his own use, among other things, an electrical sounding apparatus and an electrical current meter.

He was the author of several mathematical and engineering books, among which may be mentioned, “Examples of the Modes of Setting-out Railway Curves,” “Mathematical Tables for Trigonometrical, Astronomical, and Nautical Calculations,” “The Rudiments of Civil Engineering,” and “The Art of Constructing Common Roads.”

Mr. Law took great interest in the Sanitary Institute, of which he was for many years a Member of Council, and at the time of his death Chairman of Council.

Mr. Law died at his residence in London on the 18th July, 1900, having just attained his 76th year.

He was elected a Member of the Institution on the 5th February, 1867.


1900 Obituary [4]

"...Henry Law, M. lnst. C.E, died - as already recorded in our columns - at his London residence. He did a great deal of important work, but in so unobtrusive a way that his name is almost unknown to the rising generation of engineers. As to how much work he really did, the credit for which went to other men, the truth will never now be known.

He was born at Reading on April 15th, 1824. From an early age his eyesight was defective, and ultimately, when about eight years old, he lost the sight of one eye completely.

At ten years of age he went..."[More].



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