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John Dinnen

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John Dinnen (1808-1866), Inspector of Machinery to the Admiralty

1867 Obituary [1]

MR. JOHN DINNEN was the eldest son of Mr. Andrew Dinnen, and was born in Liverpool, on the 25th of January, 1808.

His father was at that time in business as a brass and iron founder, but he quitted Liverpool a few years subsequently to fill the responsible situation of master-founder and metallurgist of her Majesty’s Dockyard at Portsmouth.

Mr. John Dinnen received his education under the Rev. John Neave, of the Grammar School, Portsea, and at an early age showed great aptitude for mechanics.

After completing his educational studies, he was apprenticed to the late Mr. Simon Goodrich (M. Inst. C. E.) and [William Kingston|Mr. William Kingston]], head machinists of her Majesty’s Dockyard at Portsmouth, under whose supervision he became a finished draughtsman, and gained a thorough knowledge of the foundry in all its branches. Mr. Goodrich, finding him full of intelligence, employed him in many important duties connected with the then steam arm of the service.

At the early age of twenty years he was appointed Assistant Engineer to H.M.S.S. 'Lightning,’ one of the three steam-vessels then comprising her Majesty’s steam navy; and in the course of twelve months he became Chief Engineer. Here his superior intelligence soon manifested itself, and the management of marine steam boilers occupied his close attention. About this time he came under the notice of the late Mr. Joshua Field (Past-President Inst. C.E.), who had his attention called to many points in the working of marine steam-engines and boilers, and who, from Mr. Dinnen’s suggestions, effected several improvements in their construction.

He continued in the 'Lightning' five years. At the expiration of that time he was appointed Chief Engineer of H.M.S.S. ‘African,’ employed in carrying the mails between Falmouth, the Ionian Islands, and Egypt. At this period the management of steam boilers was but little understood, and several serious failures had occurred. Vessels frequently returned to England with their boilers full of incrustation and salt ; and in many instances, after seven or eight weeks’ steaming, on the return of the ‘African’ to Falmouth, Mr. Dinnen would find the vessel, whose turn it was to take the mail, laid up for repairs on account of injury to her boilers from undue deposit.

This naturally directed his attention more forcibly to the subject, and he wrote a Paper on the 'Management of Marine Steam Boilers,' which was subsequently published in one of the early editions of 'Tredgold on the Steam Engine.' His views at that time were so far in advance, that had the Paper been produced at the present day, but little could have been added to it.

Mr. Dinnen served nearly six years in the ‘African,’ and from his marked intelligence he was selected as an assistant to the Chief Engineer of Woolwich Steam Engine Factory, where he continued to serve for about ten years.

In 1847 a new class of officers - Inspectors of Machinery Afloat - was instituted in her Majesty’s Naval Service, and Mr. Dinnen was appointed Inspector of Machinery Afloat to the late Sir Charles Napier’s squadron, then on the Lisbon station, and subsequently to Sir William Martin’s squadron, in the same capacity. After this he was appointed Inspector of Machinery at the Admiralty, where he was serving when he met with the melancholy accident which deprived the service of one of the best engineer officers of the Navy.

Mr. Dinnen was well educated. He was a good French scholar, and he spoke Italian fluently. He had the faculty of grappling at once with what he had to do, and his reports were generally written off-hand in so lucid and clear a manner as to require little or no revision. He was a good son, a kind brother, and a faithful friend. As a messmate he was the life of the mess ;- being full of anecdote, having travelled and seen so much, and being a close observer, he, no matter what the subject, was ready to enter into it, and to garnish it with amusing jokes, a faculty which made him sought for by every one.

Mr. Dinnen was elected a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers on the 3rd of April, 1860, and he took a useful part in the discussion of those subjects to which he had devoted attention.

His death at the age of fifty-eight years, resulted from concussion of the brain, on the 4th of January, 1866, from having been knocked down by a Hansom cab whilst crossing the road on the previous evening, when leaving the Admiralty, Whitehall, for his private residence.

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