Professor John Orr (1870-1954)
1954 Obituary 
Professor John Orr, O.B.E., B.Sc., LL.D., Wh.Ex., Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering, University of the Witwatersrand, and retired Director of the Witwatersrand Technical College, was born in 1870 in Lanarkshire, Scotland. He graduated in mechanical and electrical engineering in 1890 at Glasgow University, and in 1893 was awarded a Whitworth Exhibition.
He served an engineering apprenticeship with A. F. Craig and Co., Paisley, and Gibb and Hogg, Airdrie, and was afterwards with Rankin and Blackmore, Greenock, D. W. Henderson, Anchor Line Works, Glasgow, Simpson, Strickland and Co., Dartmouth, and Wigham Richardson and Co., Newcastle upon Tyne.
He went to South Africa in 1897 to the South African College, Cape Town, (now the University of Cape Town), and a year later proceeded to Kimberley as Professor of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering in the South African School of Mines. Professor Orr then went to Johannesburg in 1903 on the transfer of the South African School of Mines to the Transvaal Technical Institute, and held the position of Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the Institution which successively became known as the Transvaal University College, South Africa, School of Mines and Technology, University College, Johannesburg, and finally the University of the Witwatersrand.
In December 1925, he resigned the De Beers Professorship of Mechanical Engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand to organize technical education on the Rand, being the first President of the Council of the newly created Witwatersrand Technical College, and later Director.
Professor Orr took an active part in the public life of Johannesburg, and served on numerous public bodies. He was President, in 1908-9, of the South African Institution of Engineers (then the Transvaal Institution of Mechanical Engineers) of which he was an honorary life member. In 1909 he was instrumental in establishing what is now the South African Standards Bureau, and was Chairman for thirty-seven years; on his resignation in 1953, he was elected Honorary Life President of the Bureau. In 1917 he was President of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science. He served as a member of the Government Scientific and Technical Committee (Advisory Board of Industry and Science) from 1917 to 1920, and as a member of the Government Assize Board from its inception in 1923 until the end of 1948.
In the 1939-45 war he was officer-in-charge of the Witwatersrand Centre of the Central Organization of Technical Training, where nearly 20,000 youths received basic training for the army and for industry. He was vice-chairman of the National. Advisory Committee on Technical Training and Chairman of the Training Sub-Committee of the Johannesburg Demobilization Committee. He was Chairman of the Transvaal Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Apprenticeship Committee for fifteen years, and a foundation member of the Controlling Executive of the Associated Scientific and Technical Societies of South Africa of which he was President during 1937-38.
Professor Orr was appointed O.B.E. for services rendered to the Disabled Soldiers' Board. In 1936 the Honorary Degree of LL.D. was conferred upon him by the University of the Witwatersrand, as well as the title of Professor Emeritus.
He contributed numerous papers and addresses to various societies, particularly on technical education and engineering matters generally. He served on the Government Commission on Technical and Vocational Education, appointed in 1945, and was a member of the many professional bodies including the Institutions of Civil Engineers and of Electrical Engineers. Professor Orr was elected an associate member of the Institution in 1902, and became a Member in 1905.
He retired from the position of Director of the Witwatersrand Technical College in April 1945, and was latterly director of various mining and industrial companies.
Professor Orr's death occurred on 17th May, 1954.
1954 Obituary