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John Sylvester

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John Sylvester (1798-1852)

Son of Charles Sylvester

1828 John Sylvester, Bloomsbury, now practising the Art of Warming and Ventilating Buildings, became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.[1]

1830 April. Death of his wife Jane aged 30. John Sylvester is a civil engineer of Great Russell Street and the son of Charles Sylvester.[2]

Buried in Kensal Green Cemetery


1853 Obituary [3]

John Sylvester (born at Sheffield, October the 24th 1798) was the son of Mr. Charles Sylvester, the Author of 'The Philosophy of Domestic Economy, 1819,' in which work were detailed the results of the first attempts to reduce to a system, the application of science and engineering skill to domestic arrangements. His successful application of the new principles to the Derbyshire Infirmary, and the numerous works of a similar nature, subsequently executed under his direction, have conferred on him an enduring fame; he was also a good mathematician and chemist, and by the unreserved communication of his ideas, frequently aided in the development of the plans of other scientific men and Engineers, with whom he was intimate; thus it is said, that his favourable opinion of the merits of the proposed system of construction, of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, tended to confirm Mr. George Stephenson’s views, and to encourage him in their prosecution.

The example of the father, and the practical instruction conveyed to the son, who was connected with him in business, could not fail to induce the same ardour in scientific pursuits, and eventually Mr. John Sylvester became very successful in the execution of large works, for warming and ventilating buildings, to which he specially applied his scientific knowledge, and constructive skill; and which he extended, also with advantage, to the improvement of many of the most ordinary domestic arrangements, as for instance, in the 'radiating stove-grate,' of which he presented a specimen to the Library of this Society.

He was very successful in the arrangement of the apparatus, for preserving an equable and temperate atmosphere, on board the Arctic Discovery Ships, and Captains Parry, Ross, and others, ascribe the health of the crews, in a great degree, to the excellence of the system he prescribed.

He was a man of original views and great determination, which frequently led him to do more than was required, or was calculated for his own interest, and a novel application, or an unforeseen difficulty to be overcome, had charms for him, to which the greatest ordinary success appeared tame.

He possessed considerable knowledge of horticulture, and in the grounds of Mr. Strutt, M.P., at Kingston Hall, near Derby, he erected some forcing-houses and vineries, about the year 1844, which were very successful, and where, it is stated, he used a ridge and furrow roof and a double gutter bar, very similar to, if not identical with, those which formed such important features in the construction of the Crystal Palace in 1851. A similar mode of roofing was also adopted by him, in 1850, for the vineries erected for Mr. Francis Wright, of Osmaston Manor.

He was a man of studious habits, and was a good amateur artist; his drawings and etchings exhibiting considerable power, and his love of retirement and for wandering in the country, gave a mild and placid tone to his communications with all around him.

He suffered, for some considerable period, from a very unusual and painful complaint, an accumulation of 'hydatids' on the liver, to an extent perhaps scarcely ever before recorded, and he died on the 16th of August 1852, generally regretted as a good man and a valuable member of society.

He was a member of several scientific societies, at whose meetings he was a frequent attendant; he joined this Institution as an Associate in the year 1828, and was ever ready to forward its interests in every way.


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