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Lewis Dunbar Brodie Gordon

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Lewis Dunbar Brodie Gordon (1815–1876), civil engineer and university teacher, Regius Professor of Civil Engineering in the College of Glasgow.

1815 Born, the fourth son of Joseph Gordon W.S., an Edinburgh lawyer, and his wife Anne Clunes (d.1881). They lived at 27 London Street in Edinburgh's Second New Town.

Educated at the High School in Edinburgh

1832 On the advice of William Cubitt, his father sent him to Dundee to gain practical experience in the machine foundry of Mr Stirling[1]

1833 Attended Edinburgh University.

1834 Went to the meeting of the British Association in Edinburgh where he met Marc Isambard Brunel who was so impressed by the young man that he offered him work on the Thames Tunnel.

1837 Being unsuccessful in gaining employment on the deepening of the River Tyne, he made a career change to mining.

1838 Registered as a student at the Freiburg School of Mines, Germany, he then studied further at the École Polytechnique in Paris.

In 1838 he visited the mines at Clausthal, and met Wilhelm Albert who had invented (untwisted) wire rope for use in mining. Impressed by what he saw and recognising the potential, Gordon wrote to his friend Robert Stirling Newall, urging him to "Invent a machine for making (wire ropes)". On receipt of Gordon's letter, Newall designed a wire rope machine. On Gordon's return to the UK in 1839, he formed a partnership with Newall, registering R. S. Newall and Co in Dundee. Charles Liddell became a partner at some point, but just when is not clear.

c.1839 Also went into partnership with Laurence Hill as Gordon and Hill as civil engineers.

On 17 August 1840, Newall took out a patent for "certain improvements in wire rope and the machinery for making such rope," and R. S. Newall and Company commenced making wire ropes for "Mining, Railway, Ships' Rigging, and other purposes".

1840 Elected Professor of Civil Engineering at Glasgow University from 1840 which position he retained until 1855.

1845 He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, his proposer being James David Forbes.

Liddell and Gordon was formed as a partnership carrying out design and construction of railway lines and was responsible for most of the Gordon's engineering projects.

1848 Patent on "improvements in railways"[2]

1850 Married Marie Glunder nee Heise in Hannover; they had one son, Joseph

Gordon became a mentor to the brothers James Thomson and William Thomson, encouraging their interest in the development of a general theory of heat. In 1848 he gave the brothers a copy of French physicist Sadi Carnot’s 1824 treatise "On the Motive Power of Fire", with which he used to write his first thermodynamics article the 1848 "On an Absolute Thermometric Scale Founded on Carnot’s Theory of the Motive Power of Heat", which founded the absolute temperature scale.

1852 Completion of the submarine cable between England and Ireland, followed by one between Belgium and England the following year.

1855 Patent granted, a communication from Werner Siemens, of Berlin, for the invention of " an improvement in electric telegraphs when insulated wires are laid under water or in the earth.[3]

1859 He was conferred with Honorary Membership of the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland.

1867 HER Majesty ... granted Robert Sterling Newall, Charles Liddell, and Lewis Dunbar Brodie Gordon, all of 24, Abingdon-street, Westminster, a prolongation for the term of five years of certain Letters Patent for "improvements in constructing and mooring Light Vessels, Buoys, and other similar Flashing Bodies," such Letters Patent having been originally granted to the late George Herbert, of Sumner-hill, Dartford, now deceased, and bearing date the 8th day of April, 1853, for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man.[4]

1872 of Poynter's Grove, Totteridge, when he communicated a patent by Professor Scherrer, of Freyberg in Saxony, for the invention of "improvements in the manufacture of iron and steel."[5]

1876 He died on 28 April at Poynter's Grove in Totteridge in Hertfordshire and is buried in the family plot in Greyfriars Kirkyard in central Edinburgh. The grave lies on the western wall of the western extension.[6]

His sister married William Siemens, (Carl Wilhelm Siemens), of Siemens & Halske. Gordon's own wife was from Hanover and linked by marriage to the Siemens family.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. Memoir of Lewis D. B. Gordon... By Thomas Constable, David Stevenson
  2. Titles of Patents of Invention, Volume 2 By Bennet Woodcroft
  3. London Gazette 28 Oct 1955
  4. London Gazette 8 Feb 1867
  5. London Gazette 30 Aug 1872
  6. The Engineer 1876/05/05