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Samuel Downing

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Professor Samuel Downing (1811-1882)

1811 July 19th. Born

1865 Samuel Downing, Trinity College, Dublin.[1]

1882 April 21st. Died


1883 Obituary [2]

SAMUEL DOWNING, LL.D., was the second son of the Rev. Samuel Downing, rector of Fenagh in the diocese of Leighlin, and was born on 19th July 1811, at Bagnalstown, County Carlow.

He received his primary education at Kilkenny College, entered Trinity College, Dublin, in January 1859, and proceeded in due course to the degree of B.A. in the spring of 1834. There being then no school of engineering in Trinity College (it was instituted in 1842) he proceeded to Edinburgh, and availed himself during the session 1834-35 of the instruction given in that university in engineering subjects, obtaining at the same time a knowledge of mechanical drawing by spending all his leisure time in an architect's office.

He subsequently became a pupil and then an assistant to the late Mr. Bushe, and was engaged for him on dock works in South Wales. He also designed and executed a road bridge, 560 ft. long, joining the island of Portland to the mainland, at an expenditure of only £4000, including road-approaches, toll-house, &c.

He was for some time engaged as resident engineer on a section of the London and Birmingham Railway; and also filled a similar position on the Taff Vale Railway, where he had the superintendence of what were at that date considered some very special works, including an arched viaduct 106 ft. high on a 20-chain curve, constructed from a design of Brunel's with octagonal piers: of which he published a description in the Transactions of the Institution of Civil Engineers of Ireland (1850, vol. 4, part 1, p. 23). To that society he made several other communications, being one of its most active supporters, and for many years Vice-President.

In 1846 he was appointed assistant professor of engineering at Trinity College, Dublin, under the late Sir John MacNeill, who held the purely honorary post of professor; and from that time to within a few months of his death his whole energies were devoted to the instruction and advancement of his successive classes of students, and to the formation of the fine collection of engineering models and drawings which is now attached to the school.

On Sir John MacNeill's resignation in 1852, he was appointed to the chair of the Practice of Civil Engineering; and in 1862 the university marked their appreciation of his services by conferring on him honoris causa, in company with Sir Richard Griffith, Sir John MacNeill, and Mr. Robert Mallet, the then newly instituted degree of Master in Engineering. He had previously taken the Doctorate in Laws in 1856.

His favourite study was that of hydraulics, on which subject, by aid of a grant from the Royal Irish Academy, he carried out many experiments; and in 1855 he published a treatise for the use of his pupils on the "Elements of Practical Hydraulics." This was so favourably received that lie re-wrote and enlarged the second edition, which appeared in 1861; and also published in 1875 the first volume of a third enlarged edition, of which he had the second volume nearly ready for publication at the time of his death.

He also published in 1875 the first volume of "Elements of Practical Construction," together with a volume of plates illustrating structures under direct tension and compression—a work which it is greatly to be regretted he was not spared to complete, having the manuscript of the remainder well in hand.

He also printed for private circulation amongst his pupils a collection of specifications.

A nervous temperament and retiring disposition militated greatly against his success as a speaker; but they were more than balanced by his great skill in teaching, and by his copious use of illustrations, drawn from his large stock of facts stored up from observation and from an extended course of reading. This knowledge he was ever ready to share with those old pupils and friends, scattered over all parts of the world, who used continually to consult him.

He died on 21st April 1882, having thus completed his seventieth year, and having spent more than half his life in professorial duties.

He was nominated an Honorary Life of the Institution in 1865, after the visit of the Institution to Dublin in that year: the complete success of that visit was largely owing to the exertions of Dr. Downing, who acted as Honorary Local Secretary for the occasion.


1883 Obituary [3]

. . . late Professor of Civil Engineering in Trinity College, Dublin . . .[more]



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