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British Industrial History

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Thomas Wightman Chalmers

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Dr. Thomas Wightman Chalmers (1884-1954) of The Engineer


1954 Obituary [1]

WE regret to have to record the death on Wednesday of last week of Dr. Thomas Wightman Chalmers, who joined the editorial staff of this journal in July, 1909, and spent the rest of his working life in its service.

Dr. Chalmers came of an engineering family, for his father was with Neilson and Co., Hyde Park Locomotive Works, Glasgow.

Dr. Chalmers was born in 1884 and after an education at Glasgow High School he served an apprenticeship with Neilson Reid and Co., later the North British Locomotive Company.

He also attended Glasgow University, conceiving there an admiration, due to last his whole life, for Professor Barr. He graduated in 1908, and in the following year joined the staff of this journal.

For many years before and during the second world war he served as chief technical assistant editor and after the retirement of the late L. St. L. Pendred from the editorial chair he became consultant editor to the latter's successor.

In 1932 he graduated as a Doctor of Science at Glasgow University. Curiously, considering how in its beginnings his life had been associated with that very practical engineering art, the building of locomotives, the trend of his mind lay much more towards the scientific side of engineering. Indeed, the purer sciences held a particular interest for him and towards the end of his life he contributed a notable series of articles entitled "Historic Researches" to the pages of THE ENGINEER and followed them up with further series of articles upon 1nore modern scientific subjects. After retirement he continued to be engaged upon the extension of the series. But it would be totally wrong to suppose that practical matters escaped his attention.

In another, earlier, series of articles on "Historic Accidents and Disasters" he revealed both the analytical turn of his mind and a strong appreciation of practical requirements in engineering structures. As a writer he was capable of being astonishingly lucid about complicated subjects and though he was a mathematician of very high ability he appreciated that others were not and, therefore, much preferred to convey ideas in words rather than in the form of equations wherever it was possible to do so.

But within this office it will not be for the loss of a skilled editor and writer that we shall mourn his passing. His as a man with his own human foibles, including a meticulous attention to detail, his own rather dry humour (he loved to be chaffed about his Scots' ancestry), and his own underlying kindliness, not always immediately apparent to those first meeting him that we, and the very many friends and acquaintances that he made, will best remember him.


1956 Obituary [2]



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