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William Cooper (1831-1887)

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William Cooper (1831-1887) of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co


1887 Obituary [1]

WILLIAM COOPER was born at Bolton-le-Moors, Lancashire, on the 20th of June, 1831. He was the eleventh child of John Cooper, a cotton manufacturer at the same place.

Having shown a great taste for engineering and a desire for mathematical pursuits, he was apprenticed when fifteen years of age to Messrs. Thomson and Coles, engineers, Bolton, and was afterwards employed by Messrs. John Hick and Son, and Messrs. Musgrave and Sons, of the same town.

On the expiry of his apprenticeship, finding there was not sufficient scope in Bolton, he was, when only twenty-one, sent to Launceston, Tasmania, in charge of the erection of a large quantity of sugar-machinery ; but the ship in which he sailed became a total wreck off the Cape de Verd Islands, and after waiting several weeks he was rescued by a homeward bound ship.

On arriving in England in 1854, he at once joined the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s service, and was with this company when their vessels were engaged in transporting troops during the Crimean war. After three years’ service he was appointed chief engineer of the P. and O. ss. “Alma,”’ at that time one of the largest of the company’s steamers.

In 1861 this ship was wrecked, and the testimonial given to Mr. Cooper by the commander, Captain George F. Henry, contained the following words : "At the unfortunate loss of the ship his conduct was most praiseworthy. When his services in his own department were of no further use, he volunteered with eighteen native firemen to pull in one of the cutters to the island of Jebel Zugur in the Red Sea in quest of water, and returned on the second day with a good supply. This was a work of much exposure, fatigue, and danger, and subsequently, during a stay of ten weeks on the Moorshedgerah reef, he was of much assistance, and worked very hard in rescuing passengers, cargoes, stores, &C., from the ship.”

In 1874 he patented on "Improved Compound Rotary Steam-Engine," and two years later an "Improved Compound Water-tube Boiler."

In 1880 his third and most successful patent was produced, being a 3-Cylinder Radial Condensing or Non-Condensing Steam-Engine.

In 1878 Mr. Cooper was made Superintending Engineer to the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, Bombay, which post he held for upwards of seven years. During this period the company’s dry dock at Bombay was extended under his designs and supervision, and the ice-machinery, being in a bad state, was rebuilt; and improved.

In 1878 he was also appointed by the Governor-General of India a Member of the Board of Examiners for passing Engineers, and an assessor to the Port of Bombay ; and in 1883, a member of the Commission to hear Appeals.

In 1884 he was called upon to inspect and value the vessels of the Indus Steam Flotilla, and also on several occasions was consulted as an arbitrator in cases of engineering disputes. During his long service of thirty-three years he was esteemed by all who met him as a man of indefatigable energy and will, refined and exceedingly cheerful, while of a most generous and honourable character.

He was elected an Associate Member of the Institution on the 6th of April, 1880, and died, after one year’s illness, due to climatic influences, on the 1st of April, 1887.



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