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William Price Struve

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1858. Miner's Safety Lamp.

William Price Struve (1809-1878) of Swansea


1878 Obituary [1]

MR. WILLIAM PRICE STRUVE, the second son of the late Mr. George Struve, M.D., of Jersey, was born in that island in the year 1809. He was educated at the private school of Mr. Le Gros, where he soon gave promise of superior mathematical talents.

At the age of fifteen he was articled to his brother-in-law, the late Mr. H. H. Price, M. Inst. C.E., who, having a large practice, was able to give his pupil a varied instruction in mechanical as well as civil engineering. Mr. Struve appears to have had a preference for that branch of the profession which more specially relates to the working of coal and iron; and as far back as the year 1834 he was Managing Partner of the Millbrook Iron Works.

On establishing himself in Swansea, he soon acquired an extensive practice in connection with collieries, his practical as well as theoretical attainments being fully recognised, and his lively interest in everything connected with coal or iron never abated. His zeal for the interests of the Geological Survey of Great Britain was very great, and although he had plenty of other professional work, he nevertheless found time to render useful aid to Mr. (now Sir E.) Logan, as shown in a section which bears his name.

His hearty way of going to work carried others along with him, and often turned what at first sight appeared full of drudgery into a pleasant and interesting labour. One of the most practical results from this survey was his Paper on the "Great Anticlinal Line of the Mineral Basin of South Wales,” read before the British Association for the Advancement of Science at Swansea in the year 1848, and in which were foreshadowed the immense resources of the Rhondda coalfield, now producing perhaps the finest steam coal at present worked.

In the year 1860 he accepted the post of Manager of the Cwm Avon Works under the Governor and Company of Copper Miners in England, it position he held for about ten years, but he had previously fur a long time served the Company, in connection with their extensive collieries, as consulting Mining Engineer. Here was erected one of the first of his mine ventilators, which have since fully realised his expectations of their utility ; although it would perhaps have been more profitable to Mr. Struve could he have overcome an innate dislike to push his inventions before the public.

Another invention, which is highly appreciated by those who have used it, is his safety lamp. As a surveyor’s lamp there is none to beat it, and if it were more widely known, it would be a boon to those who are obliged to do delicate work with insufficient light in fiery collieries.

Whilst at Cwm Avon, his attention was naturally much turned to the manufacture of iron-the result being the production of a homogeneous iron with which he proposed to top rails. Amidst the revolution which has taken place in the manufacture of railway iron by the introduction of steel, this process has been somewhat lost sight of; but practical experiments fully demonstrated the strength and economy of the material. His attempt to nullify the injurious effects of copper smoke, by converting it into sulphuric acid, gave promise of commercial success, but the resignation of his post in the year 1870 hindered its proper development, much to the disappointment of many friends.

After leaving Cwm Avon, he gradually withdrew from the profession, and having settled at Neath, he took a short rest after an energetic career, passing away on the 10th of April, 1878.

If there be one thing by which Mr. Struve ought to be remembered, it is that he was the first to introduce mechanical ventilation into Welsh collieries. For a Paper on “The Ventilation of Collieries, &c.,” read before the Institution on the 19th of November, 1850, he received a Telford Medal. His life was one of work, not so much for himself as for others, and it is not only among his own relations that his loss as a friend is felt. This is not the place to descant on his private virtues ; but as illustrative of his kindly feeling, it may be mentioned that, on one occasion when it was suggested that his views had been criticised with unnecessary warmth, during a discussion at the Institution, Mr. Struve replied, to this effect, “No, when you have lived a little longer, you will find that life is something like the manufacture of a rail: we come into the world like the raw iron; get puddled and hammered and squeezed and rolled, but at last the finished rail is produced. The more thoroughly the process is carried out, the better the finished rail.”

He thoroughly understood workmen, and amongst colliers was reckoned to be a collier ; added to which his intimate knowledge of the South Wales coalfield made his opinion valuable. He was examined on more than one occasion before Committees of the Houses of Parliament on matters connected with the working of coal, and at one time of his life had a good deal of employment as an arbitrator in such matters. Probably few men were more trusted, and that trust was never misplaced.

Mr. Struve was elected a Member of the Institution of the Civil Engineers on the 6th of March, 1849.


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