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Alfred Noble (1844-1914)

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Alfred Noble (1844-1914)


1915 Obituary [1]

ALFRED NOBLE died in New York on the 19th April, 1914. His death removes from the ranks of the profession in America one of its greatest representatives, an Engineer who, to adopt the terms of the proposal for his election as an Honorary Member of The Institution, will be memorable for “the great services rendered by him to the advancement of engineering art in the United States of America, as exemplified in the many renowned works with which his name is associated.” Within the limits of this brief memoir, it will be possible only to allude to some of the more important works with which he was identified.

The son of a farmer in Wayne County, Michigan, Alfred Noble was born on the 7th August, 1844. At the age of 18 he enlisted as a private in the 26th Michigan Regiment and served through the whole of the Civil War in the Army of the Potomac, retiring with the rank of sergeant on its conclusion. By his own exertions he was enabled subsequently to enter the University of Michigan, from which he graduated in 1870 with the degree of Civil Engineer.

In his early career he was occupied on river and harbour improvement works on the Great Lakes, and as resident engineer on a number of important bridges, including the Washington bridge over the Harlem river, the Red River bridge, and the bridges at Memphis, Alton and Cairo. He was also assistant engineer to the North Pacific Railroad Company. His work and sterling abilities having brought him into prominence among engineers, he was appointed in 1895 a member of the Nicaragua Canal Board, and in 1899, a member of the Isthmian Canal Commission, charged with the selection of the best canal route across the Isthmus. Subsequently he was appointed by President Roosevelt a member of the International Board of Engineers to advise on the construction of the Panama Canal either as a sea-level or lock canal. Mr. Noble reported with the minority in favour of S lock-canal, and the Canal has been built in accordance with these recommendations. During its construction he investigated the conditions affecting the Gatun dam and other structures, and in many other ways was closely identified with this great project and its successful completion.

Mr. Noble was also a member of the United States Board of Engineers on Deep Waterways, and for seven years, from 1902 to 1909, was Chief Engineer of the East River Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad extensions in New York, successfully carrying out a difficult task of great magnitude with characteristic modesty and reserve. From 1909 until his death he engaged in general practice and was consulted in connection with the Government dry docks near Honolulu, the Quebec Bridge, the Kern York water-supply, and many other important undertakings. The honorary degree of LL.D. was conferred upon him by the Universities of Michigan and Wisconsin, and he was awarded the John Fritz Medal and the Elliott-Cresson Medal of the Franklin Institute for distinguished achievements in engineering. He was a past-president of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and latterly took an active interest in the American Institute of Consulting Engineers.

Mr. Noble married, in 1871, Miss Georgia Speechley, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and leaves one son, Mr. Frederick C. Noble, who is also following the engineering profession. Distinguished as were his professional abilities, Mr. Noble was no less esteemed for his sterling personal qualities, which won him the enduring affection, loyalty, and respect of all, from the highest to the lowest, who were brought into contact with him. Strength, modesty, probity and unfailing judgment were outstanding features of a character which in its union of nobility and simplicity reflected lustre on the profession of which Mr. Noble was so distinguished a member. He was elected an Honorary Member of The Institution on the 4th April, 1911.


1914 Obituary.[2]



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