Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Peter Chalmers Cowan

From Graces Guide

Peter Chalmers Cowan (1859-1930)


1930 Obituary[1]

"THE LATE DR. P. C. COWAN.

Dr. Peter Chalmers Cowan, whose death occurred at Fleet, Hampshire, on Saturday, August 9, at the age of 71, was for many years responsible for carrying out a number of important civil engineering works in Ireland, and since his retirement from the active list has been a valued contributor to our columns.

Dr. Cowan was born in Scotland on March 20, 1859, and was educated at the High School, Dundee, and at the University of Edinburgh. He gained admission to the latter institution by winning the Baxter Engineering Scholarship, and studied under Professor Fleeming Jenkin, obtaining first medals in engineering, senior natural philosophy and surveying. He subsequently acted as assistant to the Professor of Engineering and was awarded the Vans Dunlop Engineering Scholarship in 1882. For a few months in that year he served under Mr. T. G. Smith, the city surveyor of New York, and for an equally short time was city surveyor himself. From 1882 to 1884, he was assistant engineer on the construction of the New York, West Shore and Buffalo Railway. He read a paper on this subject before the Students Section of the Institution of Civil Engineers, the merits of which were such that he was awarded a Miller Prize. From February to October, 1884, he was an assistant engineer on the Canadian Pacific Railway, being responsible for the construction of a section of line, but soon returned to this country, where, for two years, he acted as second engineer of the North-Eastern Sanitary Association.

In 1886, he began his long connection with Ireland, by being appointed county surveyor of South Mayo. While holding this position, in addition to being responsible for the roads, bridges, piers and court-houses in his district, he undertook important duties in connection with the construction of new railways, and was employed by the Sanitary Authority in the layout of water-supply systems, filter beds and sewers. He also acted as consulting engineer to the Piers and Roads Commission, while other important works for which he was responsible included the Achill swing bridge and viaduct and the Moy Bridge. In 1890, he was appointed surveyor of County Down, in which position he had charge, inter alia, of some 2,800 miles of roads. Ten years later, he became chief engineering inspector of the Irish Local Government Board, a position he held for twenty years, during which his activities were many and varied and were increased by the growing prosperity of the country. In 1919, he was appointed Chairman of the Housing Committee of the Irish Local Government Board, retiring in 1923 as a consequence of the change in regime.

Dr. Cowan became a full member of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1892, and served a term on the Council as Irish representative. He was also a member of the Sanitary Institute and of the Engineering Committee of the Road Board, as well as being an honorary member of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, of the Institution of Water Engineers, and of the Institution of Municipal and County Engineers. He was the author of a number of pamphlets on roads, bridges, public health and housing. He was a Doctor of Science of the University of Edinburgh."


1931 Obituary [2]

PETER CRALMERS COWAN, D.Sc. (Edin.), was born on the 20th March, 1859. He was educated at the High School, Dundee, where he gained a Baxter Scholarship, and entered the University of Edinburgh in 1878. He studied at the University until 1881 under Professor Fleeming Jenkin, M. Inst. C.E., to whom for l year he was an assistant, and was awarded a Vans Dunlop Scholarship.

In 1882 he went to America, and, after serving for a few months under the City Surveyor of New York, became assistant engineer on the New York, Western State, and Buffalo Railway construction.

As a Student of The Institution he contributed a Paper on the work, for which he was awarded a Miller Prize in 1884. In February, 1884, he joined the Canadian Pacific Railway Company as an assistant engineer on construction. He returned to England towards the end of that year, and became an assistant on railway and dock works with Messrs. A. C. Boothby and John Macrae, MM. Inst. C.E. Dr. Cowan’s long association with Ireland commenced with his appointment in 1886, by competitive examination, as County Surveyor of South Mayo, a post which he held until 1889. During that time he was also Consulting Engineer to the Piers and Roads Commission, and constructed the Achill viaduct and swing-bridge.

In 1889 he was promoted to the County Surveyorship of South Down, and in 1890 was given charge of the whole of County Down.

In 1899 he was appointed Chief Engineering Inspector of the Local Government Board for Ireland. He held that post for 20 years, and in 1919 was made technical adviser to the Board and Chairman of the Housing Committee. He retired in 1923, and died at Fleet, Hampshire, on the 9th August, 1930.

Dr. Cowan was admitted as a Student of The Institution in 1880, elected an Associate Member in 1885, and transferred to the class of Members in 1892. He was a Member of the Council from 1921 to 1924.

He married in 1888, Marion, daughter of Dr. Johnston, of Westport, Mayo, who survives him, and by whom he had three sons and one daughter. Two of his sons lost their lives in the war.


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