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Samuel Henry Egerton Barraclough

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Colonel Sir Samuel Henry Egerton Barraclough (c1874-1958) of the University of Sydney

1958 Obituary [1]

Colonel Sir Samuel Henry Egerton Barraclough, K.B.E., Honorary Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering in the University of Sydney, died at Sydney in his eighty-fourth year on 30th August 1958.

In Australia he had been a recognized leader of the engineering profession. As President of the Institution of Engineers, Australia, in 1935 and the early part of 1936, he took the leading part in the negotiations for the grant of a Royal Charter to that Institution, and it was largely through his personal efforts in London that the object was achieved in 1938. His services to and eminence in the profession were recognized in Australia by the award of the Peter Nicol Russell Medal in 1939 and by election to Honorary Membership of that Institution in 1943.

His engineering education commenced at the University of Sydney, where he graduated with honours in 1892 and was awarded a Travelling Scholarship. Proceeding to the United States of America, he studied for and was awarded a higher degree at Cornell University. After further study in Great Britain and Europe he returned to Australia, and there commenced a long career in the University of Sydney when he was appointed Assistant Lecturer in 1897. At the time of his appointment the Department of Engineering embraced all branches, but in 1905 he was given the status of Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering, and considerable freedom in the development of the course, into which he introduced the seminar system and other distinctive features. He was appointed Assistant Professor in 1908, and became the first Peter Nicol Russell Professor of Mechanical Engineering in 1916, although then actually serving in the Australian Army.

As early as 1906 he had been a member of a Board of Military Studies, and shortly after a Lecturer in Military Engineering. In 1914 he was mobilized for active service in the Army Intelligence Corps with the rank of Major. In 1915, after making investigations in India, Egypt, France and Great Britain, he reported on the possibilities of Australian help in the acute problem of munitions supply, and as a result the Australian Government adopted the Australian Munition Workers Scheme and sent him to London, with the rank of Colonel, to administer it. Some 5000 Australian engineers, scientists and skilled workers were sent to Great Britain under this scheme and were employed in munitions factories and Government establishments, under the care and supervision of the administration in London from their arrival in Great Britain until their departure for return to Australia after the war. The outstanding success of the scheme was realized and appreciated by H.M. Government, and Colonel Barraclough's services were recognized by the honour of C.B.E. (Military Division) in 1919, followed by a Knighthood of the British Empire in 1920.

On demobilization in 1920, with the rank of Colonel, he returned to the University with plans for the vigorous development of his Department of Mechanical Engineering and of the Engineering School as a whole.

The succeeding years saw extensions in buildings, laboratories and workshops, and in equipment for new and advanced studies in which he had the benefit of personal observation of current developments and of the friendship and active support of many of the leaders of engineering science in Great Britain, such as Professors E. G. Coker and W. E. Dalby. Aided by the generous endowment of the Charles Kolling Research Laboratory and Scholarships, he was able to build up a group of post-graduate students in time to be of great service to their country in the 1939-45 war. Many of these are now in positions of leadership of Australian technical development, in the universities, in Government establishments, and in industry.

As Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, which office he held from 1925 to 1933 and from 1936 until his retirement in 1941, he gave notable service to his University; for example, by his successful efforts to convince the Australian Government that a Department of Aeronautics should be established in the University of Sydney. His services to the University did not end with his retirement from the Chair; he was elected a Fellow of the Senate in 1944 and held that office until 1954.

Sir Henry Barraclough was elected a Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1907 and was elected an Honorary Member in 1950. He served for many years as a member of the Australian Advisory Committee of which he became Chairman in 1949. He continued in this office until as recently as 18th March 1958, when Mr. T. Crowe (Past-President) and Mr. Brian G. Robbins (Secretary) called upon him at his Sydney home. At that time Sir Henry said that it was his wish to resign the chairmanship forthwith to Mr. W. H. H. Gibson (Member), so that the latter could act as Chairman during the tour of engagements arranged for the Commonwealth Conference of Engineering Societies then being held in Australia.

These are only the salient features of his career, but they may serve as a brief record of the events of a long life of vision and achievement devoted to a high purpose, for which his fellow engineers, in Great Britain as well as in Australia, have held him worthy of the highest honours at their disposal.

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