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STEWART, Thomas

Born: 1857 03 30
Died: 1942 10 23

Engineer


Thomas Stewart was born in Craigend, Perthshire, Scotland. He studied engineering at the Glasgow College of Science and Arts and trained as a civil engineer who specialised in the construction of water works. He was employed in this capacity as an engineering assistant in the Glasgow Waterworks. He became a member of the (British) Institution of Civil Engineers and of the Mineralogical Society, and was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society of London.

After working briefly for a consulting engineer in Scotland he came to South Africa in December 1882, having been appointed assistant to the hydraulic engineer of the Cape Colony, John G. Gamble, on a three year contract. In this position he was concerned mainly with irrigation schemes and the water supplies of towns. In 1883, shortly after his arrival at the Cape, he became a member of the South African Philosophical Society, serving on its council from 1893 and as president during 1897-1899. Occasionally he acted as an examiner for the University of the Cape of Good Hope.

He noted the presence of underground water at shallow depths all over the Karoo, so pleaded for an extension of the government's investigation of ground water resources to greater depths, with a view to meeting future water needs. In 1886 he left government service to practice as a consulting engineer. For many years his office was situated in St George's Chambers, Cape Town.

Stewart was closely associated with various shemes to augment the city and suburban water supplies. For a number of years he worked on the design and construction of water reservoirs on Table Mountain and during this period lived on the mountain and did mountain climbing in his spare time. The design and management of the reservoirs required observations to determine the distribution of rainfall over the mountainous terrain, an enterprise in which he became intimately involved. From the beginning of 1896 to the end of 1903 he was in charge of a second order meteorological station at Disa Head, including an evaporation station from 1899. His observations were supplied to the Meteorological Commission of the Cape Colony.

By 1915 he was a member of the city's Board of Engineers, appointed by the Waterworks Committee of the municipality. In 1923 the Board reported on the Steenbras scheme as an additional water supply for the city. Stewart was involved in the design of water works in other parts of South Africa, including Port Elizabeth, the Zuurbekom waterworks for Johannesburg, the water supplies of Worcester, Oudtshoorn, Mossel Bay and other South African towns, and an addition to the water supply of Beira, Mozambique.

During the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) he served in the ROYAL ENGINEERS with the rank of major and was concerned with the design and construction of defence works.

In 1895 Stewart was appointed as a member of the newly established Geological Commission of the Cape of Good Hope, which oversaw the systematic geological mapping of the colony, he served on a sub-committee on deep artesian well boring. He remained a member when it became the Royal Society of South Africa in 1908 and remained serving when it was replaced by the Geological Survey after the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910.

In 1903 he joined the Cape Society of Civil Engineers soon after its formation, serving on its first committee (1903), as its second president (1904), and as joint vice-president from 1905 until at least 1907.

Stewart lived in Wynberg for many years. He married Mary M Young in 1902 and they had three sons. From 1924 to 1927 he was chairman of the local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). Following the death of his wife in 1921 he married Georgina Rees, widow of FR Thompson, in 1928.

(Edited from notes compiled by C Plug)

List of projects

With photographs
With notes


Woodhead Reservoir: 1893-1897. Cape Town, Western Cape - Engineer

Books citing STEWART

Murray, Tony. 2015. Megastructures and masterminds : great feats of civil engineering in southern Africa. Cape Town: Tafelberg. pp 120, 126, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 132, 163, 167, 169, 233, 235, 245, 263

S2A3 (Plug, C - Project Leader and main compiler). 2002-. S2A3 biographical database of southern African science. Webspace: WWW. pp Accessed 12 January 2016