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HAMLIN, Ernest John

Born: 1887 03 17
Died: 1956 04 19


Born in Bristol and was educated at the Merchant Venturers Technical College, Bristol and continued his studies at the University of Bristol, where he obtained the Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree in 1912.

He came to South Africa in March of 1912 to take up an appointment as assistant in electrotechnics at the South African College, Cape Town. The University of the Cape of Good Hope admitted him to its BSc degree on the basis of his degree from the University of Bristol.

In October 1913 he resigned his position to work for the municipality of Stellenbosch. There he became town engineer, a post he held until 1927. Among others he conducted research with local distillers into the treatment of distillery effluent in order to reduce pollution of the local rivers. He also constructed a sewerage system for the town. During 1914 to 1916 he served as an examiner in undergraduate physics for the University of the Cape of Good Hope. He also obtained the degree Doctor of Science (DSc) at the University of Bristol.

Hamlin was elected an associate member of the (British) Institution of Civil Engineers in 1919 and became a member in 1925. He was also a member of the (British) Institution of Mechanical Engineers, the Institution of Electrical Engineers and the Institution of Municipal Engineers; vice-president (1946-1951) of the Institution of Structural Engineers; a Fellow of the Royal Sanitary Institute, the Royal Society of Health, and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors; an honorary associate of the Royal Institution of British Architects; and at some time served as president of the Institute of Sewage Purification. In South Africa he became a member of the Royal Society of South Africa in 1913 and was elected one of its Fellows in 1922; served as president of the South African Institution of Civil Engineers in 1933 and of the South African Institution of Engineers in 1934/5; and played a leading role in founding the Transvaal Association of City and Town Engineers. He became a member of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science in 1917 and at its meeting in Johannesburg in 1936 served as president of Section A (which included engineering). His presidential address dealt with 'The researches of a city engineer's department'.

He succeeded WAUGH as City Engineer of Johannesburg Municipality on 1932 07 01. He had been influential as consultant to the City of Johannesburg in its developmental phase. His Northern Sewerage and Waste Water Disposal Works, designed entirely by the City Engineer's Department in consultation with the City Health Department was adjudged by the South African institute of Civil Engineers as one of the 'Seven Wonders of Civil Engineering in South Africa'.

During World War II Hamlin assisted the South African military and attained the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. In the War years the Department investigated the use of methane as by-product for vehicle fuel and the use of digested sewerage sludge as agricultural fertiliser, resulting in the development of pasturage and cattle herds as part of the Council's endeavours at the time. Although a Town Planning Branch was established in 1938, the War years intervened and postponed the promulgation of a Town Planning Scheme. He retired the position in 1947.

After his retirement he started a private practice as a consulting engineer and established the firm E.J. Hamlin and Partners. He continued to consult on various major engineering works up to the time of his death. Hamlin was a man of strong physique and a dominating personality, who had all the skills required to manage the rapid growth of Johannesburg. In September 1928, at Stellenbosch, he married Dorothty Janet Marnham, with whom he had a son and two daughters.

Books citing HAMLIN

Biographies Editors. 1938. South African Woman's Who's Who 1938. Johannesburg: Biographies. pp 149 (infra)

HSRC. 1987. Dictionary of South African Biography Volume V. Pretoria: Human Sciences Research Council. pp 319-320

S2A3 (Plug, C - Project Leader and main compiler). 2002-. S2A3 biographical database of southern African science. Webspace: WWW. pp Accessed 2016 01 13

Shorten, John R. 1963. Cape Town : A record of the Mother City from the earliest days to the present. Cape Town: JR Shorten in association with Shorten and Smith Publications. pp 574