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Barraclough, Sir Samuel Henry Egerton (1871–1958)

by J. M. Antill

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

Sir Samuel Henry Egerton Barraclough (1871-1958), mechanical engineer, was born on 25 October 1871 in Sydney, eldest son of William Henry Barraclough, clerk, and his wife Hannah Arabella, née Egerton. He was educated at Sydney Boys' High School and the University of Sydney (B.E., 1892). Awarded an 1851 Exhibition travelling scholarship, he attended Sibley College of Engineering, Cornell University, United States of America (M.M.E., 1894), and while there was an editor of the Sibley Journal of Engineering. After travelling in North America, he returned to Sydney in 1895 and became lecturer-in-charge of the department of (applied) physics at the Sydney Technical College and taught physics at Sydney High. He thoroughly reorganized his department and introduced a more modern syllabus, and also helped to edit the Australian Technical Journal. In 1897 he was appointed assistant lecturer in mechanical engineering under Professor W. H. Warren in the Peter Nicol Russell school of engineering at the university; he also lectured in military engineering in its department of military science.

Barraclough published numerous articles, often connected with steam engines and boilers, in the engineering journals and the Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales; his Abridged Mathematical Tables … (1907) was republished several times. In 1901-02 he was founding president of the Sydney University Engineering Society. Lawrence Hargrave consulted him in 1908 about a suitable engine for his planned 'lightest and most compact' flying machine. Despite being granted the right of private practice in 1904 and promotion to assistant professor in 1908, he applied unsuccessfully in 1909 for the chair of engineering at the University of Melbourne. He was president of the Engineering Association of New South Wales in 1914-15.

In October 1899 Barraclough had been commissioned in the Corps of Australian Engineers; in 1908 he transferred as captain to the Australian Intelligence Corps. Promoted major in 1914, he served with Intelligence as senior assistant censor until the end of 1915 when he visited India, Egypt, France and Great Britain on behalf of the Commonwealth government. In his report he advised that 'the best way of helping the British munitions effort and the future inauguration of the Australian arsenal would be to send to Great Britain … as many Australian workers as possible'. At the end of 1916 he returned to London as honorary lieutenant-colonel in charge of the Australian munitions workers in England and France. By 1918 some 5000 skilled men had reached England and he had built up a staff of about 150 to look after the men's welfare and discipline. At the end of the war Churchill praised 'the great success of a unique scheme'. Barraclough was appointed C.B.E. (military division) in 1919 and next year was promoted K.B.E.; he was also awarded the Volunteer Officers' Decoration. He remained in England until 1920 when the last of the men and their dependants were repatriated.

Barraclough had been appointed professor of mechanical engineering in the University of Sydney in 1915. He was dean of the faculty of engineering in 1924-33 and 1936-41, and a fellow of the senate in 1925-33 and 1938-56. An interesting teacher and good administrator, he had a profound influence on the advancement of engineering education. He had an infectious enthusiasm for research and worked hard to foster travelling scholarships. Dignified and immaculately dressed, he was careful of speech, cheerful and kindly. For twenty years he was chairman of the Australian Student Christian Movement.

Sir Henry served his profession outside the university as a fellow of the Society of Engineers, a member of the institutions of Civil and Mechanical Engineers, and a foundation member of the Newcomen Society, all of London. He was a councillor of the Royal Society of New South Wales, and president of its engineering section, and president of section H of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science in 1937. As a councillor and president in 1935 of the Institution of Engineers, Australia, he helped to obtain the grant of its royal charter in 1938 and next year was awarded its Peter Nicol Russell Memorial Medal. He also served on the Australian National Research Council, the council of the Standards Association of Australia and on various local advisory committees. He was a member of the Australian Club, Sydney, the Royal Sydney Golf Club, the Athenaeum Club, London, and Phyllis Court, Henley-on-Thames, England.

Barraclough died at Sydney Hospital on 30 August 1958 and was cremated with Congregational rites. He was survived by his wife Mona Edith, née Rossiter, whom he had married at Bishopscourt, Melbourne, on 22 August 1927, witnessed by (Viscount) Bruce and his wife.

Select Bibliography

  • Institute of Engineers (Australia), Journal, 30 (1958)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 1 Sept 1958
  • Barraclough papers (University of Sydney Archives).

Citation details

J. M. Antill, 'Barraclough, Sir Samuel Henry Egerton (1871–1958)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/barraclough-sir-samuel-henry-egerton-5141/text8605, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 22 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

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