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Cornwall, Edward Satchwell (1886–1954)

by Horace B. Marks

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Edward Satchwell Cornwall (1886-1954), engineer and administrator, was born on 9 November 1886 at Ballinlough, County Roscommon, Ireland, son of William Cornwall, farmer, and his wife Fanny, née Satchwell. The family migrated to Queensland when Edward was a child. Educated at Mount Morgan Primary School, he served an engineering apprenticeship with Mount Morgan Mines Ltd. He consolidated his knowledge of mechanical and electrical engineering in several posts before becoming a marine engineer, first with (William) Howard Smith & Co. Ltd and then with the Australasian United Steam Navigation Co. Ltd. His friendship with Daniel Evans—formed about 1910—was to lead to lasting co-operation between Evans's engineering firm and the Queensland electricity industry.

After supervising installation of the first alternating-current generating plant for the City Electric Light Co. Ltd, Brisbane, in January 1914 Cornwall joined C.E.L. as superintendent of its power station in William Street. On 3 February 1916 he married Tasmene Louise Turnidge (d.1945) in St Martin's Anglican Church, Killara, Sydney. Transferred to head office in Brisbane as engineer of construction in 1919, he quickly mastered an operation which comprised a substantial direct-current network, including part of the tramways system, and a rapidly developing alternating-current system. He was successively promoted chief assistant-engineer, assistant-manager and, in 1937, manager and chief engineer of C.E.L.

In 1936 Cornwall had presented to the royal commission on electricity a proposal to extend electrification in Queensland. In the following year the State Electricity Commission of Queensland was established and in 1939 he negotiated an agreement with that body for a co-ordinated development of electricity supply for coastal, south-east Queensland. A complicated project, it involved interconnection with the Brisbane City Council's system, as well as absorption of Ipswich Electric Supply Co. Ltd and a number of individual country undertakings. Cornwall married Lottie Forster on 5 January 1946 at St Mary's Anglican Church, Kangaroo Point. He became a director of C.E.L. in 1948 and next year was appointed managing director.

During its postwar expansion Cornwall guided C.E.L. through serious engineering, administrative and financial difficulties. He anticipated the problems inherent in further development of the region by private industry, and his initiative influenced the concept and structuring of the Southern Electric Authority of Queensland, the successor to C.E.L. In 1952 he was appointed general manager and chief engineer of the newly formed S.E.A. Cornwall was sought after as an adviser. He was chairman (1938-39) of the Brisbane division of the Institution of Engineers, Australia, and twice president of the Electricity Supply Association of Australia. A high-principled, hard-working disciplinarian, with a deep and clever sense of humour, he was comfortable enough in his relations with his staff to draw the remark, 'Ted, you are a cranky old devil, but we still love you'.

Survived by his wife, and by the daughter of his first marriage, Cornwall died of a cerebral haemorrhage on 12 July 1954 in South Brisbane and was cremated with Presbyterian forms. In 1956 the E. S. Cornwall memorial scholarship for engineering graduates was established at the University of Queensland.

Select Bibliography

  • R. L. Whitmore (ed), Eminent Queensland Engineers (Brisb, 1984)
  • Southern Electricity Authority News, no 1, 1954
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 13 July 1954.

Citation details

Horace B. Marks, 'Cornwall, Edward Satchwell (1886–1954)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 21 October 2016.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

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