Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Fowler, Thomas Walker (1859–1928)

by Sally O'Neill

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Thomas Walker Fowler (1859-1928), civil engineer, was born on 23 November 1859 at Blaris Lodge, near Hillsborough, Down, Ireland, son of James Barrington Fowler, farmer, and his wife Deborah, née Bulmer (Boomer). He received secondary education at the Royal Academical Institution, Belfast.

In November 1876, with his widowed mother and two brothers, Fowler joined two other brothers already in Melbourne. Next year he began the course for a certificate in civil engineering at the University of Melbourne; he completed it in 1879 and graduated M.C.E. in 1885. In 1880-81 he worked in the survey branches of the Victorian and New South Wales railways.

In January 1882 Fowler was appointed engineer to the Shire of Huntly, near Sandhurst (Bendigo), the first of similar posts in the northern, north-eastern, central Gippsland and southern districts of Victoria. As a qualified engineer of water-supply under the Irrigation Act of 1886, he was responsible for directing conservation schemes on the Broken River, near Benalla, and for the Shepparton, Yarrawonga and Gisborne town supplies. On 12 March 1884 at St Stephen's Church of England, Richmond, he married Sarah Edith Warnock, daughter of a surgeon.

About 1887 Fowler made his home in Melbourne, living in Hawthorn, and later at Kew, with an office in the city. From 1891 to 1903 he lectured in surveying at the university, acting also as demonstrator in engineering from 1896 to 1903. In 1905-09 he lectured in civil engineering. Returning to full-time private practice, he carried out water-supply schemes for Warragul, Colac and Kerang, and electric light works at Kilmore, Camperdown, Terang and Deloraine (Tasmania). In 1909 he was a member of the special board of inquiry into the Melbourne water-supply and of the royal commission appointed by the Western Australian government to report on the sewerage of Perth and Fremantle.

In July 1913 Fowler was appointed engineer-in-chief of Tasmania and permanent head of the Public Works Department, at a salary of £500. He resigned this position on 31 December 1918 and returned to Melbourne.

Fowler was a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, London, and was active in the local institutions of civil, mechanical, electrical and municipal engineers. He was president of the Victorian Institute of Surveyors in 1892. In 1908-13 he was chairman of the Municipal Surveyors' Board of Victoria. He was secretary and later vice-president of the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia (Victoria) and author of sundry papers in the society's proceedings, those of the Victorian Institute of Engineers and various scientific societies. A highly esteemed Freemason, he had been a representative of the English Constitution at the inauguration of the United Grand Lodge of Victoria in March 1889. He had attained the rank of past deputy grandmaster of the craft and was prominent in several associated Masonic orders.

Quietly spoken, with a studious and self-disciplined manner and distinguished bearing, Fowler was a tall man, some 6 ft 5 ins (196 cm) in height, with a neat grey beard and rimless spectacles. Reading and photography were his main relaxations: his library contained books mainly on science, engineering, philosophy, religion and Freemasonry. During summers spent with children and grandchildren at his holiday home at Sorrento (Blairgowrie), he kept careful meteorological records.

Fowler died of cerebro-vascular disease at Kew on 23 November 1928, survived by his wife, three sons and two of his three daughters. He was buried in Boroondara cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, Victoria), 1891, 2 (11), 1903, 2S, 2 (20)
  • Institute of Engineers, Australia, Transactions, 1928, p 270
  • Mercury (Hobart), 27 Nov 1928
  • Argus (Melbourne), 6 Dec 1928
  • CSD 22/206/151-32, 177/35A-21, 195/110-30, and public service record (PSC24/8) (Archives Office of Tasmania)
  • private information.

Citation details

Sally O'Neill, 'Fowler, Thomas Walker (1859–1928)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/fowler-thomas-walker-6225/text10687, published in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 1 August 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

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