Australian Dictionary of Biography

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John Leck Bruce (1850–1921)

by J. M. Antill

This article was published:

John Leck Bruce (1850-1921), sanitary engineer and teacher, was born on 16 October 1850 at Glasgow, Scotland, son of Robert Bruce, clerk, and his wife Jane, née Leck. Trained as an architect, he joined the firm of Bruce & Sturrock, and was consulting engineer to the Glasgow Corporation. He was a juror on gas-cooking and gas-heating appliances at the Glasgow Gas and Electric Exhibition in 1880, and a member of the city's institute of architects and the philosophical society. On 1 August 1877 he had married Charlotte Florence Cochran at the Hamilton Presbyterian Church, Birkenhead, England.

Bruce arrived in Sydney in May 1887 and set up practice as a consulting engineer and architect. On 15 April 1889 he became a foreman of works in the government architect's branch of the Department of Public Works at a salary of £250. In May 1891 he was appointed first lecturer in sanitary engineering at Sydney Technical College, and devoted the rest of his professional life to developing that department. In 1901, with Dr T. M. Kendall, medical adviser to the Metropolitan Board of Water Supply and Sewerage, he published The Australian Sanitary Inspector's Textbook … . At this time he was the Australian examiner for the London Sanitary Institute, Sydney editor of the Building and Engineering Journal of Australia and New Zealand, assistant editor of the Australian Technical Journal (in which he had published an article on gas-lighting in March 1897), and president of the sanitary department's examining board. His textbook was reissued as the Australian Sanitary Inspector's Handbook (1920).

By 1912 Bruce was a member of the Royal Sanitary Institute; in 1914 he was on the editorial advisory committee of the Technical Gazette of New South Wales and in 1912-17 contributed articles about ventilation, moisture and temperature control of air, and the lighting of dwellings and factories. He devised simple instruments for use by factory inspectors in determining whether air and lighting conformed to the requirements of the Factories Act. He also wrote an introductory chapter to Practical Australian Sanitation (vol.1), by Dr C. Savill Willis. On his retirement in 1920 he was made a fellow of the Technical College.

On 29 November 1921 Bruce died of cerebral thrombosis at Blakehurst, Sydney, and was buried in the Presbyterian section of South Head cemetery. He was survived by his wife, two sons and two married daughters.

Select Bibliography

  • Quarter Century of Technical Education in New South Wales (Syd, 1909)
  • Australian Technical Journal, Mar 1897
  • Sanitary Inspectors' Association (New South Wales), Official Report, 1 (1912)
  • Technical Gazette of New South Wales, 4 (1914), 6 (1916), 7 (1917), 12 (1922).

Citation details

J. M. Antill, 'Bruce, John Leck (1850–1921)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 19 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (Melbourne University Press), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


16 October, 1850
Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland


29 November, 1921 (aged 71)
Blakehurst, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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