Australian Dictionary of Biography

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William Corin (1867–1929)

by Arthur Corbett

This article was published:

William Corin (1867-1929), electrical engineer, was born on 13 October 1867 at Forest Hill, Kent, England, fifth of twelve children of Edwin Paul Corin, importer, and his wife Eliza, née Knight. Educated at King's College School and University College, London, he graduated in engineering in 1885 with numerous prizes. He was employed in Glasgow by Dubs & Co., then by James Cleminson & Sons, civil engineers, until in 1891 he joined the London Metropolitan Electric Supply Co. Appointed as city electrician, he migrated to Launceston, Tasmania, on 26 November 1895. On 21 January 1896 at the Launceston registrar's office Corin married Kathleen Susan Sleeman whose family he had known in England; after the birth of their daughter in November, she died in April 1897. On 12 March 1900 at Scottsdale he married Ellen Louise Unwin: they had three daughters and two sons.

Corin had begun work in Launceston just before the opening of the hydroelectric scheme, developed by C. St John David, and he controlled the Duck Reach power station; he later made preliminary surveys for the Great Lakes schemes. His safety standards in the installation of wiring in Launceston were exemplary; in 1904-07 his conversion of the wiring to the three-phase four-wire system was among the first in the British Empire.

In 1907 Corin entered private practice in Melbourne; he also acted as consulting engineer to the municipality of Launceston. On 1 July he was appointed chief electrical engineer to the New South Wales Department of Public Works and consulting electrical engineer to the Department of Mines. His major responsibility was the generation of thermal electricity for local distribution, but he foresaw the advantage of intrastate connexions, with links to adjoining States. In 1913 he was sent abroad to study developments in electrical engineering. He returned with renewed enthusiasm for hydroelectricity and in 1915 began a series of reports on a Snowy River scheme. During his lifetime, however, the only schemes completed in New South Wales were comparatively small ones at Burrinjuck, Mullumbimby, Dorrigo and Nymboida. To continue the consulting work which he found more congenial he resigned in December 1923.

Corin advised the British and French governments respectively on hydroelectricity in Fiji (1906) and New Caledonia (1920), and also reported to the New Zealand government on the Lake Coleridge scheme. He was consulted on the Queensland Barron Falls project in 1906 and 1923-24. A member from 1909 and president in 1917 of the New South Wales section of the Electrical Association of Australia, he became a foundation member of the Institution of Engineers, Australia, in 1919. He was also a member of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers and of the institutions of Electrical Engineers and Civil Engineers, London; the latter body awarded him the Telford Premium in 1911 for a paper on the water power of Tasmania.

In 1920 Corin estimated the cost of the Snowy River scheme at £2 million, and in 1927-28 he suggested to local councillors that they might install a small hydroelectric plant to meet shire needs. In his writings Corin advocated afforestation and the arrest of soil erosion to conserve all rainfall for the development of the hydroelectric potential. A practical engineer who 'saw hydro-electricity in every running stream', Corin was of distinguished appearance, possessing a great sense of humour and much personal charm, but outspoken about dishonest practice. He died of cancer on 2 March 1929 at Chatswood, Sydney, and was buried in the general section of Northern Suburbs cemetery. His work is commemorated by the Corin Dam, near Canberra, and by street names in that city and in Launceston.

Select Bibliography

  • K. R. Shedden, Pioneering Hydro Electric Development in Australia: Notes on the Life and Work of William Corin (privately printed, no date)
  • Institute of Engineers, Australia, Journal, 1 (1929)
  • Examiner (Launceston), 5 Nov 1895, 28 Apr 1897
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 8 Mar 1929
  • family papers (privately held).

Citation details

Arthur Corbett, 'Corin, William (1867–1929)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 14 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (Melbourne University Press), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


13 October, 1867
Forest Hill, Kent, England


2 March, 1929 (aged 61)
Chatswood, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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