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Henry Deane (1847–1924)

by J. D. Walker

This article was published:

Henry Deane (1847-1924), by John Hubert Newman, 1890-1901

Henry Deane (1847-1924), by John Hubert Newman, 1890-1901

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an24082144

Henry Deane (1847-1924), engineer and scientist, was born on 26 March 1847 at Clapham Common, London, son of Henry Deane, chemist and fellow of the Linnean Society, and his wife Jemima, née Elliott. After schooling in England, he was educated in Ireland at Queen's College, Galway, (B.A., 1865; M.A., 1882), and completed his training at King's College, London, as an occasional student. He served his pupillage in the office of Sir John Fowler, from 1869 worked for Waring Bros on the construction of the East Hungarian railways, and from 1871 in the shipbuilding yards of the Danube Steam Navigation Co. at Altogen. On 19 October 1873 at Budapest he married a Hungarian, Anna Mathilde Schramb. In 1875 he joined (Sir) Benjamin Baker in England and in 1877 he helped to build sugarworks in the Philippines.

In January 1880 Deane arrived in Sydney in the Kent and on 20 February was appointed a railway surveyor under John Whitton. From 1881 he was district engineer, working on the Gunnedah-Narrabri extension, then on the construction of the Homebush to Hawkesbury River railway. Inspecting engineer from 1886, he was confirmed as engineer-in-chief for railway construction on 1 July 1891 after acting since Whitton's retirement. He was also responsible for the tramways from 1899. After consultations with E. M. G. Eddy, chief railway commissioner, he supervised improvements to the gradients and curves, and began to abolish zig-zags on the western line. In 1894 and in 1904-05, after the abolition of the railway construction branch, he visited the United States of America and Europe on behalf of the government. He retired in May 1906.

Deane set up in private practice in Sydney and became consultant to the Commonwealth Oil Corporation Ltd and was responsible for the construction of its railway from Newnes to Clarence. In 1908 he was appointed consulting engineer for the survey of the transcontinental railway between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie; in 1911 he reported to parliament on the proposed line, and in 1912 became engineer-in-chief for the new Commonwealth railways construction branch. He met many difficulties in building about 1100 miles (1800 km) of line through a desert region, advocating Paragon diesel-electric locomotives; he was troubled by the insubordinate Henry Chinn. In 1914 he resigned and practised as a consulting engineer in Melbourne. He had been a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, London, from 1886 and Australasian member of its council, president of the Institution of Surveyors, New South Wales, in 1894-95, and a member of the Sydney University Engineering Society; in 1920 he was a founding associate member of the Institution of Engineers, Australia. In 1912 he was commissioned colonel in the Engineer and Railway Staff Corps in the Commonwealth Military Forces.

'An accomplished botanist', Deane carried out much work on the tertiary fossil flora of eastern Australia. He was in close touch with such notable scientists as Robert FitzGerald, Ferdinand von Mueller, Dr William Woolls and (Sir) Baldwin Spencer. He published many papers, often with Joseph Henry Maiden, on botany and paleontology and made a special study of Australian timbers (Eucalyptus deanei was named after him). He was president of the Linnean Society of New South Wales in 1895-96 and 1896-97, and of the local Royal Society in 1897 and 1907, and a fellow of the Linnean, (Royal) Meteorological and Royal Horticultural societies, London. In Melbourne he was a member of the Royal Society of Victoria and was a council-member of the Australian Forest League. By 1909 he was balding, with an impressive white beard, moustache and side-whiskers.

On 12 March 1924 Deane died suddenly while working in his garden at Malvern and was buried with Anglican rites in Brighton cemetery. He was survived by one son and two daughters of his first marriage, and by his second wife Mary Lillias, née Lumsdaine, whom he had married in Sydney on 5 February 1890, and by their two sons and a daughter. His eldest son Henry James was a distinguished civil engineer and his younger sons served overseas with the first Australian Imperial Force.

Select Bibliography

  • Cyclopedia of N.S.W. (Syd, 1907)
  • J. Marshall, A Biograpical Dictionary of Railway Engineers (Newton Abbot, 1978)
  • Industrial Australian and Mining Standard, 14 Feb 1914
  • Linnean Society of New South Wales, Proceedings, 49 (1924), p iv
  • Royal Society of New South Wales, Journal, 58 (1924), p 5
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 13 Mar 1924
  • H. Deane, correspondence and papers (National Library of Australia).

Citation details

J. D. Walker, 'Deane, Henry (1847–1924)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 12 July 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

Henry Deane (1847-1924), by John Hubert Newman, 1890-1901

Henry Deane (1847-1924), by John Hubert Newman, 1890-1901

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an24082144

Life Summary [details]


26 March, 1847
London, Middlesex, England


12 March, 1924 (aged 76)
Malvern, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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