Australian Dictionary of Biography

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John Ernest Kindler (1906–1968)

by E. Richard and Raymond L. Whitmore

This article was published:

John Ernest Kindler (1906-1968), civil engineer and public servant, was born on 21 October 1906 at Nuriootpa, South Australia, third child of Carl Gustav Ernst Kindler, blacksmith, and his wife Selma Amalia, née Basedow. Educated at Gawler District and Adelaide high schools, and the University of Adelaide (B.E., 1928; M.E., 1930), John joined (1928) J. J. C. Bradfield's Sydney Harbour Bridge branch of the New South Wales Department of Public Works. On 5 October 1931 at the Lutheran rectory, Undercliffe, he married Sara Kathleen (Kit) Way, a clerk. Next year he transferred to the main roads section of the Department of Transport.

In 1933 the Queensland Bureau of Industry established a board to construct a bridge across the Brisbane River from Fortitude Valley to Kangaroo Point. Bradfield was retained as consulting engineer and Kindler was employed (from 1934) as an assistant to the project's supervising engineer (Sir) James Holt. The Story bridge, opened in 1940, remains the largest steel bridge in the country to be designed and built by Australians from local materials. Seconded to the Allied Works Council in 1942, Kindler built coastal defences and marine facilities under the direction of (Sir) John Kemp, Queensland's wartime deputy director-general of allied works. In 1946 Kindler was made principal designing engineer under Holt, who became chief engineer of the bridges (later structures) branch in the office of the co-ordinator-general of public works. Three years later Holt was elevated to chief engineer, responsible for hydraulics as well as structures, and Kindler was promoted his deputy.

The co-ordinator-general's engineering office gained a high reputation for the quality of its work. Kindler was ideally suited to head the structures branch. Thoroughly trained by Holt, he kept himself informed of overseas developments and was open to new ideas, provided that they passed his rigorous examination. What was more, he had the knowledge, confidence and courage to criticize—publicly, if necessary—accepted practices, and to pioneer new techniques in design and construction. In 1954 Holt succeeded Kemp as co-ordinator-general and Kindler was promoted chief engineer.

Among his numerous hydraulic projects, Kindler was involved in the Tully Falls and Barron River hydro-electric schemes and in supplying water to the Collinsville power-station. He was also involved in the development of university campuses at St Lucia and Townsville, and in the design and construction of the township of Weipa. But it was the designing and building of bridges that fired his imagination and demonstrated the range of his talents. Some twenty major bridges were designed under his supervision, and he took particular care to integrate design with construction.

Kindler was committed to advancing his profession. The Institution of Engineers, Australia, published six of his papers and awarded him the Warren memorial prize—with co-author William Hansen in 1957 and as sole author in the following year. Kindler won the institution's R. W. (Sir Robert) Chapman medal in 1958. Chairman (1955) of the institution's Brisbane division, he had been active in founding (1947) the Association of Professional Engineers, Australia, and in preparing the Professional Engineers' case (1958-61) before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. He was closely associated with the University of Queensland through his friends, his co-operation in technical investigations and his membership (1955-68) of the board of the faculty of engineering. As convener of the civil engineering sub-committee of the Queensland government's advisory committee on engineering education (formed 1964), he helped to found (1965) the Queensland Institute of Technology.

Stern in appearance, scrupulous by habit and sincere in his dealings with people, Kindler was a sympathetic but exacting taskmaster who earned the respect of his staff and the admiration of his peers. Outside his working hours he enjoyed bushwalking, gardening and classical choral music, and worshipped at St Stephen's Anglican Church, Coorparoo. He died suddenly of myocardial infarction on 25 June 1968 at his desk in the Administration Building, Brisbane, and was cremated; his wife and two daughters survived him. On the day of his death the government was about to announce his appointment as co-ordinator-general of public works. The Q.I.T. named a lecture theatre and a medal after him.

Select Bibliography

  • Institute of Engineers, Australia, Author and Subject Index of Publications 1920-1968 (Syd, 1968)
  • R. L. Whitmore (ed), Eminent Queensland Engineers (Brisb, 1984)
  • Brisbane City Council, Story Bridge (Brisb, 1992)
  • Co-ordinator General's report, in Department of Public Works (Queensland), Annual Report, 1964-65
  • private information.

Citation details

E. Richard and Raymond L. Whitmore, 'Kindler, John Ernest (1906–1968)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 14 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


21 October, 1906
Nuriootpa, South Australia, Australia


25 June, 1968 (aged 61)
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.