UNWIN, Professor William Cawthorne (1838-1933)

Scope and Content

Papers of Professor William Cawthorne Unwin, 1856-1952, comprising correspondence, principally concerning engineering matters, 1856-1931, 1950,1952, notably with Edward Dean Adams, including the Niagra Falls Scheme, 1890-1929, Sir Benjamin Baker, including the Forth Bridge, dam schemes, 1882-1898, Sir William Fairbairn, including experiments, appointments, 1856-1874, Thomas Hardy, concerning astronomy, 1881, Imperial College, 1910-1926 (as representative of the Institution of Civil Engineers);

Research papers, 1859-1924, notably Fay and Newall brakes, 1859, observations on the Thames, 1882-1883, Nile Project Committee, 1919, dam schemes, 1899-1905;

Speeches and addresses to various institutions, including presidential addresses to the Institution of Civil Engineers, 1912, and Institution of Mechanical Engineers, 1916; engineering drawings, 1875-1906, of apparatus, machinery, sections of the Thames, Telok Ayer key wall, Singapore; two portraits of Unwin, undated;

Additional material, comprising papers relating to Windsor Water Works arbitration, 1884; reports on compression gauges, 1886-1887; Birmingham dams, 1895; notes on dam theory, 1905; papers relating to Stockport water supply and Kinder Dam, 1905; notes relating to schemes for Niagra and central London.

Administrative / Biographical History

Born Coggeshall, Essex, 1838; educated at City of London School; lay student at New College, St John's Wood, London; employed by Sir William Fairbairn, [1856-1861]; Manager of Engineering works, 1861-1868; Associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers, 1867; instructor at the Royal School of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering at Kensington, 1868-72; Professor of Hydraulic Engineering at the Royal Indian Engineering College, Cooper's Hill, 1872-1884; Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, 1878; Professor of Engineering, Central Technical College of the Guilds of London (later City and Guilds College), 1884-1904, Dean, 1884-1896, 1902-1904; elected Fellow of the Royal Society, 1886; Honorary Associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects, 1886; Honorary Member of the Franklin Institute and of the American Philosophical Society, 1890; President of section G of the British Association, 1891; member of the Council of the Royal Society, 1894-1896; Honorary Membership of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 1898; member of the General Board of the National Physical Laboratory, 1900; member of the Senate of the University of London, 1900-1905, 1911-1923; member of the Governing Body of Imperial College of Science and Technology, 1910-1926; President of the Institution of Civil Engineers, 1911; member of the Delegacy of the City and Guilds College, 1911-1926; President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, 1915-1916; awarded the first Kelvin Medal, 1921; Honorary Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, 1922; died, 1933.

Publications include: Wrought Iron Bridges and Roofs .. With examples of the calculation of stress in girders, etc (London, 1869); On the Movement of the water in a tidal river, with reference to the position of sewer outfalls E & F N Spon, London, 1883); Exercises in Wood-Working for handicraft classes in elementary and technical schools (Longmans & Co, London, 1887); The Testing of Materials of Construction: a text-book for the engineering laboratory and a collection of the results of experiment (Longmans & Co, London, 1888); On the Development and Transmission of Power from central stations, being the Howard Lectures 1893 (Longmans & Co, London, 1894); A Treatise on Hydraulics (Adam & Charles Black, London, 1907).

Access Information


Researchers wishing to consult the Archives should first contact the College Archivist, Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, Exhibition Road, London SW7 2AZ, for an appointment.

Acquisition Information

The papers were presented in 1936 by Professor Unwin's cousin, Miss Dorothy Unwin. The additional material was transferred from the Lyon Playfair Library.

Other Finding Aids

A catalogue is available in the reading room of the College Archives.

Conditions Governing Use

A photocopying service is available at the discretion of the Archivist. Photocopies are supplied for research use only. Requests to publish original material should be submitted to the Archivist.

Related Material

Notes on lectures given by Professor Unwin, 1885-1887, (FC-FS), correspondence and papers concerning the Unwin Memorial Fund, 1928-1938 (B/WILSON), papers concerning the Unwin scholarship, 1935-1976 (K), held at Imperial College.


The Life and Work of William Cawthorne Unwin by E G Walker (London, 1938).