Thomas Tredgold

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Thomas Tredgold. Thomas Tredgold.jpg
Thomas Tredgold.

Thomas Tredgold (1788–1829) was an English engineer and author, known for his early work on railroad construction. His definition of civil engineering formed the basis of the charter of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

Civil engineering engineering discipline that deals with construction

Civil engineering is a professional engineering discipline that deals with the design, construction, and maintenance of the physical and naturally built environment, including public works such as roads, bridges, canals, dams, airports, sewerage systems, pipelines, structural components of buildings, and railways. Civil engineering is traditionally broken into a number of sub-disciplines. It is considered the second-oldest engineering discipline after military engineering, and it is defined to distinguish non-military engineering from military engineering. Civil engineering takes place in the public sector from municipal through to national governments, and in the private sector from individual homeowners through to international companies.

Institution of Civil Engineers independent professional association, headquartered in central London

The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) is an independent professional association for civil engineers and a charitable body in the United Kingdom. Based in London, ICE has over 92,000 members, of whom three quarters are located in the UK, while the rest are located in more than 150 other countries. The ICE aims to support the civil engineering profession by offering professional qualification, promoting education, maintaining professional ethics, and liaising with industry, academia and government. Under its commercial arm, it delivers training, recruitment, publishing and contract services. As a professional body, ICE aims to support and promote professional learning, managing professional ethics and safeguarding the status of engineers, and representing the interests of the profession in dealings with government, etc. It sets standards for membership of the body; works with industry and academia to progress engineering standards and advises on education and training curricula.



He was born at Brandon, County Durham, on 22 August 1788. After some elementary education at the village school, he was apprenticed at 14 to a cabinet-maker in Durham. He remained with him six years, studying also mathematics, architecture, and perspective. In 1808, after his apprenticeship had expired, he went to Scotland, where he worked for five years as a joiner and journeyman carpenter. [1]

Brandon, County Durham village in United Kingdom

Brandon is a village in County Durham, England. It is situated a short distance to the southwest of Durham. Brandon was originally one of the seven townships within the ancient parish of Brancepeth. It grew from a sparsely populated agricultural area into a populous mining district after the establishment of collieries and later coke and fireclay works. Until the 19th century Brandon village, formerly known as East Brandon, was one of the larger settlements in Brancepeth Parish.

Durham, England City in England

Durham is a historic city and the county town of County Durham in North East England. The city lies on the River Wear, to the west of Sunderland, south of Newcastle upon Tyne and to the north of Darlington. Founded over the final resting place of St Cuthbert, its Norman cathedral became a centre of pilgrimage in medieval England. The cathedral and adjacent 11th-century castle were designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986. The castle has been the home of Durham University since 1832. HM Prison Durham is also located close to the city centre. City of Durham is the name of the civil parish.

Perspective (graphical) form of graphical projection where the projection lines converge to one or more points

Perspective in the graphic arts is an approximate representation, generally on a flat surface, of an image as it is seen by the eye. The two most characteristic features of perspective are that objects appear smaller as their distance from the observer increases; and that they are subject to foreshortening, meaning that an object's dimensions along the line of sight appear shorter than its dimensions across the line of sight.

Later Tredgold went to London, where he entered the office of his uncle William Atkinson the architect, [2] with whom he lived for six years, and whom he served for longer. He read on architecture and engineering; and taught himself French. [1]

William Atkinson (1774/5–1839) was an English architect best known for his designs for country houses in the Gothic style. He undertook almost fifty commissions, broadly distributed in the north of England and the Scottish lowlands, London and the surrounding counties, with occasional excursions to Herefordshire, Staffordshire, and Ireland. His Gothic oeuvre fitted between playful 18th-century eclecticism and the more rigorous archaeological approach of the later Gothic revival.

In 1823, the demands of his writing led Tredgold to resign his position in Atkinson's office. He died on 28 January 1829, and was buried in St. John's Wood chapel cemetery.[ citation needed ]


Tredgold left a widow, three daughters, and a son Thomas, who held the post of engineer in the office of stamps of the East India Company at Calcutta, where he died on 4 May 1853. [1]

East India Company 16th through 19th-century British trading company

The East India Company (EIC), also known as the Honourable East India Company (HEIC) or the British East India Company and informally as John Company, Company Bahadur, or simply The Company, was an English and later British joint-stock company. It was formed to trade in the Indian Ocean region, initially with Mughal India and the East Indies, and later with Qing China. The company ended up seizing control over large parts of the Indian subcontinent, colonised parts of Southeast Asia, and colonised Hong Kong after a war with Qing China.


In 1820, Tredgold published Elementary Principles of Carpentry (London), on making floors, roofs, bridges, and other structures. He appended an essay on the nature and properties of timber. Apart from Peter Barlow's Essay on the Strength of Timber and other Materials in 1817, Tredgold's work was the first serious attempt in England to deal practically and scientifically with the data of resistance[ clarification needed ]; before his time engineers relied mainly on the formulæ and results found in Count Buffon and Peter van Musschenbroek's Physicæ Experimentales et Geometricæ (Leyden, 1729); some of Tredgold's results were taken from Gabriel Pierre Martin Dumont's Parallèle de plans des plus belles salles de spectacles d'ltalie et de France (Paris, 1767). Several editions of Tredgold's work were published, one by Edward Wyndham Tarn appearing in 1886 (London). This work was followed in 1822 by A Practical Essay on the Strength of Cast Iron and other Metals (London; 5th edit., by Eaton Hodgkinson, London, 1860–1), which is mainly founded on the work of Thomas Young. Tredgold lacked the mathematics of the theory of elasticity; he was inaccurate, and often obscure. [1]

Carpentry skilled trade

Carpentry is a skilled trade and a craft in which the primary work for performed is the cutting, shaping and installation of building materials during the construction of buildings, ships, timber bridges, concrete formwork, etc. Carpenters traditionally worked with natural wood and did the rougher work such as framing, but today many other materials are also used and sometimes the finer trades of cabinetmaking and furniture building are considered carpentry. In the United States, 98.5% of carpenters are male, and it was the fourth most male-dominated occupation in the country in 1999. In 2006 in the United States, there were about 1.5 million carpentry positions. Carpenters are usually the first tradesmen on a job and the last to leave. Carpenters normally framed post-and-beam buildings until the end of the 19th century; now this old fashioned carpentry is called timber framing. Carpenters learn this trade by being employed through an apprenticeship training—normally 4 years—and qualify by successfully completing that country's competence test in places such as the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and South Africa. It is also common that the skill can be learned by gaining work experience other than a formal training program, which may be the case in many places.

Peter Barlow (mathematician) British mathematician and physicist

Peter Barlow was an English mathematician and physicist.

In 1824, Tredgold published Principles of Warming and Ventilating Public Buildings (London), which reached a second edition in the same year (3rd edit., with appendix by Bramah, 1836). In 1825 appeared A Practical Treatise on Railroads and Carriages (London; 2nd edit. London, 1835), which was followed by a pamphlet addressed to William Huskisson as President of the Board of Trade, Remarks on Steam Navigation and its Protection, Regulation, and Encouragement (London, 1825), with suggestions for the prevention of accidents. His last major work, The Steam Engine, appeared in 1827 (London). A new enlarged edition, by Westley Stoker Barker Woolhouse, was published in 1838 (London). James Hann assisted Woodhouse, [3] and a third edition appeared in 1850–3 (London), with contributions in particular by John Seaward [4] and Edward Woods. [5] A French translation was made by François Noël Mellet (1838, Paris). [1]

Tredgold also edited John Smeaton's Hydraulic Tracts (1826; 2nd edit. 1837), added notes and articles to Robertson Buchanan's Practical Essays on millwork (ed. George Rennie, London, 1841), and revised Peter Nicholson's New Practical Builder (London, 1861). He contributed the articles on joinery and stone masonry to the supplement of the Encyclopædia Britannica (ed. 1824), and contributed technical articles to the Philosophical Magazine and to Thomas Thomson's Annals of Philosophy . [1]

Legacy in civil engineering

Tredgold gave an influential definition of civil engineering, on which the charter of the Institution of Civil Engineers based itself in 1828:

A Society for the general advancement of Mechanical Science, and more particularly for promoting the acquisition of that species of knowledge which constitutes the profession of a Civil Engineer; being the art of directing the great sources of power in Nature for the use and convenience of man, as the means of production and of traffic in states, both for external and internal trade, as applied in the construction of roads, bridges, aqueducts, canals, river navigation, and docks, for internal intercourse and exchange; and in the construction of ports harbours, moles, breakwaters, and lighthouses, and in the art of navigation by artificial power, for the purposes of commerce; and in the construction and adaptation of machinery, and in the drainage of cities and towns. [6]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Carlyle 1899.
  2. Riddell, Richard. "Atkinson, William". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/860.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. Marsden, Ben. "Hann, James". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/12206.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  4. Porter, D. H. "Seaward, John". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/24993.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  5. Chrimes, Mike. "Woods, Edward". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/37011.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  6. Institution of Civil Engineers (Great Britain) (1870). Minutes of Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers. The Institution. p. 215 note 1. Retrieved 1 May 2012.

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