John Wolfe-Barry

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Sir John Wolfe-Barry (1836-1919) was an English civil engineer of the late 19th and early 20th century. His most famous project was the construction of Tower Bridge over the River Thames in London.

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Early career

The youngest son of architect Sir Charles Barry, John (who adopted the additional 'Wolfe' in 1898) was a pupil of civil engineer Sir John Hawkshaw, as was Henri Marc Brunel, son of the great Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Wolfe-Barry and Hawkshaw worked on bridge crossing across the Thames, among other projects (Brunel pursued his own business from 1871, but in 1878 went into partnership with Wolfe-Barry).

Tower Bridge

However, it was Tower Bridge that really made Wolfe-Barry's name. In 1878, architect Horace Jones first proposed a low-level bascule bridge. An Act of Parliament allowing the Corporation of the City of London to build it was passed in 1885. Jones was appointed architect, and knighted, but died the same year. Wolfe-Barry, already well-established with experience of bridges across the Thames, then took control.

Other projects

His other projects included:

Industry standardisation

A recognised industry leader (he was elected President of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1896, knighted in 1897, and served on several Royal Commissons), Wolfe-Barry played a prominent role in the development of industry standardisation, urging the ICE's Council to form a committee to focus on standards for iron and steel sections.

Two members each from the ICE, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, the Institution of Naval Architects and the Iron and Steel Institute first met on 26 April 1901. With the Institution of Electrical Engineers who joining the following year, these bodies were the founder institutions of what is today the British Standards Institution or BSI.

Late career

He was chairman of Cable and Wireless from 1900 to 1917.

In 1902 Wolfe-Barry joined the consulting firm Robert White & Partners, and it was renamed Wolfe-Barry, Robert White & Partners (later, 1946, Sir Bruce White, Wolfe Barry and Partners now part of London-based consultancy Beckett Rankine Partnership).

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