Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Clegg, Samuel

CLEGG, SAMUEL (1781–1861), inventor and gas engineer, born at Manchester on 2 March 1781, received a scientific education under the care of Dr. Dalton. He was then apprenticed to Boulton and Watt, and at the Soho factory witnessed many of William Murdoch's earlier experiments in the use of coal gas. He profited so well by his residence there that he was soon engaged by Mr. Henry Lodge to adapt the new lighting system to his cotton mills at Sowerby Bridge, near Halifax ; and finding the necessity for some simpler method of purifying the gas, he invented the lime purifiers. After removing to London, he lighted in 1813 with gas the establishment of Mr. Rudolph Ackermann, printseller, 101 Strand. Here his success was so pronounced that it brought him prominently forward, and in the following year he became the engineer of the Chartered Gas Company. He made many unsuccessful attempts to construct a dry meter which would register satisfactorily; but in 1816 patented a water meter which has been the basis of all the subsequent improvements in the method of measuring gas. For some years he was actively engaged in the construction of gasworks, or in advising on the formation of new gas companies ; but in an evil hour he joined an engineering establishment at Liverpool, in which he lost everything he possessed, and had to commence the world afresh. He was afterwards employed by the Portuguese government as an engineer, and in that capacity reconstructed the mint at Lisbon, and executed several other public works. On his return to England railway works engaged his attention, but unfortunately he became fascinated with the atmospheric system. Its entire failure as a practicable plan of useful locomotion was a great blow to him, and he never after took any very active part in public affairs. He was appointed by the government one of the surveying officers for conducting preliminary inquiries on applications for new gas bills, and he occupied his spare time in contributing to the elaborate treatise on manufacture of coal gas published by his son in 1850. He became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1829, and took a prominent part in the discussions at its meetings. He died at Fairfield House, Adelaide Road, Haverstock Hill, Middlesex, 8 Jan. 1861.

Samuel Clegg, the younger, only son of the above, born at Westminster 2 April 1814, was employed as an assistant engineer on the Greenwich, Great Western, and Eastern Counties (afterwards the Great Eastern) lines, and as resident engineer on the Southampton and Dorchester railway in 1844. Previously to this he had made a trigonometrical survey of part of the Algarves in Portugal in 1836. He was appointed professor of civil engineering and architecture at Putney College in 1849, and in the same year lecturer on civil engineering to the royal engineers at Chatham, which latter post he held to his death. In 1855 he was sent by the government to Demerara to report upon the sea walls there, and to superintend the works for their restoration. He died at Putney, Surrey, 25 July 1856, aged only forty-two. At the time of his decease he was engaged in maturing a plan for removing all the gas manufactories in London to a considerable distance from the metropolis, and concentrating them at a spot on the Essex shore. He was author of a treatise on coal-gas, 1850.

[Minutes of Proceedings of Institution of Civil Engineers, i. 138 (1841), xvi. 121–4 (1857), xxi. 552–4 (1862).]

G. C. B.