Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Pole, William (1814-1900)

POLE, WILLIAM (1814–1900), engineer, musician, and authority on whist, fourth son of Thomas Pole of Birmingham, was born there on 22 April 1814, and educated at a private school at Birmingham kept by a Mr. Guy. In 1829 he was apprenticed for six years to Charles H. Capper, an engineer in practice at Birmingham. On the expiry of his apprenticeship he removed to London, and obtained temporary employment as a draughtsman by Messrs. Cottam & Hallen, and then as manager of an engineering factory belonging to Thomas Graves Barlow. On 7 April 1840 he was elected a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, and in 1843 he was awarded a Telford medal for a paper on the laws of friction, read on 7 Feb. He was elected a full member on 12 Feb. 1856, served on the council from 1871 to 1885, and was honorary secretary from 1885 to 1896, when he was elected honorary member. In 1844 he published his book on the 'Cornish Pumping Engine,' and in the same year he was appointed by the East India Company first professor of engineering at Elphinstone College, Bombay. In 1845 he did some surveying for what afterwards became the Great Indian Peninsula railway, but in 1847 ill health compelled him to return to England, and in 1848 he became business manager to James Simpson, hydraulic engineer at Westminster. Under Simpson he assisted at the establishment of the Lambeth Water Company's works at Thames Ditton, and with David Thomson he patented an improved pumping engine (Proc. Inst. Meek. Engineers, July 1862). In 1850 he was engaged by Robert Stephenson [q. v.] to work out the calculations for his Britannia bridge over the Menai Straits, and in 1852 he was awarded a silver medal by the Society of Arts for his mathematical calculations on the action of the crank in the steam engine.

In 1852 Pole became assistant to James Meadows Rendel [q. v.] ; he accompanied Rendel to Italy in 1853 to report to the Italian government on the harbours at Genoa and Spezzia, and Pole personally explained his reports to Cavour. In the following year he went with Rendel to Hamburg to attend the international conference on methods for improving the navigation of the Elbe, and in 1855 again with Rendel he surveyed the coast of the German Ocean on behalf of the Prussian government, with a view to selecting the best harbour. In October of the same year M. de Lesseps consulted him on the proposed Suez canal, but Pole's chief work under Rendel was in connection with railways, and during these years he took out several patents for improved methods of railway construction, e. g. a patent for railway wheels, 11 Jan. 1856, and one for fish-joints of railways, 10 Nov. 1860 (Index of Patentees, 1850-60).

After Rendel's death Pole was appointed in January 1857 assistant to Sir John Fowler [q. v. Suppl.], whom he accompanied to Algeria to survey for the proposed French railways in that colony. In 1858 he became a consulting engineer on his own account at 3 Storey's Gate, Westminster, and from that time until his death he was constantly employed on government work. In 1861 he was a member of Sir John Dalrymple Hay's committee appointed to investigate the application of iron armour to war ships and land fortifications ; he took a large part in drawing up the committee's report issued in five volumes, and in 1876 wrote a reply to hostile criticisms which was issued as a parliamentary paper. In 1865 he was secretary of the royal commission appointed to investigate the principles of railway legislation in Great Britain and Ireland, and in 1867 he was secretary to the royal commission on the London water supply; its report, issued in 1869, was mainly Pole's work. From 1870 until his death he was one of the metropolitan gas referees, and in June 1882 he was placed on the royal commission to inquire into the condition of the Thames and disposal of sewage. In 1884-5 he was secretary of the departmental committee on the South Kensington Museum. In 1871 he was appointed consulting railway engineer in England to the Japanese government, and in 1883 received the Japanese order of the Rising Sun. In 1880 he was assisted in the government inquiry into the Tay Bridge disaster, and he was frequently consulted by large provincial municipalities such as Manchester, Liverpool, and Birmingham, on questions connected with their water supply.

In addition to his practical work Pole was for many years actively employed as a lecturer and writer on engineering and other scientific topics. From 1859 to 1867 he was professor of civil engineering at University College, Gower Street, in 1865 he delivered six lectures before the royal school of naval architecture and marine engineering, and he occasionally gave lectures to the royal engineer students at Chatham. He contributed numerous papers to the 'Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers,' many of which were also issued separately. For a paper on the mountain railway up the Rigi he was awarded a Telford premium in 1873. He contributed several chapters to Jeaffreson's 'Life of Robert Stephenson' (1864), one to the 'Life of I. K. Brunei' (1870), completed Sir William Fairbairn's 'Life' (1877), and wrote a 'Life of Sir W. Siemens' (1888). He also wrote on 'Colour Blindness' in the 'Philosophical Transactions' for 1859, and as early as 1844 had published a translation of Gessert's ' Art of Painting on Glass.' He was much interested in photography and in astronomy. He accompanied the astronomical expedition to Spain in July 1860, and published an account of it in 'Macmillan's Magazine' for that year.

But the subjects in which Pole became almost as eminent as in engineering were music and whist. When only seventeen years of age he had been appointed organist to a Wesleyan chapel at Birmingham; this he soon exchanged for the post of organist at a congregational chapel in the same town, and on his removal to London he was in December 1836 elected organist of St. Mark's, North Audley Street, London. He graduated Mus. Bac. at Oxford on 13 June I860, and Mus. Doc. on 17 Dec. 1867. In 1875 his report on the music at the Crystal Palace determined the directors to continue the concerts, and from 1878 to 1891 he was examiner for musical degrees in London University. In 1877 he gave a course of lectures at the Royal Institution on the theory of music, afterwards published as 'The Philosophy of Music' (1877; 2nd edit. 1887; 4th edit. 1895). In 1879 he published 'The Story of Mozart's Requiem,' and in 1881 he declined the offer of the professorship of acoustics at the Royal Academy of Music. In 1889 he was elected a vice-president of the Royal College of Organists. He contributed several articles to Grove's 'Dictionary of Music,' and published in 1872 a setting of 'Three Songs' (London, fol.), and in 1879 'The Hundredth Psalm; motett for eight voices.'

As an exponent of whist Pole ranks with 'Cavendish' [see Jones, Henry, Suppl.] and James Clay [q. v.] He was a constant habitue of the card-room at the Athenæum, but his play is said not to have been so successful as his books on the game. His first contribution to whist literature was his 'Essay on the Theory of the Modern Scientific Game,' issued as an appendix to the sixteenth edition of 'Short Whist ... by Major A.' (1865). In this form it passed through two editions; it was separately published in 1870, and since then has gone through more than twenty editions. In 1883 he brought out his 'Philosophy of Whist' (6th edit. 1892); he also contributed the article on whist toBohn's 'Handbook of Games'(1889), compiled some rhymed rules for whist players, which had a large circulation, and was a frequent contributor on the subject to periodical literature.

This variety of attainments brought Pole many honours; he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society on 6 June 1861, was placed on its council in 1863, and served as vice-president in 1875 and 1888. In 1864 he was elected a member of the Athenæum under rule two, and in 1877 he became a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. In 1888 he represented both the Royal Society and the university of London at the eighth centenary of Bologna University. He died at his residence, 9 Stanhope Place, on 30 Dec. 1900. His wife Matilda, youngest daughter of Henry Gauntlett , rector of Olney, and sister of Pole's friend, John Henry Gauntlett [q. v.], predeceased him in October 1900, leaving issue several sons and daughters. A portrait, reproduced from a lithograph published in 1877, is prefixed to Pole's privately printed autobiographical 'Notes (1898).

[Pole's privately printed Notes from his Life and Work, 1898 (with a list of his writings). Proc. Inst. Civil Engineers, 1901, i. 301-9; General Index to Proc. Inst. Civil Engineers Royal Society's Cat. Scientific Papers; Brit. Museum Cat.; Lists of the Royal Soc.; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1715-1886; List of Members of the Athenæum Club; Times, 31 Dec. 1900 and 3 Jan. 1901; Men of the Time, edit. 1895; Who's Who, 1901; Grove's Diet, of Music and Musiians; Baker's Dict. of Musicians, 1900; W. P. Courtney's English Whist, 1894.]

A. F. P.