Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Perring, John Shae
PERRING, JOHN SHAE (1813–1869), civil engineer and explorer, was born at Boston in Lincolnshire on 24 Jan. 1813. He was educated at Donington grammar school, and then articled, on 28 March 1826, to Robert Reynolds, the surveyor of the port of Boston, under whom he was engaged in surveying, in the enclosure and drainage of the Fens, in the improvements of Boston Harbour and of Wainfleet Haven, and the outfall of the East Fen, in the drainage of the Burgh and Croft marshes, and other works. In 1833 he proceeded to London, and was there employed in engineering establishments. In March 1836 he went to Egypt, under contract with Galloway Brothers of London, as assistant engineer to Galloway Bey, then manager of public works for Mahomed Ali, viceroy of Egypt. One of the first undertakings on which Perring was engaged was the construction of a tramway from the quarries near Mex to the sea. After the death of Galloway he became a member of the board of public works, was consulted as to the embankment of the Nile, advocated the establishment of stations in the Desert between Cairo and Suez to facilitate the overland transit, and was employed to make a road with the object of carrying out this scheme.
From January to August 1837 he was busy helping Colonel Howard Vyse and others in making a survey of the pyramids at Gizeh, and in the execution of plans, drawings, and maps of these monuments. He had already published ‘On the Engineering of the Ancient Egyptians,’ London, 1835, six numbers. The years 1838 and 1839 he spent in exploring and surveying the pyramids at Abou Roash, and those to the southward, including Fayoom. His services to Egyptian history are described in ‘The Pyramids of Gizeh, from actual survey and admeasurement, by J. E. [sic] Perring, Esq., Civil Engineer. Illustrated by Notes and References to the several Plans, with Sketches taken on the spot by E. J. Andrews, Esq., London, 1839, oblong folio. Part i.: The Great Pyramid, with a map and sixteen plates; part ii.: The Second and Third Pyramids, the smaller to the southward of the Third, and the three to the eastward of the Great Pyramid, with nineteen plates; part iii.: The Pyramids to the southward of Gizeh and at Abou Roash, also Campbell's Tomb and a section of the rock at Gizeh, with map of the Pyramids of Middle Egypt and twenty-one plates.’ Perring's labours are also noticed in Colonel R. W. H. H. Vyse's ‘Operations carried on at the Pyramids of Gizeh in 1837, with account of a Voyage into Upper Egypt, and an Appendix containing a Survey by J. S. Perring of the Pyramids of Abou Roash,’ 3 vols. 4to, 1840–2 (i. 143 et seq., ii. 1 et seq., iii. 1 et seq.), with a portrait of Perring in an eastern costume. Perring, before leaving Egypt, made a trigonometrical survey of the fifty-three miles of country near the pyramids. The value of these researches, all made at the cost of Colonel Vyse, are fully acknowledged in C. C. J. Bunsen's ‘Egypt's Place in Universal History,’ 5 vols. 1854 (ii. 28–9, 635–45), where it is stated that they resulted in furnishing the names of six Egyptian kings till then unknown to historians.
Perring returned to England in June 1840, and on 1 March 1841 entered upon the duties of engineering superintendent of the Llanelly railway docks and harbour. In April 1844 he became connected with the Manchester, Bury, and Rossendale railway, which he helped to complete; and, after its amalgamation with other lines, was from 1846 till 1859 resident engineer of the East Lancashire railway. He was subsequently connected with the Railway, Steel, and Plant Company, was engineer of the Ribblesdale railway, and constructed the joint lines from Wigan to Blackburn. He was also engineer of the Oswaldtwistle and other waterworks. Finally, he was one of the engineers of the Manchester city railways. On 6 Dec. 1853 he was elected a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, and in 1856 a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. He died at 104 King Street, Manchester, on 16 Jan. 1869.[Minutes of Proceedings of Institution of Civil Engineers, 1870, xxx. 455–6; Proceedings of Institution of Mechanical Engineers, 1870, pp. 15–16.]