Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 48.djvu/25

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
Rennie
Rennie
19
  1. Rev. J. G. Wood, 1869.

  2. ‘The Hand-book of Allotment Agriculture,’ 16mo, London, 1834.
  3. ‘Alphabet of Natural Theology,’ 8vo, London, 1834.
  4. ‘Alphabet of Medical Botany,’ 8vo, London, 1834.
  5. ‘The Hand-book of Gardening,’ 12mo, London, 1834.
  6. ‘The Faculties of Birds,’ 12mo, London, 1835.
  7. ‘The Menageries: the Natural History of Monkeys,’ &c. [anon.], 12mo, London, 1838.
  8. ‘Bird Miscellanies,’ 12mo, London, 1847.
  9. ‘Familiar Introduction to Botany,’ 16mo, London, 1849.

He also edited:

  1. ‘Montague's Ornithological Dictionary of British Birds … 2nd edit., with original observations by J. Rennie,’ 8vo, London, 1831.
  2. ‘The Magazine of Botany and Gardening,’ 2 vols. 4to, London, 1833–4.
  3. ‘The Field Naturalist,’ 2 vols. 8vo, London (1833–) 1835.
  4. ‘Walton's Compleat Angler,’ 1836.

[Information kindly supplied by the Rev. M. C. Begg, Mauchline, N.B.; W. J. Addison, of Glasgow University, and J. W. Cunningham, King's College, London; Sydney Morning Herald, 7 Sept. 1867; Athenæum, 30 Nov. 1867, p. 728; Brit. Mus. Cat. and Royal Soc. Cat.]

B. B. W.

RENNIE, JOHN (1761–1821), civil engineer, youngest son of James Rennie, farmer, was born at Phantassie, Haddingtonshire, on 7 June 1761. George Rennie (1749–1828) [q. v.] was an elder brother. John showed a taste for mechanics at a very early age, and was allowed to spend much time in the workshop of Andrew Meikle, millwright, the inventor of the threshing machine, who lived at Houston Mill on the Phantassie estate [see Meikle, Andrew]. After receiving a rudimentary education at the parish school of Prestonkirk, he was sent to the burgh school at Dunbar, and in November 1780 he matriculated at Edinburgh University, where he remained until 1783. He seems to have employed his vacations in working as a millwright, and so to have established a business on his own account. At this early date the originality of his mind was exhibited by the introduction of cast-iron pinions instead of wooden trundles. In 1784 he took a journey south for the purpose of enlarging his knowledge, visiting James Watt at Soho, Staffordshire. Watt offered him an engagement, which he accepted, and after a short stay at Soho he left for London in 1784 to take charge of the works at the Albion Flour Mills, Blackfriars, for which Boulton & Watt were building a steam-engine. The machinery was all designed by Rennie, and was the most perfect of its kind, a distinguishing feature being the use of iron instead of wood for the shafting and framing. About 1791 he started in business as a mechanical engineer on his own account in Holland Street, Blackfriars, whence he and his successors long conducted engineering operations of vast importance.

On settling in London Rennie began to pay attention to the construction of canals. He carried out the works in connection with the Kennet and Avon Canal, which was his first civil-engineering undertaking in England. This was followed by the Rochdale Canal, which passes through a difficult country between Rochdale and Todmorden. He subsequently constructed the Lancaster Canal, and in 1802 he revised the plans for the Royal Canal of Ireland from Dublin to the Shannon near Longford. For many years he was engaged in extensive drainage operations in the Lincolnshire fens, and in the improvement of the River Witham. The Eau Brink Cut—a new channel for the river Ouse—was on the point of completion at the time of his death.

Among the docks and harbours constructed or improved by Rennie may be mentioned the London docks, East and West India docks, Holyhead harbour, Hull docks, Ramsgate harbour, and the dockyards at Sheerness and Chatham. He devoted much time to the preparation of plans for a government dockyard at Northfleet, but they were not carried out.

Rennie also attained a deserved reputation as a builder of bridges. In the earlier part of his career he built bridges at Kelso and at Musselburgh, the latter presenting a remarkable innovation in the flatness of the roadway. Most of the bridges of any length previously constructed had a considerable rise in the centre. His later efforts show that he was a skilful architect, with a keen sense of beauty of design. Waterloo Bridge, a copy of Kelso Bridge (1810–17), London Bridge, built from his design, though not completed until 1831 after his death, and Southwark Bridge (1815–19) best attest his skill.

The Bell Rock lighthouse, near the entrance to the Friths of Forth and Tay, was built during 1807 and 1810. Rennie is usually credited with the design and execution, but there seems little doubt that he was only nominally responsible for the great undertaking. Robert Stevenson [q. v.], surveyor to the commissioners of northern lights, drew the original plans, and at his suggestion the commissioners called Rennie into counsel when the works were begun, bestowing on him the honorary title of chief engineer. Stevenson did not accept the modifications proposed by Rennie, but the two men remained on friendly terms. Rennie visited the lighthouse while it was building. Ac-