Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Foster, Clement Le Neve

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FOSTER, Sir CLEMENT LE NEVE (1841–1904), inspector of mines and professor of mining at the Royal School of Mines, was second son of Peter Le Neve Foster [q. v.], secretary to the Society of Arts from 1853 to 1879. His mother was Georgiana Elizabeth, daughter of the Rev. Clement Chevallier. Born at Camberwell on 23 March 1841, he was educated first at the collegiate school in Camberwell, and afterwards at the College Communal of Boulogne. In 1857 he graduated Bachelier ès Sciences of the empire of France. In the same year he entered the School of Mines in London, where he took many prizes and left a brilliant record. Thence he went to the mining school of Freiberg. In 1860 he was appointed on the geological survey of England, and for five years he was engaged in field work in Kent, Sussex, Derbyshire, and Yorkshire. His first scientific publication was a memoir prepared with William Topley on the valley of the Medway and the denudation of the weald, and was published in the 'Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society' (vol. xxi). In 1865 he graduated D.Sc. at the University of London, and in the same year he resigned his post on the geological survey and became lecturer to the Miners' Association of Cornwall and Devon and secretary to the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society. In 1868 he was employed by the Khedive of Egypt on an exploring expedition to examine the mineral resources of the Sinaitic peninsula. He also reported in the same year on a Venezuelan goldfield, and from 1869 to 1872 he was engineer to a gold-mining company in Northern Italy. In 1872 he was nominated Inspector of Mines under the new Metalliferous Mines Regulation Act, being appointed to Cornwall. Eight years later—in 1880—he was transferred to North Wales, where he retained for twenty-one years. In 1890, on the death of Sir Warington Smyth [q. v.], he became professor of mining at the Royal School of Mines, an office which he held concurrently with his inspectorship. He proved an excellent teacher. In 1897, as inspector of mines, he investigated the cause of an underground fire in the lead mine of Snaefell in the Isle of Man. The cage in which he had descended with an exploring party was jammed in the shaft, and the party was subjected to a process of slow poisoning by the carbon monoxide generated by the fire. All the contemporary accounts of this accident attest the courage with which, in the face of apparently certain death, Foster noted his own sensations for the benefit of science. Foster never recovered from the cardiac injury sustained during the process of gradual suffocation. For nearly a year he was incapacitated.

Besides his official work, Foster produced numerous reports, and advised on many questions connected with mining and mining legislation. He served on various departmental committees and royal commissions, including those for the Chicago and the St. Louis Exhibitions. He was a juror at the Inventions Exhibition in 1885, at Paris in 1867, 1878, 1889, and 1900, also at Chicago in 1893. He received the legion of honour for services at Paris in 1889; became F.R.S. in 1892, and was knighted in 1903. In 1901 he resigned the inspectorship, but the professorship he retained until his death, which took place on 19 April 1904, at Coleherne Court, Earl's Court. He was serving on the royal commission on coal supplies at the time.

Foster translated from the Dutch of P. Van Diest a work on Banca and its tin stream works, learning the Dutch language for the purpose (Truro, 1867), and in 1876, with Wiiliam Galloway, he published a translation from the French of Prof. Gallon's treatise on mining. His principal work was a textbook on 'Ore and Stone Mining' (1894; 7th edit, revised by Prof. S. Herbert Cox, 1910), and he wrote the article on Mining in the 9th edition of the 'Encyclopædia Britannica.' He was also author of a textbook on 'Mining and Quarrying' (1903) and of numerous memoirs and papers in the 'Proceedings' of the Geological and other scientific societies and in various scientific periodicals. From 1894 he edited the mineral statistics issued by the home office, and the annual reports on mines and quarries. While he achieved considerable reputation as a geologist and metallurgist, it was as a miner and a mining expert that he was really eminent. Though at the beginning of his inspectorship his energy in imposing novel restrictions and in insisting on the reform and improvement of existing methods was little appreciated by the mining community, he ultimately won in both his districts the esteem alike of miners and mine-owners.

He married in 1872 his cousin, Sophia Chevallier, second daughter of Arthur F. Tompson of Belton, Suffolk, and had one son and two daughters. His widow received a civil list pension of 100l. in Aug. 1904.

[Proc. Roy. Soc. lxxv. 371 (by Prof. Judd); Nature, 28 April 1904 (by Hilary Bauerman); Journal of Soc. of Arts, 29 April 1904 (by the present writer); Trans. American Soc. of Mining Engineers, vol. 35 (1904), p. 662; Engineer, 22 April 1904.]

H. T. W.