Rennie, George (1791-1866) (DNB00)

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RENNIE, GEORGE (1791–1866), civil engineer, eldest son of John Rennie [q. v.], and brother of Sir John Rennie [q. v.], was born in the parish of Christchurch, Blackfriars Road, London, on 3 Dec. 1791. He was educated by Dr. Greenlaw at Isleworth, and was subsequently sent to St. Paul's School and to the university of Edinburgh. In 1811 he entered his father's office, where many great works were in progress. In 1818, on the recommendation of Sir Joseph Banks and James Watt, he was appointed inspector of machinery and clerk of the irons (i.e. dies) at the royal mint, which post he held for nearly eight years. On the death of his father in 1821 he entered into partnership with his younger brother John [see Rennie, Sir John], and for many years they were engaged in completing the vast undertakings originated by the elder Rennie. About 1826 he was entrusted with the construction of the Grosvenor Bridge over the Dee at Chester, from the designs of Harrison. He had considerable practice as a railway engineer, and made plans for lines to connect Birmingham and Liverpool, the Vale of Clwyd line, the railway from Mons to Manège, and the Namur and Liège railway, of which he was appointed chief engineer in 1846.

But Rennie's genius was chiefly mechanical, and he superintended the manufacturing business of the firm in Holland Street, where a great variety of machinery was turned out, including the first biscuit-making machinery, corn and chocolate mills for Deptford victualling yard, and the machinery at the Royal William Victualling Yard, Plymouth. Many orders for foreign governments were executed, and the firm were employed by the admiralty in making engines for the royal navy. He was much interested in the screw-propeller, and his firm built the engines for the Archimedes, in which Sir Francis Pettit Smith's screw was tried. Subsequently, in 1840, the firm built for the admiralty the Dwarf, the first vessel in the British navy propelled by a screw.

In 1822 he was elected fellow of the Royal Society, and contributed papers to the ‘Transactions’ in 1829 on the friction of metals and other substances. He also presented papers to the British Association and to the Institution of Civil Engineers, of which body he was elected a member in 1841. A list of his papers is given in the obituary notice in the ‘Proceedings.’

He died on 30 March 1866, at his house, 39 Wilton Crescent, from the effects of an accident in the street in the previous year, and was buried on 6 April at Holmwood, near Dorking. He married, in 1828, Margaret Anne, daughter of Sir John Jackson, bart., M.P., who survived him; by her he left issue two sons and one daughter.

[Obituary notice in Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, xxviii. 610; Gent. Mag. 1866, i. 749–50.]

R. B. P.