Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Simms, Frederic Walter

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SIMMS, FREDERIC WALTER (1803–1865), writer on engineering, son of William Simms, manufacturer of scientific instruments, was born on 24 Dec. 1803 in the parish of St. Anne, Blackfriars, London. Articled to a surveyor, he obtained a place on the Irish ordnance survey, and was soon promoted to be head of the computing department. After some years in Ireland he was appointed assistant astronomer at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. He next became assistant to Henry Robinson Palmer on the South-Eastern railway and other works. Afterwards he visited Paris as an engineer of the Asphalte Company, to study the French method of working the preparation. His next employment was under Sir William Cubitt, then engaged in laying the present South-Eastern railway line. In 1842 he received the Telford medal from the Institution of Civil Engineers for some communications on the science of tunnelling. After several other engagements in England and France, he was sent to India in 1845 as consulting engineer to report to the home government on the advisability of constructing railways in that country. His health was unable to endure the strain of arduous work in the Indian climate. He was also chagrined to find himself overruled as to the course of the East Indian line, and at the end of his five years' engagement he declined reappointment. He received the thanks of the East Indian government for his ‘energy and promptitude,’ and on his return to England was appointed consulting engineer to the London, Chatham, and Dover railway. He found his constitution, however, unequal to the cares of his post, and retired from professional employment. He died on 27 Feb. 1865.

Simms was elected a graduate of the Institution of Civil Engineers on 13 Feb. 1838, and became a member on 23 Feb. 1841. He was likewise a fellow of the Royal Astronomical and Geological societies.

He was the author of: 1. ‘A Treatise on the principal Mathematical Instruments employed in Surveying, Levelling, and Astronomy,’ London, 1834, 8vo; 8th ed. 1860. 2. ‘Sectio-Planography,’ London, 1837, 4to. 3. ‘A Treatise on the Principles and Practice of Levelling,’ London, 1837, 8vo; 6th ed. 1875, 8vo. 4. ‘Public Works of Great Britain,’ London, 1838, fol. 5. ‘Practical Observations on the Asphaltic Mastic,’ London, 1838, 8vo. 6. ‘Practical Engineering,’ London, 1844, fol. 7. ‘Practical Tunnelling,’ London, 1844, 4to; 4th ed. by D. K. Clark, 1896, 8vo. 8. ‘Report on Diamond Harbour Dock and Railway Company,’ Calcutta,’ 1847, 8vo. 9. ‘England to Calcutta by the Overland Route,’ London, 1878, 8vo. 10. With H. Law, ‘Examples for setting out Railway Curves,’ 1846, 8vo.

His elder brother, William Simms (1793–1860), maker of mathematical instruments, was born at Birmingham on 7 Dec. 1793. He was apprenticed to Bennett, a maker of mathematical instruments in London. After the expiry of his indentures he commenced business on his own account, and in 1826 entered into partnership with Edward Troughton [q. v.] in Fleet Street. He constructed instruments for several foreign observatories as well as for the royal observatory at Greenwich. In 1828 he became an associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers, a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1831, and a fellow of the Royal Society in 1852. He died at Carshalton, Surrey, on 21 June 1860. He was the author of ‘The Achromatic Telescope and its various Mountings,’ London, 1852, 8vo (Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, 1860–1, p. 167; Weale, London and its Vicinity, 1851, p. 683).

[Appendix to F. W. Simms's England to Calcutta (1878); Ward's Men of the Reign, p. 815; Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, 1865–6, p. 519.]

E. I. C.