The New International Encyclopædia/Rennie, John

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RENNIE, John (1761-1821). A British civil engineer. He was born at Phantassie, in Haddingtonshire, and obtained his preliminary education at the Parish school of Prestonkirk, and supplemented it by two years at Dunbar, where he studied pure mathematics. After serving as a workman he studied at Edinburgh, and in 1780 secured employment at the works of Boulton & Watt at Soho, near Birmingham. Here his mechanical genius soon displayed itself; and so highly did Watt esteem Rennie that he gave him, in 1789, the sole direction of the construction and fitting up of the machinery of the Albion Mills, London; and the ingenious improvements effected in the wheel-work, shafting, and frames were so striking that Rennie at once rose into general notice as an engineer of great promise. To this mill engineering he added, about 1799, the construction of bridges; and in this branch also his talent and ingenuity were manifest. The elegance and solidity of his constructions, the chief examples of which were at Kelso, Leeds, Musselburg, Newton-Stewart, Boston, and New Galloway, were universally admired; Rennie's greatest work of this kind was the Waterloo Bridge over the Thames. Another of his works was the Southwark Bridge, which was built on a new principle, with cast-iron arches resting on stone piers. He also drew up the plan for the London Bridge, which, however, was not commenced until after his death. He superintended the execution of the Grand Western Canal in Somerset, the Polbrook Canal in Cornwall, the canal joining the Don and Dee in Aberdeen, that between Arundel and Portsmouth, and, chief of all, the Kennet and Avon Canal between Newbury and Bath. The London Docks, the East and West India docks (see Dock) at Blackwall with their freight sheds, the Hull Docks, the Prince's Docks at Liverpool, and those of Dublin, Greenock, and Leith, were all designed and wholly or partially executed under his superintendence. He also planned many improvements of harbors and on the dock yards of Portsmouth, Chatham, Sheerness, and Plymouth, executing at the last-mentioned port the most remarkable of all his naval works, the celebrated breakwater. (See Breakwater.) Rennie died October 16, 1821, and was buried in Saint Paul's Cathedral, London. Consult Smiles, Lives of the Engineers (London, 1861-62; rev. ed. 1874).