S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Strange, Mr William Lumisden (civil engineering)

Born: 22 April 1856, Cheltenham, England.
Died: 7 February 1929, Worthing, West Sussex, United Kingdom.
Mr William Lumisden Strange

William L. Strange, civil engineer, was the son of Thomas L. Strange, a judge of the Madras High Court. He was educated at the London International College; the Dollar Academy in Clackmannan, Scotland; King's College, London; and the Royal Indian Engineering College at Cooper's Hill, near London. He became a member of the (British) Institution of Civil Engineers and in 1898 was awarded the institute's Telford Premium. On 3 December 1881 he married Rose Fanny Cobbold, with whom he had three children.

Strange was appointed as an assistant engineer in the Indian Public Works Department in 1879 and posted to Bombay (now Mumbai). He rose to executive engineer, first grade, in 1898 and in 1901 became an under secretary to the Indian government in its Public Works Department. Among the projects on which he was engaged were the Nira Canal (south-east of Mumbai), the Hubli Waterworks (now Hubli-Dharwar, in south-western India), and the irrigation works at Nasik (north-east of Mumbai) and Ahmednagar (east of Mumbai).

In April 1903 the Indian Public Works Department lent him to the government of the Transvaal Colony to start an irrigation department. He arrived in the Transvaal on 28 May that year and became the local irrigation expert. As director of irrigation and water supply of the Transvaal he published "Notes on the construction of small reservoirs for irrigation and for stock" in the Transvaal Agricultural Journal (1904, Vol. 2(8), pp. 485-505). This paper was published also as Bulletin No. 1 of the Transvaal Department of Irrigation and Water Supply. However, his most important publication on his South African work was Bulletin No. 2, "The design and construction of small irrigation canals" (1905, 75p). By 1906 he was a member of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science and at the association's meeting in Kimberley that year read a paper on "Irrigation and inter-colonial cooperation". It was published in the association's Report for 1905/6, and also in the Transvaal Agricultural Journal (1906, Vol. 5, pp. 1-).

Strange returned to India around 1912, after the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910. At some time he also served on Ceylon. He was an unassuming and approachable person who published several works related to irrigation and water supply, among them Reservoirs with high earthen dams in West India (1898); Indian storage reservoirs with earthen dams (1904, 1913, 1928); and Principles of irrigation, roads and buildings, and of the water supply of towns (2nd ed., 1927). He read a paper on "Earthen dams" at the Engineering Congress in San Francisco in 1915.

List of sources:
Anglo-African who's who and biographical sketch book. London: Upcott, 1910.

Heese, J.A. South African genealogies. Pretoria: HSRC, 1986-.

Men of the times: Pioneers of the Transvaal and glimpses of South Africa. Johannesburg: Transvaal Publishing Company, 1905.

National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS). . Documents relating to Strange, W.L.

National Union Catalogue, pre-1956 imprints. London: Mansell, 1968-1980.

South African Association for the Advancement of Science. Report, 1905/6.

South African who's who, 1908, 1909.

Transvaal [Colony]. Civil service list, 1906.

Transvaal Agricultural Journal, 1904-1906, Vol. 2 and 5: Papers by Strange.

Turner, Jim. Personal communication, 2016-5-31.

Compiled by: C. Plug