S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Swinburne, Mr Umfreville Percey (mining engineering, geology)

Born: 1868, Surrey, England.
Died: 1931, Johannesburg, South Africa.

U.P. Swinburne, son of Sir John Swinburne, was a British mining engineer. He was educated in Edinburgh and at the Royal School of Mines, London, and served an engineering apprenticeship in Cornwall and Wales. In 1886 he went to the territory that is now Zimbabwe where he practiced as a mining engineer, but towards the end of 1888 he was appointed general manager of the newly established Tati Concession Mining and Exploration Company. In 1892 he came to the South African Republic (Transvaal), but during 1897-1899 worked as a mining engineer in Western Australia. He served in the Matabele War (1893-1894) and Matabele Rebellion (1896) in Zimbabwe, and during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) was a special justice of the peace in the Tati district and district commandant of the British South African Police.

After the war, in November 1902, Swinburne was appointed inspector of mines in the Transvaal Colony and the next year as government mining engineer. He was a member of the Transvaal Board of Examiners for both the Mine Manager's Certificate and the Mechanical Engineer's Certificate; also chairman of Transvaal government commissions on "the use of winding ropes, safety catches and appliances in mine shafts" (1907), "mining by single outlet" (1907), and "the granting of mineral rights to discoverers on crown lands" (1903-1907). After the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910 he was appointed inspector of mines in Natal (1911), then in the Orange Free State and Cape Province (1912), and then as chief inspector of mines for the Union of South Africa (July 1912). While holding this position he acted as chairman of the miners' phthysis prevention commission and chairman of the commission to enquire into the prevention of colliery explosions in Natal. He became government mining engineer for the Union in June 1917. In 1905 he married Arnoldine G. Marten.

Swinburne was a Fellow of the Geological Society of London, an associate member of the (British) Institution of Mining and Metallurgy, and a member of the (British) Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers. His publications included articles on "Government prospecting for tin in the Transvaal", in the New Zealand Mining Record (1908), and "Government report on Potgietersrust tinfields", in the South African Mining Journal (1911); a chapter on the economic aspects of the Waterberg tinfields in a memoir by H. Kynaston* and E.T. Mellor* on The geology of the Waterberg tin fields (1909); and two articles in the Official Year Book of the Union of South Africa (1918) on "Discovery of minerals and development of mineral wealth in South Africa" and "Gold".

During World War I (1914-1918) Swinburne saw active service in France as a major in the 10th battaljon of the Seaforth Highlanders, and was wounded. He retired towards the end of 1917 and settled in Johannesburg, but ten years later accepted a temporary appointment as acting state mining engineer.

List of sources:
Hall, A.L. Bibliography of South African geology to the end of 1920. Pretoria: Geological Survey, Memoir No. 18, 1922.

National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS). . Documents relating to Swinburne, Umfreville Percy / Swinburne, U.P.

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

South African who's who, 1908, 1917/8, 1919/20, 1923/4, 1927/8.

Transvaal [Colony]. Civil service list, 1906.

Union of South Africa. Official Year Book... (articles by Swinburne, pp. 428-434 and 435-441). Pretoria: Government Printer, 1918.

Union of South Africa. Public service list, 1914.

Compiled by: C. Plug