S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science




Whittome, Mr Arthur Cyrus (mechanical engineering)

Born: October 1869, London, England.
Died: 26 May 1938, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Arthur C. Whittome, son of the British engineer J. Whittome, was educated privately and served an apprenticeship as a mechanical engineer with H.J. Coles of London. Later he continued practical work at Winchester and then studied various specialities in mechanical engineering for about a year, at the end of which he came to the South African Republic (Transvaal) and settled in Johannesburg. For the first year he was assistant engineer at the Van Ryn Gold Mining Company. Then he went prospecting for gold in the Murchison Range and in the neighbourhood of the Birthday Goldmine, north-east of Tzaneen.

Whittome was an early member of the Mechanical Engineers' Association of the Witwatersrand, established in May 1898, and delivered one of the first papers before its members, on "Machine shop tools". A later paper by him, "Superheated steam", was published in the association's Journal (1902, Vol. 1(5), pp. 75-84). He was elected a member of its council in June 1902, served as vice-president for 1903/4, and as president for 1904/5. In his inaugural address as president in July 1904 he optimistically predicted that the association would acquire a building of its own, including a laboratory equipped with testing appliances and a large technical library.

In 1903 he returned to England to manage a business on the Isle of Wight, which he sold three years later. However, he must have spent most of his time on the Witwatersrand, where he was associated with the firm Sheriff, Swingley & Co. and then, before 1905, with the Technical and Commercial Corporation as a consulting mechanical engineer. By that time he had also registered four patents. At the second annual congress of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science, held in Johannesburg in 1904, he delivered a paper on "Use of producer gas-driven engines on mining plants", which was published in the association's Report for that year (pp. 420-427). His paper traced the development of the gas engine from the invention of the first gunpowder engine in 1678, and dealt with the power required to drive a 100 stamp battery. He was a member of the association for a few years around this time.

In February 1905, during Whittome's presidency, the Mechanical Engineers' Association of the Witwatersrand was renamed the Transvaal Institute of Mechanical Engineers, of which he remained a particularly active member. He read two papers at its meetings, "The resident mechanical engineer of the Rand" (Journal of the Transvaal Institute of Mechanical Engineers, 1905/6, Vol. 4) and "Some notes on the production and use of compressed air" (Ibid, 1908/9, Vol. 7). During 1910-1911, partly through his efforts, this institute amalgamated with the South African Association of Engineers to form the South African Institution of Engineers.

Whittome was married to Eliza (known as "Maggie") Lawes. After her death in 1923 he married Alma R. King. He was survived by his second wife, a son and a daughter.


List of sources:
Journal of the Mechanical Engineers' Association of the Witwatersrand, 1902-1904, Vol. 1-2.

Journal of the Transvaal Institute of Mechanical Engineers, 1905-1910, Vol. 4-8.

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

National Archives Repository (TAB), Source MHG, Vol. 0, Ref. 1789/38: death notice, Arthur Cyrus Whittome.

National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS). . Documents relating to Whittome, Arthur Cyrus.

Orr, J. Presidential address. Associated Scientific and Technical Societies of South Africa, Annual Proceedings, 1938, pp. 15-86.

South African Association for the Advancement of Science. Report, 1904, 1905/6.


Compiled by: C. Plug


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