Greathead, James Henry

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b. 6 August 1844 Grahamstown, Cape Colony (now South Africa)
d. 21 October 1896 Streatham, London, England
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British civil engineer, inventor of the Greathead tunnelling shield.
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Greathead came to England in 1859 to complete his education. In 1864 he began a three-year pupillage with the civil engineer Peter W. Barlow, after which he was engaged as an assistant engineer on the extension of the Midland Railway from Bedford to London. In 1869 he was entrusted with the construction of the Tower Subway under the River Thames; this was carried out using a cylindrical wrought-iron shield which was forced forward by six large screws as material was excavated in front of it. This work was completed the same year. In 1870 he set himself up as a consulting engineer, and from 1873 he was Resident Engineer on the Hammersmith and Richmond extensions of the Metropolitan District Railway. He assisted in the preparation of several other railway projects including the Regent's Canal Railway in 1880, the Dagenham Dock and the Metropolitan Outer Circle Railways in 1881, a new line from London to Eastbourne and a number of Irish light railways. He worked on a bill for the City and South London Railway, which was built between 1886 and 1890; here compressed air was used to prevent the inrush of water, a method for tunnelling which was generally adopted from then on. He invented apparatus for the application of water to excavate in front of the shield as well as for injecting cement-grout behind the lining of the tunnel.
He was joint engineer with Sir Douglas Fox for the construction of the Liverpool Overhead Railway, and held the same post with W.R.Galbraith on the Waterloo and City Railway; he was also associated with Sir John Fowler and Sir Benjamin Baker in the construction of the Central London Railway. He died, aged 52, before the completion of some of these projects.
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Further Reading
Obituary, 1896, Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
O.Green, 1987, The London Underground: An Illustrated History', London: Ian Allan (in association with the London Transport Museum).
P.P.Holman, 1990, The Amazing Electric Tube: A History of the City and South London
Railway, London: London Transport Museum.
IMcN

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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