Captain William Newsam McClean

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Captain William Newsam McClean

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The collection was created by Captain William Newsam McClean, a freelance hydrologist. Born in 1874 he was educated at Rugby and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he obtained a first in Mechanical Sciences in 1895. In 1908 he became Director and Chairman of the Cannock Chase Colliery Company and was also in charge of subsidiary railway and electric companies as well as privately providing an engineering consultancy. During the First World War he served time with the Royal Engineers, the Australian Corps and the 9th Corps, retiring with the rank of Captain. He returned to the Cannock Chase Colliery Company as Chairman and Managing Director; however, of particular significance was his role from 1919 as a director of the River Flow Records organisation. McClean was especially interested in the theoretical and practical aspects of hydrology and this aspect of his life grew in importance as time went on. Even as early as 1912 he was one of the first people in Britain to measure river flow using a current-meter instrument, and in 1913 had initiated the first systematic approach to river gauging on the River Garry at Invergarry. Because of his commercial activities he had become quite affluent and thus was able to spend a large percentage of his own fortune gathering scientific data on river flows. One of his aims in later life was to convince the government that the heavy rainfall in Scotland meant that harnessing and exploiting Scotland's water power was a viable possibility. In 1929 he began to measure river flow on the River Dee, installing a gauge at Cairnton, and later installed gauges on the River Spey. Indeed, his pioneering work in developing a database of river flow measurements later proved of great value in the planning and development of hydro-electric schemes for the rivers Garry, Moriston, Foyers and Spey. He died in 1968.


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