Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720 - 1940

Hydraulic engineer and Professor of Civil Engineering at Queen's College, Belfast, 1857-1872. James Thomson was the son of another James Thomson, a teacher of mathematics at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution, who was appointed Professor of Mathematics at Glasgow University in 1832. The younger James studed at Glasgow University from the age of twelve and obtained an MA with honours in mathematics and natural philosophy in 1840 when he was eighteen. After attending classes in civil engineering at Glasgow University for a year and spending a further year in the office of John R. McClean, he served a pupilage with the Horseley Ironworks in Staffordshire and WILLIAM FAIRBAIRN & SON  WILLIAM FAIRBAIRN & SON in Manchester. In 1851 he returned to Belfast to set up a civil engineering practice. He became engineer to the Lagan Navigation and to the Belfast Water Commissioners. He also played an active part in the intellectual life of the city, lecturing on a wide range of subjects to various local societies. In 1857 he was appointed the first full-time Professor of Civil Engineering at Queen's College. He held the post until 1872 when he when he was appointed to the chair of Civil Engineering at Glasgow University. He died in 1892 at the age of seventy.

ICEI: elected member, 1868;(1) no longer on list of members for 1885-86.

Address: 17 University Square, Belfast, 1870.(2)


All information in this entry not otherwise attributed is from the the account of Thomson in Michael H. GouldCivil Engineering at Queen’s, Belfast: the first 150 years. 1849-1999 (Queen’s University, Belfast, 1999), 6-13, which see for further details. There is also an entry on Thomson in the DNB.

(1) ICEI admissions applications, I, 95.
(2) IB 12, 15 Aug 1870, 197.