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Professor Robert William Chapman (1866-1942)
Papers 1908-1939

MSS 0069

Biographical Note

R. W. Chapman, 1922Robert William Chapman (born 27 December 1866 in Buckinghamshire, England) obtained his formal qualifications at the University of Melbourne (BA 1886, MA, BE 1888) and worked briefly in railway construction before being appointed assistant lecturer in mathematics and physics at the University of Adelaide in 1889.  In 1901 he was appointed lecturer in engineering and in 1907 became the first professor of Engineering.  From 1910-19 he was Professor of Mathematics and Mechanics, then again Professor of Engineering from 1920 until his retirement in 1937, when he was made Professor Emeritus.

Chapman was foundation member and president of the South Australian Institute of Engineers (1913), president of the South Australian Institute of Surveyors (1917-29) and foundation councillor and later president of the Institution of Engineers Australia.  He was also closely associated with the S.A. School of Mines (where he taught mathematics in his early years in Adelaide), serving as President of its Council from 1939-42.  He was awarded the Peter Nicol Russell medal by the Institution of Engineers in 1928 and the W.C. Kernot memorial medal of the University of Melbourne in 1931, and is himself commemorated by the Institution of Engineers'  R.W. Chapman medal and by a prize at the University of Adelaide.  His publications include The Elements of Astronomy for Surveyors (London, 1919) and Reinforced Concrete (Adelaide, 1924).
[Adapted from the Bright Sparcs biographical entry at Further information  on Chapman can be found in R.W. Home Physics in Australia to 1945 (Melbourne, 1990)]
These papers were received by the Library from the Civil Engineering Department with a collection of books and journals in 1996, and only transferred to Special Collections in January 2004. The illuminated address was transferred from the State Library of SA in January 2008.


Contents Listing

1. Timber test (synopses) 1908-9, 1917-20.  1 v. and enclosures

[Tabulated synopses of results of tests on Australian timbers conducted at the University of Adelaide; together with two papers by Chapman incorporating some of the results (‘The strength of South Australian timbers’, 1908 and ‘Physical properties of some South Australian-grown pines’, 1919) and a letter to Chapman from the University of Western Australia re the results, 29 July 1923]

2. Tests on concrete 1910-18.  8 p.

[Typescript summary from notebook ‘Record of tests made in the Engineering Testing Laboratory of the University of Adelaide.  Book 1. April 1910 to October 1918.’]

3.  Reprints of papers by Chapman 1921-39.  5 items.

[‘Engineering and the University’, 1921; ‘A great engineer of a hundred years ago’ (undated); ‘The past work of the Royal Society outside the domain of natural science’ (undated), ‘Growth of the use of the scientific method in structural design’, 1938; ‘The effect of the addition of finely ground inert material to concrete’, 1939]

4.  Paper by City Engineer J. R. Richardson on the River Torrens, delivered to the S.A. Engineering Society 19 September 1919, with covering letter of 1 December 1919.  25 p.

5. Illuminated address presented to Sir Robert William Chapman by his peers and students ‘in recognition of the fiftieth year of your invaluable services on the teaching staff of the University of Adelaide, first as lecturer and for thirty years as Professor; in appreciation of the richly merited honour of Knighthood recently conferred …’ 7 August 1937. The address was presented along with Chapman’s portrait painted by Ivor Hele and University prizes bearing Chapman’s name. 3 hand-scripted and coloured pages with 12 leaves of signatures, bound in tan morocco with gilt tooling and silk endpapers.


Rare Books & Special Collections

The University of Adelaide
Rare Books & Special Collections
Level 1, Barr Smith Library
South Australia 5005


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