Last edited 16 Dec 2020

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The Institution of Civil Engineers Institute / association Website

Captain William Francis Dawson military engineer

This article is part of ICE's Engineer biographies series.

DAWSON, William Francis, Captain (d 1829), military engineer, was born in Newmarket, the son of Francis Dawson.

A Royal Engineer, he arrived in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in 1819 as 'Second Captain' RE, and acted as private secretary to Sir Edward Barnes (1776-1832), the Lieutenant General.

Dawson was the engineer responsible for the construction of several of the military roads built in Ceylon in the 1820s and that over the Kadugannawa Pass presented such great difficulty that in 1832 a posthumous memorial was erected to his memory at the summit.

He died at Kandy on 28 March 1829 having contracted dysentery while surveying the Paumben and Mannaw Channels and was buried at St. Peters, Colombo.


  • 1822. Road over Kadugannawa Pass, Kandy District, Sri Lanka
  • 1822. Road from Kospetta-oya over the Galagedera Pass, Sri Lanka


This text is an extract from A Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers in Great Britain and Ireland, published by ICE in 2002. Beginning with what little is known of the lives of engineers such as John Trew who practised in the Tudor period, the background, training and achievements of engineers over the following 250 years are described by specialist authors, many of whom have spent a lifetime researching the history of civil engineering.

--The Institution of Civil Engineers

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