- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 04 Jul 2016
James Davidson civil engineer
This article is part of ICE's Engineer biographies series.
DAVIDSON, James (1798-1877), civil engineer, was born in 1798, the youngest of three sons of Matthew Davidson (q.v.), master mason of Langholm. Matthew Davidson's three sons were all born in Wales and were welcomed as apprentices of Telford in London, but in the end Thomas and John gave up engineering and became surgeons.
James, however, was already sufficiently experienced and well thought of by Telford to be appointed to succeed his father on his death in 1819. He was elected a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1820.
He described the works carried out at Clacknaharry under his father's superintendence, where the ground for the lock was preloaded, a notable case study in the early development of practical soil mechanics. The Caledonian Canal was opened to shipping in October 1822, but for many years afterwards it was necessary to carry out major repairs and improvements.
James succeeded Alexander Easton (q.v.) in 1823 as resident engineer for the whole canal, at a salary of £300 p.a., but in 1829 he was advised for the sake of his health to seek a warmer climate, and he remitted his responsibilities to George May, the toll collector at Clacknaharry; when it became clear that he would be unable to return for some time, May became resident engineer.
George May died in August 1867 and was succeeded by James Davidson once more. He had returned to live with his wife, Eliza Green, at Burnfoot, near Inverness. After his death at Inverness on 30 September 1877 his estate was recorded as £990.
- 1819-1823. Caledonian Canal, eastern section Resident Engineer
- 1823-1829- Caledonian Canal, Resident Engineer 1867-1877. Caledonian Canal, Resident Engineer
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.
Featured articles and news
A survey of Leicester’s historic buildings resulted in local listing being taken more seriously.
Demolition is the most high risk activity in the construction sector. Read our introductory article here.
BSRIA report on the domestic boiler market, with China recording the most 'dynamic market uptake'.
Do we really know everything important about the impacts of our infrastructure projects? And if we don’t, does it matter?
Former Chief executive Richard Howson blames government for being 'poor payers'.
An environmental plan is an essential tool for setting and managing environmental objectives for a project.
CLC call for an 'outcome-based, transparent and efficient' industry with new report.
The first NIC assessment suggests there is a golden opportunity to provide low-carbon energy.
It's featured prominently as the backdrop to the World Cup coverage - read about the most iconic building in Russia.
Report highlights growing need for soft skills and digital skills among civil engineers.