Thomas Keefer

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Thomas Coltrin Keefer
Thomas Keefer.jpg
Born (1821-11-04)4 November 1821
Thorold Township, Upper Canada
Died 7 January 1915(1915-01-07) (aged 93)
Rockcliffe (Rockcliffe Park), Ontario
Occupation engineer, author, and businessman
Title President of the Royal Society of Canada
Term 1898-1899
Predecessor Félix-Gabriel Marchand
Successor William Robinson Clark
Children Charles Keefer
Relatives George Keefer, father
Samuel Keefer, half-brother
Thomas McKay, father-in-law

Thomas Coltrin Keefer (4 November 1821 – 7 January 1915) was a Canadian civil engineer.

Born into an Empire Loyalist family in Thorold Township, Upper Canada, the son of George Keefer and Jane Emory, née McBride, his father was Chairman of the Welland Shipping Canal Company. After attending Upper Canada College he began his engineering training by working on the Erie Canal and continued his learning experience later on the Welland Canal. He became well known for his writings, particularly “Philosophy of Railroads” and “Philosophy of Canals”, and himself surveyed for a railway connecting Kingston, Ontario, and Toronto (1851), was in charge of the survey for a line between Montréal and Kingston, and determined the site for the Victoria Bridge that crosses the St. Lawrence River in Montréal.

However, his engineering focus was on water supply. He became Chief Engineer of the Montreal Water Board and also built the Ottawa Water Works. One of his best known achievements was the construction of the Hamilton Water Works, an achievement commemorated by the preservation of the Pumping Station as the Hamilton Museum of Power and Steam. His design for the foundations of the Victoria Bridge (“Keefer’s Shoes”) was used in the construction of the bridge. Keefer was a co-founder and the first President of the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers. He was also President of the American Society of Civil Engineers and of the Canadian Institute. He was made a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1890 and was its president from 1898 to 1899.

He served as chief engineer of the Montréal Water Board and designed the water-supply system for Hamilton, Ontario (1859), as well as the waterworks in Ottawa (1874). His Hamilton Pumping Station, with its working Gartshore beam engines, has been declared a national historic site. Keefer was a founding member and first president of the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers (1887). As the "Dean of Canadian engineers," he received many honours, including the presidency of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

He died in Ottawa in 1915. His son, Charles Keefer, was also a notable Canadian civil engineer.

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