Alexander Gibb

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Sir Alexander Gibb

(1872-02-12)12 February 1872
Died21 January 1958(1958-01-21) (aged 85)
Engineering career
Practice nameSir Alexander Gibb & Partners

Brigadier-General Sir Alexander Gibb GBE CB FRS FRSE (12 February 1872 – 21 January 1958) was a Scottish civil engineer. After serving as Civil Engineer-in-Chief to the Admiralty and Director-General of Civil Engineering at the Ministry of Transport, he established the engineering consultancy firm Sir Alexander Gibb & Partners.

Early life and military service[edit]

Gibb was born in Broughty Ferry, Forfarshire, the son of the civil engineer, Alexander Easton Gibb, and his wife, Hope Brown Paton. He was the great-grandson of John Gibb, an early member of the Institution of Civil Engineers and a colleague of its first President, Thomas Telford.[1] He was educated at the High School of Dundee, the Abbey School in Beckenham, Rugby School[2] and University College London, although he left the latter after a year to become articled to the prominent civil engineers John Wolfe Barry and Henry Marc Brunel.[3] Having completed his training, he became resident engineer on the Metropolitan District Railway's Whitechapel and Bow Railway extension before joining his father's company, Easton, Gibb & Son, in 1900 who were then building the King Edward VII Bridge at Kew.[1][3] Contracts at the firm included the construction of the Rosyth naval dockyard and Gibb is credited with accelerating the programme so that it was brought into use during World War I.[1][3]

In 1900 he married Norah Isobel Monteith (died 1940), daughter of Fleet Surgeon John Lowry Monteith RN, and they had three sons.[4] Including Lieutenant Colonel Alistair Monteith Gibb.[5]

In 1916, Gibb was appointed Chief Engineer of Ports Construction to the British Armies in France and Belgium, becoming Deputy-Director of Docks, British Expeditionary Force in France in 1917.[3] During this time he prepared plans for the repairs of Belgian harbours, he was responsible for the water supply for Belgium, and prepared special landing facilities for cross-channel ferries at Dieppe, Calais and Dunkirk.[3] He became Civil Engineer-in-Chief to the Admiralty in 1918 with responsibility for all naval civil engineering works, with projects including the Admiralty M-N Scheme to counter U-boats.[1] The same year Gibb was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath[6] and a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire[7] for his military service.

Later career[edit]

He joined the Ministry of Transport in 1919 as Director-General of Civil Engineering, and in the following years served on a number of committees including the Technical Committee on London Traffic (as chair), the Electrification of Railways Advisory Committee and the Light Railways Investigation Committee (as chair). Additionally he was a technical adviser to the Treasury on civil engineering schemes financed under the Trades Facilities Act and he was transport representative for the ministry on the Forth Conservancy Board.[3] In 1920 he was promoted to Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire.[8]

He founded Sir Alexander Gibb & Partners in 1922 after becoming a consulting engineer the year before. He was involved in projects worldwide, including Barking Power Station, the Galloway hydro-electric power scheme (both with Charles Hesterman Merz and William McLellan), the Kincardine Bridge,[5] a study at the port of Rangoon and work at the Singapore Naval Base.[3]

In the 1930s the firm gained work in the industrial sector, including the Park Royal Guinness brewery.[3] This led their engagement in 1939 to undertake the design and supervision of three ordnance factories for the Ministry of Supply, work which continued throughout the war.[1]

He also wrote The Story of Telford: The Rise of Civil Engineering, a biography of the Civil Engineer Thomas Telford, to whom his great-grandfather John Gibb had been a deputy.

Outside of engineering, Gibb served as Vice-chairman of the Managing Sub-Committee of University College London, sat on the Education Committee of the London County Council and was a member of the Council and Executive Committee of Princess Helena College.[3]

Gibb became less involved with his firm after 1945 and died at his home in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire, on 21 January 1958.[1]


In 1914 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. His proposers were John MacKay Bernard, Sir Thomas Hudson Beare, Ernest Wedderburn, and William Archer Tait.[9]

Gibb was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1936[10] and was a member of a number of professional bodies, holding the presidencies of the Institution of Civil Engineers (1936–37),[11] the Institution of Chemical Engineers (1927–28 and 1928–29), of which he was an original member[12], the Institution of Engineers-in-Charge (four times), the Institute of Transport, the Junior Institution of Engineers, the Institute of Welding (three times) and the London Chamber of Commerce & Industry. He was also chairman of the Association for Consultancy and Engineering and the first civil engineer appointed to the Royal Fine Arts Commission.[3]

Gibb received an honorary Doctor of Laws (LLD) from the University of Edinburgh and was a fellow of University College London.[3]

In addition to his British honours, Gibb received the American naval Distinguished Service Medal[13] and was appointed Commander of the Belgian Order of the Crown,[14] Grand Officer of the Order of Boyaca, Colombia and Grand Cross (1st class) of the Order of the Three Stars, Latvia.[4]

Gibb was a prominent Freemason and became Provincial Grand Master of Ross and Cromarty and Past Substitute Grand Master of Scotland.[15][16]


  • — (1935). The Story of Telford: The Rise of Civil Engineering. London: A. Maclehose & Co. OCLC 2221517.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Pippard, A. J. S.; Haigh, I. P. (2004). "Gibb, Sir Alexander (1872–1958)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/33380.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Obituary. Sir Alexander Gibb, 1872–1958". Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers. 10 (1): 130–133. May 1958. doi:10.1680/iicep.1958.2021.
  4. ^ a b "Gibb, Sir Alexander". Who Was Who. Oxford University Press. February 2015. Retrieved 10 April 2016.
  5. ^ a b Juliet Barnes The Ghosts of Happy Valley: Searching for the Lost World of Africa's Infamous Aristocrats, p. 2, at Google Books
  6. ^ "No. 30450". The London Gazette (Supplement). 28 December 1917. p. 3.
  7. ^ "No. 30460". The London Gazette (Supplement). 4 January 1918. p. 366.
  8. ^ "No. 31840". The London Gazette (Supplement). 26 March 1920. p. 3757.
  9. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X.
  10. ^ Harrison, G. P.; Pippard, A. J. S. (1960). "Alexander Gibb. 1872-1958". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 5: 75. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1960.0007.
  11. ^ Watson, Garth (1988). The Civils. London: Thomas Telford Ltd. p. 253. ISBN 0-7277-0392-7.
  12. ^
  13. ^ "No. 31553". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 September 1919. p. 11583.
  14. ^ "No. 31236". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 March 1919. p. 3595.
  15. ^
  16. ^

Further reading[edit]

  • Harrison, Godfrey (1950). Alexander Gibb – The Story of an Engineer. London: Geoffrey Bles. OCLC 1679870.

External links[edit]

Professional and academic associations
Preceded by
John Duncan Watson
President of the Institution of Civil Engineers
November 1936 – November 1937
Succeeded by
Sydney Donkin