Thomas Keefer

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Thomas Coltrin Keefer
Thomas Keefer.jpg
Born(1821-11-04)4 November 1821
Died7 January 1915(1915-01-07) (aged 93)
Rockcliffe, Ontario
Occupation(s)Engineer, author, and businessman
TitlePresident of the Royal Society of Canada
PredecessorFélix-Gabriel Marchand
SuccessorWilliam Robinson Clark
ChildrenCharles Keefer
  • George Keefer (father)
  • Samuel Keefer (half-brother)
  • Thomas McKay (father-in-law)
Signature of Thomas Coltrin Keefer (1821–1915).png

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


Born into a United 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 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 The Canals of Canada: Their Prospects and Influence, and surveyed a railway connecting Kingston, Ontario, and Toronto (1851), was in charge of the survey for a line between Montreal and Kingston, and determined the site for the Victoria Bridge that crosses the St. Lawrence River into Montreal.

Map of the Province of Canada from Lake Superior to the Gulf of St. Lawrence corrected from information obtained by the Geological Survey under the Direction of Sir W.B. Logan and prepared for the Canadian Directory. Thomas. C. Keefer

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 Waterworks, an achievement commemorated by the preservation of the pumping station as the Hamilton Museum of Steam and Technology. 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 (1888) 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 Montreal 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. As the "Dean of Canadian engineers," he received many honours, including the presidency of the American Society of Civil Engineers. He was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George and an officer of the French Legion of Honour.[1]

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

The Keefer Medal was established in 1942, and is awarded annually by the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering for the best civil engineering paper in hydro-technical, transportation or environmental engineering.[2][3]


  1. ^ Chadwick, Edward Marion (1898). Ontarian families: genealogies of United Empire Loyalist and other pioneer families of Upper Canada. Rolph, Smith & Co. p. 97. ISBN 9780665076831. Retrieved 4 February 2020.
  2. ^ "Thomas C. Keefer Medal". Awards and Honors. 8 October 2014. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  3. ^ "Technical Paper Awards | CSCE / SCGC". Archived from the original on 9 June 2019. Retrieved 14 April 2019.


Professional and academic associations
Preceded by President of the Royal Society of Canada
Succeeded by