He was born in Edinburgh and Dux Medallist in the University Engineering classes in two successive years, and took the highest place among the Whitworth Scholars in his year.
In 1874, at the age of twenty-two, he was sent to Tokyo to become the organizer and first Professor of Engineering of the Imperial University of Japan, having been selected for that post by Sir Joseph Whitworth, at the request of the Japanese Government. The engagement was for five years, and on his retirement he was decorated by the Emperor of Japan with the Order of the Meiji.
After a year spent in engineering work in Italy, and another as managing partner in an engineering works in South London, he was appointed organizer and first Professor of the Civil and Mechanical Engineering Department of Mason College, Birmingham, now the University of Birmingham.
The last twelve years of his life were increasingly devoted to literary work for the technical Press, including, among others, reports upon the technical features of Continental Exhibitions. He was also the author of numerous books on commercial economy in steam, heat, and power plants, on electric traction, also of treatises on hand and machine tools, and on the calculus for engineers. He compiled diagrams for the conversion of British and metric measures, and tables for the calculation of premiums on wages, etc.
(Source Graces Guide)