Jenkins, Rhys 1859 - 1953

Welsh, British

(1859-1953), mechanical engineer

Rhys Jenkins was born on 29 September 1859 at Mountain Ash, Glamorgan. He was educated at the Alderman Davies School, Neath, and in 1874 commenced a four-year apprenticeship with Richard Nevil, engineer and ironfounder, at the Empire ironworks, Llanelli. He remained with the firm for another two years as a draughtsman. In 1880 he obtained a post in the drawing office of John Fowler & Co. at Leeds and then a similar position with Greenwood and Batley Ltd in the same city. At this time he attended evening classes at the Yorkshire College, which later became the University of Leeds. In December 1881 he moved to Richard Hornsby & Sons of Grantham and in June 1883 to Marshall, Sons & Co. of Gainsborough.

In 1884, Jenkins secured an appointment on the examining staff of the Patent Office, later becoming a senior examiner. About the time of his appointment to the Patent Office, Jenkins began the systematic collection of notes, transcripts and extracts from printed and manuscript sources relating to numerous aspects of industrial history. In the same year on 28 August 1884, he married Charlotte Ann Morgan, they had two sons.

Jenkins joined the Institution of Mechanical Engineers as a graduate in 1880 when he was still with his first employer and was transferred to full membership in 1886. As his career in the Patent Office progressed he was promoted to deputy examiner from 1 April 1903, examiner from 1 October 1904, and senior examiner from 1 July 1914. He retired on 31 December 1919 having reached a senior position in the Patent Office as one of sixteen senior examiners in the total examining staff of nearly three hundred. However, his major contribution to scholarship was made in his spare-time studies of the history of engineering and industry.

In 1920 proposals for the formation of the Newcomen Society for the Study of the History of Engineering and Technology were taking shape. He was an enthusiastic member of the Society from its very beginning and maintained an active interest in its affairs to the end of his days. As soon as the Society was founded, Jenkins began the long list of valuable contributions which are to be found in its Transactions under his name. They all reveal the thoroughness of his researches and the breadth of his knowledge. He was elected president of the Newcomen Society in 1926. Published in 1927, Jenkins was heavy involved with James Watt's centenary commemoration memorial book titled 'James Watt and the Steam Engine', by Jenkins and H. W. Dickinson.

Shortly after his retirement from the Patent Office, Rhys Jenkins moved to Hermitage, near Newbury, Berkshire, and in 1936, after the death of his wife, to Hastings, Sussex, to live with his younger son. Although he rarely attended meetings of the Newcomen Society in his later years he continued to contribute papers and his wide knowledge was available to help others.

He died at 53 West Hill, Hastings, on 27 January 1953, at the age of 94.