Biographical Dictionary of Canadian Engineers

Edited by
Rod Millard

BARNETT, John Davis , b. 28 Dec. 1849, London, Eng.; d. 21 Mar. 1926, London, Ont. He learned engineering with the Great Western Railway, and came to Canada in 1866. A year later, he joined the Grand Trunk Railway in Montreal, rising rapidly to assistant mechanical superintendent. In 1883, he became mechanical superintendent of the Midland Railway of Canada when it was acquired by the GTR. The following year, he was appointed divisional superintendent. In 1888, he took charge of the construction and operation of the Grand Trunk shops at Stratford, Ont., retiring in 1902. In 1887, he joined the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers (renamed the Engineering Institute of Canada, 1918), served on its council (1889-1896 and 1898) and was a charter member of the CSCE’s London Branch (1888). He belonged to the American Society of Civil Engineers, and was the first Canadian president of the American Railway Master Mechanics Association (1879-1880). From 1918 to 1923, he was a curator-librarian at the University of Western Ontario, donating his collection of 40,000 books, including the “Barnett bundles,” a catalogue of engineering and architectural drawings and manuscripts. In 1919, Western awarded him an honorary Doctor of Laws. He was a member of the Ontario Librarian Association, the Ontario Historical Association and was an honorary president of the Canadian Club. A Methodist, he never married.

April Wagner