Biographical Dictionary of Canadian Engineers

Edited by
Rod Millard

POOLE, Henry Skeffington , b. 1 Aug. 1844, Albion Mines (Stellartown) N.S.; d. 31 March 1917, Guildford, England. Educated at King's College, Windsor, N.S. where he received a BA in 1865 (MA 1874), and at the Royal School of Mines, London, he acquired early mining experience in Cape Breton and Utah. In 1872, he was appointed inspector of mines for Nova Scotia, and, in April 1873, drafted the first mine-safety act in Canada, the second such in North America. He helped legitimize the notion that coal dust was the primary agent in mine explosions. He resigned his post in 1878, to become general manager of the Acadia Coal Company, Stellarton. Although his biographer, Donald Macleod, argues that he was reactionary with labour, (he helped precipitate the biggest Canadian labour dispute of the late 1880s by attempting to lower wages), he introduced progressive technical measures such as safety lamps and a steam-driven ventilation fan (1880 and 1881 respectively), in addition to pioneering the use of compressed air in mine pumping during the 1890s. Following his resignation as a mine inspector (1878), he became a spokesman for mine owners fighting stricter mine regulation, and was appointed (1881) to the government's new board of examiners, responsible for certifying mine officials. Resigning from the Acadia Coal Company in 1901, he became a part-time geologist with the Geological Survey of Canada, conducting vital surveys of N.B. coal seams and the Nanaimo-Comox coalfield on Vancouver Island. A fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, he contributed his research on natural history to scientific journals, was president of the Nova Scotian Institute of Science (1902-1905), and a part-time lecturer in the School of Mining and Metallurgy, Dalhousie University. He was awarded an honorary D.Sc. from King's in 1903. He joined the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers in 1887, and spent four years on its council. He was the first president of the Mining Society of Nova Scotia, and was a member of the Halifax Club. He married Florence Hope Gibson Gray in 1876, and they had at least one son and one daughter. He retired to England.

Rhea Harris