Website Banner. John Monash: Engineering enterprise prior to World War 1.


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John Monash.

John Monash ran a successful engineering business chiefly in Victoria (Australia) but also in South Australia and to some extent Tasmania from 1894 to 1914. He pursued a parallel career in the Citizen Military Forces. Late in 1914, at the age of 49, he left for WW1 and gained fame as a commander of ANZAC and allied forces on the Western Front. On his return he played a leading role in the establishment of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria.

Website content

This website presents stories of engineering design and construction from the period prior to WW1, with photographs and drawings. No technical knowledge is required to follow the main stories which contain much human interest. The site should be of interest to anyone with an interest in technology (specifically civil engineering) and in business, as well as to historians. The emphasis is on content rather than style.


The Main Index is a convenient starting point. If you are unfamiliar with Monash's story, you could start with the overview of his engineering career or the lengthier coverage of his contribution to engineering in Australia. Another useful starting point is the overview of JM's projects. If you are interested in a particular town or region, try the Localities Index. To look for individuals who may have interacted professionally with Monash, try the People Index.

Website aims

It has been suggested, by military men as well as civil engineers, that Monash's experience in the industry made a positive contribution to his success as a military commander. Other claims are that he was a significant pioneer of reinforced concrete - some say on the world stage, others say merely in Victoria. The first step in assessing these claims is to know just what he did do as an engineer prior to WW1.

Monash left monuments to his work all around Victoria and in South Australia and Tasmania. Many of these are worth preserving. Thanks to his meticulous record-keeping there is a wealth of material available to build up a picture of the history and workings of a medium-sized civil engineering business. True, it all happened 100 years ago; but human nature is a constant; and the relative simplicity of the technology involved means that the decision-making and administrative aspects of engineering are more evident.

The origins of this study

The research project on which this website is based was initiated in the Department of Civil Engineering, Monash University in 1994 by Geoff Taplin. Additional financial assistance was provided by the Faculty of Arts. We were joined by historian Lesley Alves, and worked for some 18 months on assessing and publicising the heritage significance of Monash's extant projects. Since my retirement at the end of 1996 I have continued to investigate the history of his entire civil engineering work prior to World War 1. More details are provided on a separate page.


The scope of our enquiry encompasses Sir John's engineering activities in the fullest sense: his commercial enterprise and business acumen; his style of organisation and management; the application of his legal studies in his role as expert witness and arbitrator; his promotion of the newly-developing technology of reinforced concrete; his grasp of engineering theory; and finally the application of his knowledge and understanding to his work as a patent attorney, and in the practice and supervision of engineering design and construction.

Particularly in the later years of our period, Sir John's work was concentrated in the field of civil engineering structures: bridges, bunkers, silos, water tanks, 'inverted syphons', wharves, lighthouses, etc and the design and construction of multi-storey buildings in reinforced concrete. However, the earlier portion involved also mining and mechanical engineering and legal cases involving flood damage and riparian rights which required a sound knowledge of water resources engineering. The manufacture of reinforced concrete pipes provided security for the Company in its early years and the design and construction of pipelines, dams and reservoirs form a constant theme.

Current development

The site was originally built on extracts from our paper publications - but as only a handful of the project 'dossiers' were distributed (the last in 2000), and they cover a limited range of projects, the aim since then has been to develop the website to provide a more comprehensive coverage. As a result of events since 2014, certain fields have not been covered, including some water resource projects, the Melbourne Gas Works, and Monash's advocacy in legal disputes and patent rights. Occasional brief bulletins are provided on the Main Index page.

Change of URL

This website was initially hosted by VicNet. Some academic publications and web sites have made reference to pages using that URL. To transform an old reference into a new one, it is only necessary to alter the initial part of the URL. For example:
is now

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