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Samuel Irwin Crookes (1871-1955) B.Sc (Eng), MIChemeE, MIEE, MNZIE

Samuel Crookes

Samuel Irwin Crookes, 1938-1939. Past Presidents of the N.Z.I.E, 1914-1966: Album. IPENZ.

Samuel Irwin Crookes, (Senior), President of IPENZ in 1938-39, was a leading consulting engineer in Auckland where he was responsible for the design of many major projects. He also served the wider community as an elected member of Auckland City Council, the Auckland Electric Power Board and many other public bodies.

Mr Crookes was born in Sheffield England in 1871 and educated at Sheffield and London Universities specialising on electrical engineering and chemistry.  His wife, whom he married in 1895, was the daughter of Mr Philip Robinson, an engineer of international repute in the iron and steel industry. Before coming to New Zealand in 1907, he lectured at Battersea Polytechnic in London.

On arrival in Auckland, Mr Crookes took charge of the electrical engineering department of Seddon Memorial Technical College until 1912 and from 1916 to 1919 he taught electrical engineering at Auckland University College School of Engineering.   In 1911 he began practice as a consulting engineer where he was involved in the design of the Wairua Falls hydro-electric power station near Whangarei in 1920.  He also designed the large chemical plants for the manufacture of superphosphate at Te Papapa and New Plymouth using a new method for processing the phosphate rock from Nauru Island.   He also did work at the Portland Cement works near Whangarei. During the World War II years when a Japanese attack on Auckland was feared, he was involved in the design of the air raid shelters to accommodate 20,400 people under Albert Park.  

After developing an interest in breeding jersey cattle in Northland, he became President for many years of the Auckland Agricultural and Pastoral Association.  He was a prime mover in the establishment of the New Zealand Fertiliser Manufactures Research Association laboratories at East Tamaki near Auckland.   As Chairman of a number of private companies including the New Zealand Farmers Fertiliser Company and the Kiwi Fertiliser Company he made major contributions.  He was a Vice President of the Institution of Chemical Engineers, London.

Mr Crookes was an elected member of Auckland City Council for seven years from 1922 serving as the first Chairman of the Town Planning Committee.  He was a member of the Auckland Electric Power Board for 25 years and served as its Chairman for several years.  He served as a member of the Auckland University College Council, the Seddon Memorial Technical College Board of Managers and the Auckland Grammar School Board.  As a Freemason for over 40 years, he gained high distinction.

His son Samuel Irwin Crookes, (Junior), (1896 -1983) was a structural engineer who made a significant contribution to the understanding of earthquake engineering.  He spent most of his professional life as a member of the staff at the Auckland University School of Architecture.  

Notes by John La Roche


  • Obituary, New Zealand Engineering, May 1956, p.174
  • Obituary, New Zealand Herald, 28 December 1955
  • Obituary, Auckland Star, 28 December 1955
  • Peter Lowe. 'Crookes, Samuel Irwin - Biography', from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 1-Sep-10
  • “Some Professional Engineers working in Auckland in the first half of the twentieth century” by Professor  P G Lowe, paper presented to the I.E. Aust. National Conference on Engineering Heritage, Ballarat March 1998