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Biographical entry Cumming, Denis Arthur (1923 - 1995)

MInstCE, MIEAust

17 September 1923
Weymouth, Dorset, England
28 January 1995
Perth, Western Australia, Australia
Academic, Civil engineer and Engineering historian


Denis Cumming led research into the history of engineers and engineering in Australia, and in developing methods for researching, documenting and recording these histories. He contributed significantly to the formal establishment of Engineering Heritage South Australia, in 1974, and Engineering Heritage Australia in 1979.


Denis Cumming was a Senior Lecturer in Civil Engineering, University of Adelaide from 1967 until 1990, with a particular interest in Geomechanics, Transport Engineering and Surveying, and the History of Technology.

Through his strong interest in history, the history of engineering and engineering heritage, he became the driving force in forming Engineering Heritage committees, at Division, State and National level, of the Institution of Engineers, Australia. He was chair of the first committee in South Australia from 1974, and was on the National Committee from 1979, until 1995.

His many research papers and books have contributed significantly to the knowledge and understanding of engineers and engineering in Australia. In particular the definitive book They Built South Australia - Engineers, Technician, Manufacturers, Contractors and Their Works that he co-authored, and similar research papers about engineers in Victoria, and Western Australia.


Education - Master of Arts, Engineering Science, Oxford University, England
Life event - Migrated to Australia
1949 - 1951
Career position - Engineer, Eildon Weir, Victorian State Rivers and Water Supply Commission
1951 - 1952
Career position - Engineer, Woomera, Commonwealth Department of Works
1952 - 1958
Career position - Engineer, Adelaide, Highway Department South Australia
1958 - 1967
Career position - Lecturer, Civil Engineering, University of NSW
1967 - 1990
Career position - Senior Lecturer, Civil Engineering, University of Adelaide
Award - Institution of Engineers Plaque

Published resources


  • Cumming, D. A., Some Public Works Engineers in Victoria in the Nineteenth Century (Melbourne: University of Melbourne, Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, 1985), 59 pp. Details
  • Cumming, D. A.; Moxham, G. C., They built South Australia : engineers, technicians, manufacturers, contractors and their work (Adelaide: D.A. Cumming and G.C Moxham, 1986), 241 pp. Details
  • Cumming, Denis A. and Hartley, Richard G., Westralian founders of twentieth century mining: career biographies of mining engineers, mine managers and metallurgists who worked in the Western Australian mining industry 1890-1920 (Rossmoyne W.A.: Richard G. Hartley, 2014), 190 pp. Details
  • Cumming, Denis Arthur, The Murray Bridge 1864-1982: a Report to the Australian Heritage Commission and the Heritage Conservation Branch of the South Australian Department of Environment and Planning (Adelaide: University of Adelaide, Department of Civil Engineering, 1982). Details

Book Sections

  • Cumming, D.; Jones, L. J., 'Engineering' in Australians, a Guide to Sources, D. H. Borchardt and Victor Crittenden, eds (Broadway: Fairfax, Syme & Weldon Associates, 1987), pp. 283-289. Details

Conference Papers

  • Cumming, D. A., 'Processing of Copper Ores in South Australia in the Nineteenth Century', in Conference on The Protection of the Engineering Heritage, 1982, Brisbane, 9-12 May. Preprints of Papers (Barton, Australian Capital Territory: Institution of Engineers, Australia, 1982), pp. 66-73.. Details
  • Cumming, D. A., 'The Burra Mine and Smelter', in Engineering Conference 1984: Conference Papers (Barton, Australian Capital Territory: Institution of Engineers, Australia, 1984), pp. 7-12.,;res=IELENG;dn=610713673171928. Details
  • Cumming, D. A. and Drew, G. J., 'Copper smelting in South Australia, the first fifty years', in South Australia's Mining Heritage: AUSIMM Seminar on Mining Heritage (Adelaide, South Australia: South Australia. Department of Mines and Energy, 1987), pp. 115-138.. Details
  • Cumming, D. A.; Leverett, K., 'A Preliminary Survey of the Literature on Industrial and Mechanical Engineering in Australia', in Fifth National Conference on Engineering Heritage 1990: Interpreting Engineering Heritage; Preprints of Papers (Perth, Western Australia: Institution of Engineers, Australia, Western Australian Division, 1990), pp. 123-131..;dn=624762933500611;res=IELENG. Details
  • Cumming, D. A.; Leverett, K., 'Australian Databases & Engineering Heritage', in Sixth National Conference on Engineering Heritage, 1992, Hobart 5-7 October 1992: Preprints of Papers (Hobart, Tasmania: Institution of Engineers, Australia, Tasmania Division, 1992), pp. 15-22..;dn=423806338480924;res=IELENG. Details

Journal Articles

  • 'Denis Cumming MA (Oxon), MICE, MIEAust CPEng 1923 - 1995', Engineering Heritage Australia : newsletter of the National Committee on Engineering Heritage, the Institution of Engineers, Australia, No.4 (May 1995) (1995), 8. Details


Ken McInnes