MACDOUGALL, ALAN, engineer; b. 22 May 1842 in India, third son of Lieutenant-Colonel John Macdougall of Edinburgh; m. 1872 Emily Augusta McCaul, daughter of Dr John McCaul*, president of University College in Toronto, and they had a daughter and three sons (one died in infancy); d. 23 April 1897 in Exmouth, England.
Educated at a private school and the Edinburgh Academy, Alan Macdougall was articled to consulting engineer Charles Jopp in 1859. On completion of his pupillage in 1863, he was engaged by the North British Railway Company in Scotland, and two years later he became one of its resident engineers.
In 1868 Macdougall came to Canada, where he headed the preliminary and location surveys for the Toronto, Grey and Bruce Railway and was chief assistant during its construction. From 1871 to 1873 he supervised the building of the North Grey branch of the Northern Railway, and from 1873, as assistant to William Kingsford, he was in charge of some important improvements to harbours and rivers on the Upper Lakes and lower St Lawrence for the dominion government. In 1877 Macdougall returned to the North British Railway.
Resettling in Canada in 1882, Macdougall was appointed divisional engineer for the construction of the southwestern branch line of the Canadian Pacific Railway in Manitoba. The following year he began to practise as a consulting sanitary engineer. Headquartered in Toronto, he built an extensive practice designing and advising on sewerage and waterworks for a number of municipalities including St Catharines, Stratford, Goderich, Peterborough, Belleville, Port Arthur (Thunder Bay), Brandon, Calgary, and Vancouver. He was offered, but declined, the city engineership of St John’s in recognition of his service during an outbreak of diphtheria there.
In December 1883 Macdougall was retained by the city of Toronto, and he subsequently reported on the sanitary conditions of Ashbridges Bay. Appointed assistant city engineer in March 1887, he made surveys of the water-supply and conducted valuable experiments to determine the direction and velocity of the currents in Lake Ontario. He returned to private practice in November 1888.
Macdougall was a member of such British associations as the Institution of Civil Engineers, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and the Royal Scottish Society of Arts. He was also active in the St Andrew’s Society of Toronto and the Canadian Institute, serving as secretary of the latter for ten years. The leading organizer and promoter of Canada’s first national association of professional engineers, the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers, founded in 1887, Macdougall served for several years on its council. In 1894 he was elected vice-president.
Macdougall laboured tirelessly to place engineering on the same legal and social basis as law and medicine. From 1870 to 1872 and 1885 to 1887 he was an external examiner in civil engineering at the University of Toronto. He was also a staunch advocate of a code of professional ethics for the CSCE that would help regulate competition among engineers. In 1887 he attempted to have the society incorporated as a self-governing licensing and regulatory body (a close corporation), but was opposed by Thomas Coltrin Keefer*, John Kennedy*, and other prominent engineers, who viewed the CSCE as a learned society. Believing that a close corporation was a natural and necessary stage in the establishment of engineering as a profession, Macdougall campaigned vigorously, despite failing health, for restrictive engineering licensing laws. Appointed chairman of a special CSCE committee in 1893, he persuaded the society to lobby provincial governments for such laws, in order to control and regulate all aspects of professional practice and to raise professional standards through licensing.
In 1896 Manitoba passed North America’s first engineering licensing law. A year later Quebec passed a similar act. Although ineffective, these laws inspired legislation immediately after World War I that recognized engineering as a profession. In this respect, Macdougall may be regarded as one of the fathers of Canadian engineering professionalism, and as a consequence an important figure in the development of the professions in Canada.
Alan Macdougall’s publications include “The professional status: a plea for a close corporation,” Canadian Soc. of Civil Engineers, Trans. (Montreal), 6 (1892): 98–113.
NA, MG 28, 1277, council minutes, 4 March 1886 (enclosure, n.d.); 24 Feb. 1887: 3–4, 10; 8 Oct. 1895: 236–37; membership files; scrapbook no.1. UTFL,
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Cite This Article
J. Rodney Millard, “MACDOUGALL, ALAN,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 29, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/macdougall_alan_12E.html.
The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:
|Author of Article:||J. Rodney Millard|
|Title of Article:||MACDOUGALL, ALAN|
|Publication Name:||Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12|
|Publisher:||University of Toronto/Université Laval|
|Year of publication:||1990|
|Year of revision:||1990|
|Access Date:||May 29, 2023|