John Bradfield Biography

St Andrew’s College, University of Sydney

(BE 1889, ME 1896)

Born: 26 December 1867, Sandgate, QLD, Australia
Died: 23 September 1943, Gordon, NSW, Australia

JJC Bradfield was associated with a great range of engineering works, including the Cataract and Burrinjuck Dams, the Sydney Underground Railways and Brisbane’s Story Bridge. He was, however, best known as one of the original designers of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

For his thesis on the design and construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the city railway system, Bradfield was awarded the degree of Doctor of Science in Engineering by the University of Sydney, as well as the University Medal.

He began his career as a draftsman, initially with Queensland Railways 1889-91 and then with the New South Wales Department of Public Works 1891-1909.

Bradfield was appointed Chief Engineer for the Metropolitan Railway Construction and the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1912, prior to the existence of an approved plan for either the bridge or the city railway. His most notable work was the design and supervision of construction of a transport system for Sydney, including the city railway, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and connecting roads.

In addition JJC Bradfield was involved in a staggering number of fields of expertise for one man. At the New South Wales Public Works Department he designed roads, bridges, sewerage and public watering places; dams and other water supplies, water conservation, irrigation and drainage works, and railways and tramways. He was involved in town planning, workers’ housing, engineering education, standards and standardisation, development of Australian mineral deposits and the manufacture of aluminium and special steels.

Bradfield was a winner of the Sulman Prize for Architecture. He played an important role in the formation of the Institution of Engineers, in the development of the profession in Australia, in engineering education and was an engineer of international reputation.

He served as Deputy Chancellor of the University of Sydney 1942-43. His work is commemorated by the Bradfield Highway over the Sydney Harbour Bridge and by the annual Bradfield Award, awarded by Engineers Australia in recognition of outstanding achievement.