E. Wade


Edward Bruce Herschel WADE

E.B.H. Wade (on the left) gauging the Nile at Assouan


The histories of IUGG and its constituent Associations feature the significant contribution of Bureau officers to the conception and evolution of their respective scientific programmes since the birth of the Union in 1919.

The writings of Past Presidents, along with those of other officers, have long been important elements of the historical records. In the case of IAHS, the reading of the archives from the early years cannot help us to appreciate the coming of age of the hydrological sciences at that time.

The first President of IAHS (then know as the Section of Hydrology of IUGG) was E.B.H. Wade. In examining the archives of IAHS, we found it curious that Mr Wade had left no record of his activities during his tenure, which lasted from 1922 to 1933. In order to shed some light on this anomaly we resorted to the search of diverse archives available on the Internet. It was thus possible to establish a profile of Mr Wade and his activities during his career and of his involvement in the hydrological sciences.

Mr Wade was born in 1872 in Peking; his father was a British diplomat, his mother was the daughter of the renowned astronomer William Herchel. He attended Cambridge University and graduated with 1st Class Honours in Natural Science. He then joined the research group led by Prof. J.J. Thomson FRS, the discoverer of the electron. During the period 1901-1903 he published work on the development of measurement methods of physical and astronomical phenomena.

Mr Wade took up a position at the Egyptian Survey Department (Cairo) in 1904 and in the following year led the Egyptian-Turkish Boundary Commission. The report of the Commission in 1907 on the delimitation of the Turco-Egyptian boundary between the vilayet of the Hejaz and the peninsula of the Sinai has to this day far reaching consequences in the political context of the Middle East.

In 1909 Mr Wade published a paper with H.E. Hurst, the renowned hydrologist, who had started to work for the Survey Department in 1906. In 1919 Mr Wade joined the Physical Department of the Ministry of Public Works, headed by his colleague Hurst, to participate in the collection of rainfall and river flow in the Nile basin of Egypt, Sudan and East Africa. This data was required for future project on the control and conservation of Nile Waters.

As Director of Research Mr Wade supervised the improvement of methods for discharge measurement, particularly with regard to the development and calibration of current meters at low velocities and at higher discharges subjected to Turbulence. Field work was carried out in 1921 and 1922 and the results published in a series of paper by the Physical Department of the Ministry of Public Works during the period of 1921 and 1924.

At the end of April 1922, he attended the IUGG Meeting at Rome at which he became President of the Section of Hydrology for 6 years. In 1928 his mandate was renewed for a further 6 years, but was replaced in 1933 (Lisbon General Assembly) by Jan Smetana from the Czechoslovakian Republic.

Three years after the start of his first term as President Mr Wade retired from the Egyptian Civil Service at the age of 53. He lived in Geneva from 1925 until the commencement of WWII. We know little of Mr Wade during his retirement. As far as we know he left no records of his presidency with IAHS archives. In his obituary by J.H. Reynolds in 1946, one finds that he was an avid pianist and interested in musical composition. In later life he devoted himself to music entirely. He died in London in 1945.

Gerry Jones and Pierre Hubert, Keriel May 2013

Tentative Bibliography

E.B.H. Wade (1897) On a new Method of determining the Vapour Pressures of Solutions, Communicated by Professor J. J. Thomson, F.R.S., Proceedings of the Royal society of London, Vol. LXI N°374, 376-385, Meeting of May 13, 1897.
E.B.H. Wade (1901) A new Hygrometric Method, Proceedings of the Physical Society of London, Volume 18, 137.
doi: 10.1088/1478-7814/18/1/310
E.B.H. Wade (1903) Remarks on a paper by Mr. W.E. Cooke on a new method of determining time, latitude and azimuth, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 64(1), 107-112.
E.B.H. Wade (1903) Preliminary note on the effect of the direction of gravity on lunar observations, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 64(1), 106-107.
E.B.H. Wade (1905) A report on the use of platinium resistance thermometers in determining the temperature of the air at Helwan observatory, Cairo, Nation printing Dept, 24 p.
E.B.H. Wade (1905) On a New Method of Determining the Moon's Position photographically, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 66(1), 46-49.
E.B.H. Wade (1906) Magnetic observations made in Egypt during the total eclipse of August 29/30, 1905, Terr. Magn. Atmos. Electr., 11(1), 45-48.
doi: 10.1029/TE011i001p00045
E.B.H. Wade (1907) A report of the delimitation of the Turco-Egyptian boundary between the vilayet of the Hejaz and the peninsula of Sinai, National printing dept., Cairo.
E.B.H. Wade and J.I Craig (1908) The Determination of Local Time in Sub-tropical Latitudes, National Printing Department, Cairo.
Wade, E.B.H. and Hurst, H.E. (1909) On the determination of coelostat errors, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 70(1), 512-517.
E.B.H. Wade (1920) Report on Psychrometer formulæ based on Observations in Egypt and the Sudan, Ministry of Public Works, Phys. Dpt. paper No. 2, Government Press, Cairo.
E.B.H. Wade and P.A. Curry (1921) Report on a method of Measuring Small Difference in Longitude, Physical Dpt Paper No. 5, Government Press, Cairo.
E.B.H. (1921) Meniscus microphones: a new form of sound transmitter, Physical Dpt Paper No. 3, Government Press, Cairo.
E.B.H. Wade (1921-1924) Report on Investigations into the Improvement of River Discharge Measurements, Ministry of Public Works, Egypt, Government Press, Cairo.Part I, Physical Dpt Paper No. 4, 1921, 29 p.
Part II
Part III, Physical Dpt Paper No. 7, 1922, 17 p.
Part IV
Part V, Physical Dpt Paper No. 13, 1924, 21 p.
E.B.H. Wade (1924) Report on the progress of geodesy in Egypt since 1922, Government Press, Cairo, 13 p.
E.B.H. Wade (1925) Metallic Spirit-levels, Physical Department Paper, Cairo, 9 p.
E.B.H. Wade (1927) Contribution to the 1927 May 6 geophysical discussion, The Observatory, Vol. 50, 181-185.


Group photo at Cambridge 1898
Obituary, by J.H. Reynolds, published by the Royal Astronomical Society in 1946