Sir Robert William Chapman was an engineer and mathematician. He was born on 27 December 1866 in Stony Stratford, Buckinghamshire, England. He was educated at the University of Melbourne, receiving his BA in 1886 and his MA, BE in 1888. After graduating he worked as a contractor on railway construction work for a brief period, then became assistant lecturer in mathematics and physics at the University of Adelaide in 1889-1900. He also taught mathematics at the South Australian School of Mines and Industries from 1900. The following year he began lecturing in engineering at the University of Adelaide, and in 1907 became the first Professor of Engineering at the University. In 1910 he became Professor of Mathematics and Mechanics, a position which he held until 1919. From 1920 to 1937 he was professor of engineering, and emeritus professor from 1937.

His achievements were recognized with many awards, including the Peter Nicol Russell medal, Institution of Engineers in 1928 and the W.C. Kernot memorial medal, University of Melbourne in 1931. He was a foundation member and president of the South Australian Institute of Engineers in 1913; president of the South Australian Institute of Surveyors 1917-29; foundation councillor and later president of the Institution of Engineers, Australia; and president, School of Mines and Industries council 1939-42. He published The Elements of Astronomy for Surveyors (London, 1919) and Reinforced Concrete (Adelaide).

Chapman is commemorated by the Institution of Engineers' R.W. Chapman medal and by a prize at the University of Adelaide. He died on 27 February 1942.

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