Munro, Crawford

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Crawford Munro


Crawford Hugh Munro, 23 March 1904 (Toowoomba, Queensland), 21 September 1976 (Sydney)


Crawford Munro was born in Toowoomba, Queensland in 1904, attended Sydney Technical High School and graduated as a Civil Engineer from the University of Sydney in 1926. After graduation Crawford joined the Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board, working as a resident engineer and research officer.

In 1936, Munro was appointed as lecturer-in-charge, department of mechanical and civil engineering, Sydney Technical College. During WWII, he was attached (1941-45) to the Commonwealth Department of Munitions as State supervising engineer, where he oversaw the design and production of armoured fighting vehicles and small ships. He was commissioned major, Royal Engineers in June 1945, and was stationed with the British Army in Burma. He became head of the Department of Civil Engineering and assistant-director of technical education on return to the Sydney Technical College the following year. He contributed to the establishment (1949) of the New South Wales University of Technology (University of New South Wales). There he was promoted to Associate Professor in 1951 and to the Chair of Civil Engineering in 1954.

Munro helped establish the Water Research Foundation of Australia (1955) to raise funds for water engineering, participated in State and national committees, and served as a consultant on numerous projects. Pleading primary industry's need for water, he deplored the large quantities wasted on suburban domestic gardens. A council-member (1962-74) of the Institution of Engineers, Australia, Munro was a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, London, and the Royal Society of Health.

In some respects Crawford Munro was an unlikely Foundation Professor – a pass degree and few research publications – but he was the incumbent who could claim in 1953 that, upon returning from war service, he had in six years transformed the School of Civil Engineering at UNSW. It had lacked buildings and equipment and had but one full-time lecturer, but became an organization of 20 academics plus ancillary staff, a well-established degree program, and a significant higher degree cohort. He had also helped the evolutionary process from the dead hand of the Public Service Board towards University autonomy.

However, Munro’s legacy lies in what he helped create. He established the PhD program at UNSW that trained many future discipline leaders including Eric Laurenson, David Pilgrim and Tom McMahon, and created an atmosphere that attracted many more including Tom Chapman to join the academic group here. The same hydrology/water resources department and the School of Civil Engineering are now ranked amongst the best in the world, barely a few decades from when they were first established by Munro.

Hydrological Achievements[edit]

Munro’s most noteworthy hydrological achievement was the visibility he created for the field of hydrology in Australia. It is a result of that visibility that many other hydrologists have flourished and make lasting contributions to how hydrology is practiced over the world. Most specifically, Munro started the hydrology program for the University of New South Wales, in addition to starting the Water Research Foundation, Australia, and what is now the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UNSW. Munro also authored and edited the very first Australian Rainfall and Runoff (ARR) the main design guideline used for engineering hydrology across Australia, of which there have been four editions till date, including the most recent one available online at It is for this reason that Munro is commemorated through the biennial Crawford Munro Oration at the Hydrology and Water Resources Symposium organised by the Institution of Engineers, Australia.


Reference Material[edit]

The History of the University of New South Wales: School of Civil and Environmental Engineering : 1949-2010, by Mary. O'Connell; University of New South Wales, ISBN9780733429507, 2010.

Julia Horne, 'Munro, Crawford Hugh (1904–1976)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 1 August 2017.

D. P. Mellor, The Role of Science and Industry (Canberra, 1958)

Institute of Engineers, Australia, Hydrology Symposium, 1977

Institute of Engineers, Australia (Civil Engineering), Transactions, vol CE26, 1984, p 210

University of New South Wales, University News, 1969, p 4

E. B. and P. MacDonald, Reminiscences of C. H. Munro (University of New South Wales Archives)

R. H. Myers, Memorial address, 15 Oct 1976, BRF-Munro (University of New South Wales Archives)

Munro, C. H., personnel file CN968/7 (University of New South Wales Archives).

Crawford Munro: A vision for Australia's water, by L. R. Humphreys, Engineers Media (ISBN9780858259522), 2009

Major Publications[edit]

Crawford Hugh. Munro ; H. R Vallentine (Harold Rupert); D. N Body (David Neil), A method of design of urban storm drainage systems, University of New South Wales. Water Research Laboratory, School of Civil Engineering, The University of New South Wales, Sydney 1958.

Crawford Hugh. Munro, The future conservation of Australia's water resources, Sydney University of Sydney, 1969

Crawford Hugh. Munro, Australian water resources and their development, Sydney : Angus & Robertson, 1974