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There is no way of summing up the total loss to the nation and to the world of such a disaster as the wreck of the Titanic. The mere tale of the number of souls who perished, dreadful though it may be, is but a small part of the story, for no mathematics can give us the value of all the hopes, the plans, the ambitions which went with this one or that into the sea; and it is well that this record of one of those who died on that terrible night should have been written.
Henry Forbes Julian was born in 1861 and was within a month of 51 years of age at the time of his death. Born at Cork, he was taken by his parents to Bolton, Lancashire, when eight years old, and was educated there and at Owens College, Manchester, where his natural bent for science first showed itself and he took up the study of mining and metallurgy. From his boyhood he had a great desire to travel, and was gratified to the full and, alas! too much. At the age of 24 he went to South Africa and it was there, at Barberton, Johannesburg, and Kimberley, that his first real work was done and he began to make his mark as a metallurgist and mining engineer. Within two or three years after his arrival in South Africa, as a result of his original researches, he was applying for patents in the chlorine and cyanide processes of ore reduction. It was in this field that he afterwards earned the distinction by which he was best known, as the joint author with Mr. Edgar Smart of the valuable text-book on Cyaniding Gold and Silver Ores.
As long ago as 1889 Julian made his way to the Falls of Zambesi, going with a party of Europeans as far as Khamas Country, and then, when the others hung back, pushing on alone with some natives to the Falls. On his return he drew up a memorandum on The Barotse Empire and the possibilities of its development. But the Colonial Office seems to have been unimpressed and Julian turned to work which was destined to carry him into many remote fields. He visited and travelled more or less extensively in the United States, in Canada and Mexico, and there were few centres of mining in the world where his name and work were not known.
Summoned to the United States again in connexion with his work, it was by mere chance that he did not cross by the Olympic a week before the Titanic made her first voyage. The last news from him was in a letter sent back from Queenstown which was full of praise of the comfort and sumptuousness of the ill-starred ship. There is evidence from eye-witnesses, however, that he was one of the group of first-class passengers who helped the women and children into the boats of the sinking vessel. The present memoir is written by his wife, with whom he had a singularly happy life in their home at Torquay. Mrs. Julian is herself a woman of scientific tastes and accomplishment, and there is great restraint in the tone in which she speaks of her personal loss in the tragedy. But one can guess something of what lies behind such a passage as:-
The loss of the great liner. . . constituted the most appalling catastrophe in the maritime history of the world . . . In view of the first statement that no lives had been lost, and that the Virginian was standing by, a feeling of relief had prevailed. The joy and gladness created by this statement were soon dispelled. This and other conflicting messages received only added a vast accumulation of agony to the dreadful suspense and the alternations of hope and fear; and, as hope died out, and suspense gave way to despair.
That suspense was made infinitely more bitter by the wickedness of the messages of false hope which were spread abroad.
Henry Forbes Julian
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Added to Encyclopedia Titanica Sunday 18th April 2004, last updated Monday 10th March 2014.