Hamilton Ela Towle (June 24, 1833 - September 2, 1881) was an American civil engineer active in New York, Austria, Colombia, and Boston in the late 19th century. Towle was bornin in Lee, New Hampshire. He developed an interest in Civil Engineering in 1848, working under the engineer W. Q. Down for the Portsmouth and Concord Railroad. After several years at the Portsmouth Rail Yard, Towle worked for one year at the Pensacola Navy Yard. He decided to pursue a formal education in Civil Engineering and enrolled in Harvard University's Lawrence Scientific School. After two years of study, he accepted a position as assistant engineer at Fort Montgomery on Lake Champlain. In 1857, he moved to Austria to accept a supervising position at the Danube River dry-docks. On his return to the United States upon the expiration of his Austrian contract, he was involved with the Great Eastern disaster of 1861. Apparently the Great Eastern, 2 days out from Liverpool, lost its port paddlewheel, leading to other significant damage. Towle devised a plan to regain control of the rudder, thereby saving he ship and all aboard. After saving the Great Eastern, which garnered Towle considerable fame, he relocated to Boston, establishing himself as a private Civil Engineer. He worked on various mining and railroad contracts before moving to New York City where he published several maps associated with the historic urbanization of Upper Manhattan. In 1874, he took a contract for the Columbian government to complete a study of the Magdalena River. Although unverified, he probably contracted malaria (or some other tropical disease) in Colombia, as from this point forward, his heath began a steady and precipitous decline. In 1877, he traveled to Europe for his 'health,' completing a prolonged tour and returning to New York in 1878, but traveling again to Europe shortly thereafter. He died at the home of his son-in-law in Upper Norwood, not far from London, in 1881. Towle, though accomplished, was just 49 when he died.

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