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November 7, 2014
Electrical Association of Women (EAW) Rugby Branch Records

Earlier this year the IET Archives received a donation of papers related to the Rugby Branch of the Electrical Association of Women (EAW). The papers came from the family of Mrs D M Bastow who was Chairman of the Rugby Branch from 1976 until the disbanding of the branch and the EAW in December 1986. Mrs Bastow was also a member of the EAW’s National Executive in the final years of the EAW and some of her personal and National Executive papers and material can be found amongst these branch records.

Some of the papers in the deposit had signs of mould and so the collection was originally quarantined, before being sent for treatment. Once the papers had been cleaned they were then in a position to be catalogued.

EAW Records and the Records of the Rugby Branch

The EAW was formed in 1924 and eventually had several hundred branches in the UK and overseas. The Rugby Branch was founded in 1928 and its inauguration certificate from 25 October 1928, which came with the donation, is shown below.



The menu and programme from the first annual dinner, held at the Grand Hotel, Rugby, 23 November 1929, shows that members enjoyed the following courses; julien soup; fried sole with an anchovy sauce; roast chicken with ham, boiled and baked potatoes, savoy; apple tart and cream; finished with Welsh rarebit and coffee. The meal was accompanied by toasts, a duet, songs and a pianoforte solo.



A lengthy report of the annual dinner in the local press, detailing all the participants and details of the speeches and toasts, is very much of its time. The proposer of the ‘visitor’s toast’, Mrs H de B Knight, welcomed the visitors and explained to them that, “while the EAW was a women’s organisation, and therefore independent, they welcomed the mere males who were present, because they provided the wherewithal to purchase the many electrical fittings which the modern woman requires in her home”.

After the EAW was disbanded in 1986, the EAW’s central records were deposited in the IEE Archives (reference NAEST 093 and NAEST 093A) together with a selection of EAW branch records (reference NAEST 093B). However the majority of the many branch records were deposited at local record offices.

The EAW was structured so that the branches were affiliated to an Area Federation. In the case of the Rugby Branch it was a member of the East Midlands Area Federation. The records of 4 East Midlands Area branches, Lincoln, Mansfield and District, Mansfield Evening, and Tamworth and District came to the IEE. However other branch records, including some Rugby Branch records were deposited amongst the Records Offices of Humberside, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Nottingham and Warwickshire. A list of what records went where is held in the IET Archive Centre. The EAW poster below (NAEST 093/11/16) shows the EAW’s branches in the UK, with the colours representing different Area Federations. The East Midlands Area is shown towards the bottom of the picture in pink.



EAW Tea Towels – The Discovery of Some New Varieties

One of the nice surprises about this donation is that it contained material produced centrally by the EAW but which has not survived in the central collections and which we had not seen before. For example there were two new, previously unseen, EAW tea towel, one of which is shown below.



There was also Mrs Bastow’s National Executive member medal which does not exist in the central EAW collections.



The EAW Rugby Branch papers have now been catalogued (reference NAEST 093B/5/5) and are available to view in the IET Archives. The contents of the collection can be viewed in the IET Archives online catalogue by entering the term ‘UK0108 NAEST 093B/5/5’ in the search engine which can be found here .

Jon Cable
Assistant Archivist
The Institution of Engineering and Technology


    Posted By: Jonathan Cable @ 07 November 2014 12:28 PM     Archives     Comments (0)  

November 4, 2014
Gustav Wikkenhauser (1901 - 1974) - a Television Pioneer

The IET Archives recently received a donation of papers belonging to Gustav Wikkenhauser, who was described in his obituary as a pioneer of television. 

Gustav was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1901 and received his degree in mechanical and electrical engineering from the University of Budapest in 1926. He was then employed by AEG in Berlin before joining the laboratories of the Telehor Television Company on its formation in 1929. He worked in Berlin on the early stages of mechanical television and was invited to come to Britain in 1932 to work on television in the UK where he started to work for the company Scophony Ltd. A photograph of Gustav from later in his life is shown below.



Scophony Limited

Scophony operated internationally in Britain and Germany in the early 1930s and in Britain and America in the late 1930s. It has been described as one of the most highly original television manufacturers of the 1930s and praised for its innovative optical-mechanical television systems which produced large screen high-definition pictures for both the home and cinema. More information about Scophony can be found on the National Media Museum’s blog site here . The blog, also mentions Gustav and his involvement with Scophony and mentions that it was Wikkenhauser who built the two 30 line television receivers that Dénes Von Mihály, the Hungarian inventor and engineer, demonstrated at the 1928 Berlin Radio Exhibition.

R W Burns in his book, ‘British Television: The Formative Years’ (IEE Technology Series No.7), commented, “there is no doubt that the Scophony engineers, Walton, Wikkenhauser, Sieger, Robinson, and Lee, produced some of the most highly original devices ever seen in the field of television.” Burns’ book, available via the IET Library, has a chapter on the work of the Television Committee and high definition television in 1934 which also discusses the four competitor companies engaged in research on high definition systems at that time which were; Scophony Ltd; A C Cossor Ltd; Baird Television Ltd; and Electric and Musical Industries Ltd / Marconi-EMI Television Company Limited.

The War Years

Gustav became a naturalized British citizen in 1941 and was awarded the MBE for his scientific work at that time. It was after the war, in 1946, that Gustav married his second wife, Pamela.

Gustav’s work during the war remains something of a mystery although the depositor of the collection believes that there was a connection with radar. There is a series of Gustav’s papers in The National Archives, dating from 1939 to 1946 (reference HO 405/59934) which until only very recently had been closed (records opened to the public 30 October 2014).

Post-war Years

In 1947 Gustav became Chief Development Engineer for Kelvin Hughes (division of Smith Industries Ltd), of Barkingside, where he researched navigational instruments. Despite his work on early television, Gustav’s obituary comments that he was internationally known for his research into scientific instruments. The photograph below shows Gustav alongside Francis Chichester, the aviator and sailor, in front of Kelvin Hughes’ instrumentation in 1962.



Despite his involvement with navigational instrumentation Gustav retained an interest in television which we know from photographs contained within the deposited papers. There are several photographs taken at the Milan Fair for International Motion Pictures (MIFED) in 1960 where Gustav is photographed as a speaker alongside other pioneers of television such as Vladimir K Zworykin (inventor of a television transmitting and receiving system employing cathode ray tubes) – see below.



Gustav was made a Freeman of the City of London in 1958 and was a member of many professional organisations over his career. He was a Fellow of The Television Society, a Member of the British Institution of Radio Engineers (one of the predecessor organisations of the IET), a member of the Worshipful Company of Scientific Instrument Makers, and a Fellow of the Institute of Navigation. He retired in 1967 but continued to work as a consultant for Shell International Marine Ltd, for whom he researched the measurement of ship's motion. Gustav died aged 73 in 1974.

Personal Interests

Gustav, in addition to being an exceptional engineer, enjoyed socialising, and was a keen sailor. There are many personal photographs within the deposited collection and two of these, showing a very glamorous Gustav and Pamela, and Gustav sailing his boat off the Isle of Wight are shown below.





The Gustav Wikkenhauser papers have now been catalogued (reference SC MSS 257) and are available to view in the IET Archives. The contents of the collection can be viewed in the IET Archives online catalogue.

Jon Cable
Assistant Archivist
The Institution of Engineering and Technology

Edited: 05 November 2014 at 09:50 AM by Jonathan Cable


    Posted By: Jonathan Cable @ 04 November 2014 04:02 PM     Archives     Comments (0)  

October 29, 2014
Allen West - a Key Figure in British Electrical Equipment Manufacturing

The IET Archives recently received the donation of a very large black & white photograph of Allen West, which measures 104cm by 90cm, and which is reproduced below. The name of Allen West will be unfamiliar to many people but he was the founder of the company Allen West & Co. Ltd in 1910 which grew to become one of the UK’s largest manufacturers of control gear and switchgear in the 20th century. The company, which once employed over 3000 people in the UK and had branches and representatives all around the world, no longer exists as Allen West & Co, but following a management buyout in 2007 the rights to the Allen West products and associated records are now held by the company Allenwest Brighton Ltd.



The story of the Allen West company from 1910-1960 is told in the book, ‘The Allen West Story’ which was published for private circulation by the company in April 1960 – a copy of this volume which was presented to the IEE in 1960 by the company can be found in the IET Library. A cropped version of the donated photograph above appears in the book on page 24.

As well as being an engineer Allen West was also a soldier who fought in the Boer war as well as the two World Wars. On the outbreak of the Boer war, he volunteered as a trooper in the Yeomanry and following rapid promotion was given the command of a squadron which took part in the relief of Mafeking. He was wounded at that time and sent to convalesce in Hove.

Allen West was also associated with the British Electrical and Allied Manufacturers’ Association (BEAMA) and was on its Council for many years. Although he gave up the Managing Directorship of the eponymous company in 1933, he remained on the Board for a further 20 years before retiring. He died in 1957 aged 80.

Allen West & Co Ltd

One of Allen West’s first contracts in 1911 was with the Admiralty providing control gear components and it went on to supply starters for many ships of the Royal Navy from aircraft carriers to midget submarines. The company also supplied many industrial concerns such as steelworks, power stations and mines where it supplied controllers for mine hoists and haulages.

In World War II, the company played a part in the development of radar. It manufactured self-contained radar trailers and equipment for long range detector units. It also supplied special control gear for apparatus used to protect vessels from magnetic mines.

The IET Archives also holds some Allen West & Co material within its other collections for example some of its product leaflets can be found in our Croyden ‘A’ power station collection (reference NAEST 001/1/100) as well as connection diagrams within the same collection (reference NAEST 001/1/132). Leaflets for circuit breakers and switches are illustrated below.




The History of the Allen West Photograph

The Allen West photograph was kindly donated to the IET Archives by the Parmley Graham company. It’s Chairman, Mike Wilson, tells the following story about the photograph;

“My first recollection of seeing this rather imposing photograph was on the grand staircase of the Brighton head office of Allen West & Company, when I arrived there for training in 1966. J Parmley Graham & Sons Ltd, the firm which had just recruited me from ICI Heavy Organics Chemical Division, (now Parmley Graham Ltd) had been appointed as the Allen West Agent in North-East England in the early 1900’s just as Allen West was getting started.

Allen West and James Parmley Graham became friends whilst serving their apprenticeships on Tyneside at J H Holmes and Co., a manufacturer which eventually became Reyrolle then NEI, Rolls Royce and is now Siemens. By 1910 JPG as agent had secured the first order for six large reversing haulage controllers for a colliery in the North-East, which were still working twenty years later. The relationship prospered because of the huge requirement there was for Allen West products, like the newly invented drum controller, for use in the coal steel and chemical industries. The firm’s marine control gear was also in great demand and it is claimed that there was not a single Royal Naval vessel afloat in both world wars which was not extensively equipped with Allen West Gear, in the engine room and on deck.

When I arrived on the scene, there were 3500 employees in Brighton, plus those in its subsidiary companies in Canada, South Africa, Rhodesia and France. However, the notion of selling industrial goods through an agent was already passé, but such was the success of the North-East England Agent, it remained in place when every other area of England and Scotland were made into Allen West regional offices.

During those heady days when our links with Allen West were very strong and we were by far their largest distributor, the directors were moved in 1992, to send to me an appreciative plaque celebrating 82 years of co-operation together with a copy (I think) of the photograph of Mr Allen West which I had so revered at the beginning of my career.”

An Interesting Shareholder!

We are also grateful to Mike Wilson for supplying us with a copy of a handwritten list of the early Allen West & Co shareholders shown below.



Albert Slazenger, of sports equipment fame, appears on the list with a large holding of 23,000 shares. Mike believes that at some point around the time of this circa 1910 list, Allen West was also involved with the manufacturer of Slazenger’s tennis racquets!

The Allen West photograph has been catalogued as SC MSS 256 and can be viewed by appointment at the IET Archives Centre at Savoy Hill House.

Jon Cable
Assistant Archivist
The Institution of Engineering and Technology


    Posted By: Jonathan Cable @ 29 October 2014 10:50 AM     Archives     Comments (0)  

August 27, 2014
Oliver Heaviside, FRS, (1850-1925) - the Brilliant and Controversial Figure who Still Excites Passions Today

Oliver Heaviside, an important figure in the history of mathematics and electrical engineering, has close connections with the IET. He was the IEE's first Faraday Medal winner in 1922, and the IET Archives holds a significant collection of Heaviside's papers (SC MSS 5). The IET also has an oil portrait of Heaviside painted in 1945 by Francis Hodge. A photograph of Heaviside is shown below.

Oliver Heaviside was born in Camden Town, London on 18 May 1850, the youngest of four sons born to Thomas Heaviside and his wife Rachel West, whose sister Emma had married Sir Charles Wheatstone in 1847. Thomas Heaviside was a wood engraver and his wife was a governess and had taught the Spottiswoode family, including Sir William Spottiswoode who became President of the Royal Society. However, the family were very poor and the poverty of those early years had a lasting influence on Oliver. His education began at a girls' school run by his mother, but when this failed he was taught by Mr F R Cheshire at the Camden House School. He did not go to university but became a telegraph clerk for the Anglo Danish Telegraph Company, later the Great Northern Telegraph Company, in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1868.

In 1874 he retired from work due to increasing deafness. He then began work on a series of problems in telegraphy and signal transmission using experimentation, mathematics and vector analysis. He worked on Maxwell's equations concerning the electromagnetic theory of light. He predicted the existence of an ionised reflective layer in the atmosphere which would bounce radio signals back to earth - the ionosphere - which is known as the Heaviside layer in his honour, and also predicted the existence of sub-atomic particles and the idea that the mass of an electric charge increases with its velocity.

Heaviside was a difficult and eccentric man, caused partly by his deafness, and he cared nothing for the opinions of other scientists. He was convinced of the correctness of his workings using mathematical notation (vector algebra) which was almost impossible to understand by his contemporaries but which forms the basis of important areas of electrical engineering theory to this day. He had long and famous disagreements with Sir William Henry Preece over the introduction of inductance to long distance communication cables to improve the transmission of signals. Heaviside also disagreed with Lord Kelvin over the process by which electricity travelled down wires, leading to the production of Heaviside's transmission line equations, and over Kelvin's use of heat diffusion theory to calculate the age of the earth. However, Kelvin remained a lifelong friend of Heaviside.

Heaviside moved to Paignton in Devon with his parents to live near his brother Charles and his family. Both his parents had died by 1896 and in 1897 Heaviside moved to Newton Abbott where he lived until 1908 when he moved in with his sister in law's sister, Miss Mary Way in Torquay. He lived there until his death on 3 February 1925. In addition to the award of the Faraday Medal by the IEE he was made an Honorary Member of the AIEE. His published works include numerous papers and articles, Electromagnetic Waves (1889), Electrical Papers (1892) and Electromagnetic Theory (3 vols 1893-1912).

Heaviside's Papers in the IET Archives

After Heaviside's death in 1925, his nephew (Frederick Heaviside of Torquay) sold most of the papers he had gathered at his uncle's house to private collectors. Two years later in 1927, he sold the residue to the IEE for £120. This material was examined, soon after its arrival, by IEE member H J Josephs who commented, 'it did not contain any letters written by Heaviside himself; but it did contain letters from friends who were trying to get his fourth and concluding volume of Electromagnetic Theory published in America'.

Then in 1957, three large sacks of papers were found hidden under the floorboards of Heaviside's room in the house at Paignton where he lived from 1889 to 1897. These papers, which have been discussed in subsequent monographs, can also be found within the IET Archives Heaviside papers collection.

In addition to the Heaviside papers collection, Heaviside related material can be found widely throughout the other collections within the IET Archives. For example, there is a series of correspondence dating from 1922-1925 between J S Highfield, IEE President, and Heaviside about the award of the Faraday Medal (SC MSS 68), an audio recording on vinyl dating to 1950 which is a tribute to Oliver Heaviside by Oliver E Buckley, President of Bell Telephone Laboratories (IET/SPE/2/55); and there are numerous letters.

One such letter dated 8 October 1922, reproduced below, is a letter from Heaviside to the Brown family, saying that he had read a copy of the late William Gordon Brown's paper, admiring the quality of the work for one so young, and suggesting, "I do not think the Military Authorities should have accepted him as a fighting soldier. Ruffians are wanted for that. And I think the Military Authorities were very wrong in not overcoming the G.B.'s refusal by the simple process of compulsorily promoting him to one of their numerous scientific departments in which high mathematics would have been more useful than in the trenches'.

Heaviside Biographies and Appreciation of Heaviside

A volume titled 'The Heaviside Centenary Volume' was published by the IEE in 1950, which includes addresses made and papers presented at the Heaviside Centenary Meeting, 18 May 1950. However, there have been several recent biographies published since the 1980's., the latest of which is the 2009 work titled, 'Oliver Heaviside: Maverick Mastermind of Electricity' by B Mahon (volume 36 in the IET's History of Technology Series). These biographies are available in the IET Library.

Heaviside's importance continues to be recognised today and there are many enthusiastic supporters and promoters of his legacy. A current project involving Heaviside is called The Heaviside Memorial Project which aims to fund, through public subscription, and organise the restoration of the memorial to Heaviside and his family found in Paignton Cemetery, near Torquay. Here is a link to the website for that project which shows pictures of the cemetery plot and has a photograph of the Torbay Civic Society's blue plaque commemoration of Heaviside on the building where Heaviside lived between 1889 and 1897
Heaviside memorial Project

Jon Cable
Assistant Archivist
The Institution of Engineering and Technology

Edited: 03 September 2014 at 02:45 PM by Jonathan Cable


    Posted By: Jonathan Cable @ 27 August 2014 01:43 PM     Archives     Comments (0)  

August 14, 2014
A picture is worth a thousand words
We are all familiar with photographs. They dominate social media such as Facebook, and Pintrest where the audience is invited to comment on what they see. It is an engaging activity, one in which the viewer becomes part of the process, the object the subject too. However, photography and the sharing of images is nothing new. Each photograph taken has had an audience in mind and how we interpret those images can reveal much of society's conventions.

The science behind the image

It is not the purpose of this blog to discuss the inventor of photography as many can lay claim to this accolade. But for simplicity's sake Louis Daguerre developed the daguerreotype process in 1839. The metal-based daguerreotype came in to competition from the paper-based calotype negative invented by Henry Fox Talbot. Fox Talbot made the first surviving photographic negative on paper in Britain in 1835.
Since then photography and the chemical process behind it excited scientists in to perfecting the art. One of those scientists was Sir Joseph Wilson Swan.

Swan was apprenticed to a chemist in his native town of Sunderland. He later became a business partner in a pharmacy in Newcastle which manufactured photographic plates. His interest in photography led him to make significant improvements in the field.

The first practical process for negatives on glass was introduced by F. Scott Archer in 1851. A sheet of glass was coated with a thin film of collodion (guncotton dissolved in ether) containing potassium iodide and was sensitised with silver nitrate. The plate had to be exposed while still wet. Swan and his partner, John Mawson, produced collodion and their improved technique gained recognition.

In addition to the collodion process Swan discovered how to make a sensitive dry plate in place of the less convenient wet collodion process and patented the method of printing using the carbon process in 1864. By 1871 R. L. Maddox proposed the use of silver bromide in gelatine to make dry photographic plates. Swan experimented and perfected the process and by 1877 Mawson and Swan's bromide plates were renowned. In 1879 Swan followed this success with the invention of bromide paper.

Swan is also remembered for his work on the incandescent electric lamp. More information about this can be found on the IET's biography on Joseph Swan. Among his many distinctions he was president of the Institution of Electrical Engineers in 1898.

Other scientists and inventors associated with the development of photography and the IET are Michael Faraday, Sir Francis Ronalds, Sir William Crookes and Silvanus P Thompson.

The collections of Faraday and Ronalds correspondence, deposited with the IET Archives, covers the subjects of early photographic processes. There is also a collection of pamphlets belonging to S P Thompson on the subject of photography.

Some examples of different photographs within the IET Archives

The portrait photograph developed from the painted portrait that has its roots in the Renaissance. Photographs of individuals imitated the conventions of portraiture such as pose, background and accessories. They were commissioned by the sitter and taken by a commercial photographer for a fee. Later as photography became more affordable and practical amateurs began to take photographs as a leisure time activity.

The earliest photograph in the IET Archives is a daguerreotype of Michael Faraday and William Thomas Brande in a presentation case. It was taken in 1848 by Maull and Polybank with a note by S P Thompson explaining that it was given to him by Sir William Crookes on 22 February 1913. The daguerreotype is a highly polished silver surface on a copper plate which was sensitised by iodine fumes exposed in a camera and the image developed by exposure to mercury powder. It can be easily damaged by touching therefore the case served as a means of protection as much as having an aesthetic quality.

An expression of time

As with painted portraits the early photograph was designed to portray the positive virtues of the subject. It is often remarked that Victorian photographs are devoid of emotion and facial expression. However, if one understands the conventions of the time then we can appreciate that they were trying to epitomise the ideal expression and reflect that on to the audience. They wanted to project the notion that they were dignified, pensive, absorbed in thought which in turn is what they wanted the viewer to emulate.

Similarly the pose was also important. Standing or seated can mean authority or an ease with his surroundings. Props and backgrounds can tell us a lot about the subject too. This harks back to painted backdrops used to create a stage. Books and scientific apparatus signify education, literacy and expertise in their chosen field.

A sense of touch

The Victorians believed that intimate emotions such as those conveyed through touch were not appropriate on display in publically viewed photographs. Therefore many family portraits or those of husbands and wives will show them distanced from each other or any physical contact is lacking in affection. Yet two photographs in the IET Archives collection show otherwise.

Michael Faraday married Sarah Barnard on 12 June 1821. There is little evidence to suggest as to the congeniality of their marriage but Faraday's collection of correspondence often refers to his wife and this photograph shows warmth between the two. It is interesting to note the direction of their gaze as this did comply with common practice. Faraday looks straight ahead which projected a sense of strength and engagement. Women on the other hand usually averted their gaze to suggest modesty.

Another photograph of F H Webb, Secretary of the Society of Telegraph Engineers, taken c1890 shows a pose with a child. Nothing is known about this photograph but it can be surmised that the child has a close relationship with Webb given the visibly affectionate composition.

This is just a snapshot of the many different types and subjects of photographs we hold in the IET Archives. For more information please see our online catalogue.

If this has sparked an interest in photography why not check out the Newcastle Photography Festival "A celebration of photography inspired by Joseph Swan and his adventures with carbon, collodion and light". It runs from 20-26 October 2014 and more information can be found by visiting:

Edited: 18 August 2014 at 03:10 PM by Asha Gage


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August 8, 2014
The Young Trophy and the Beginning of a Young Photographer's 60-Year Relationship with the IEE!

The Young Trophy is a prize awarded in a sporting competition between the student and graduate sections of professional engineering institutions. The competition first took place in 1933 when the student and graduates sections of the Institution of Civil Engineers and Institution of Mechanical Engineers jointly challenged the Institution of Electrical Engineers to compete in cricket and tennis matches.

Henry Thomas Young, Vice President of the IEE at the time and who went on to become President in 1936, was so impressed by the sporting spirit displayed on this occasion that he presented a trophy to be competed for annually by all three Institutions. This trophy was called the ‘Young Trophy’ in his honour.

Within a few years the sporting competition included additional sports not just cricket and tennis. The Young Trophy continues to be awarded to this day but now embraces teams comprised of students and young professional from a wider range of engineering institutions. In 2014 the format was a 5-aside football tournament and on 5 July 2014 the Institution of Civil Engineers were crowned champions with teams from the Institute of Acoustics and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 2nd and 3rd places respectively.

The Origins of the Trophy

The 30th anniversary programme, held in the IET Archives, explains how the first challenge and subsequent tournament began in the summer of 1933 when a challenge was sent to the Students’ Section of the IEE stating:

“The Chairman and Committees of the London Students of Civil Engineering and the Graduates’ Section of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers SUMMON HEREBY the Chairman and Committee of the Students’ Section of the Institution of Electrical Engineers to show their worth and prove their skill at the noble game of CRICKET and other manly sports, failing which shall they be declared poltroons and knaves in the sight of all Sportsmen.”

The reply, delivered in the same tone of humour, said:

“To all Apprenticed Enginewrights and Claypuddlers, know ye that whereas your betters in Council assembled, to wit the Chairman and Committee of the most exalted Institution of Electrical Engineers, have deigned to consider the presumptuous and overweening screed delivered these few days gone by a consortium of rude Mechanicals and indignant Civils (not excluding the Sanitary Branch), and have seen fit of their special grace and mere motion to treat with those arrogant and effete survivals of a murky and uncertain origin. Know ye also, o men of little worth, that ye enter upon this enterprise at your several perils, there being a very present risk of your being smitten hip and thigh by our superior prowess. Take heed, therefore, lest our most puissant might be loosed in tourney against ye. In fine- take heed!”

Following this verbal jousting, battle commenced on 1st July 1933 at Boston Manor and both cricket and tennis were played. The event was attended by Sir Murdoch MacDonald, ICE President; L. St. L. Pendred, Past-President of the IMechE, and Henry Thomas Young, Vice President of the IEE. The report of the event was as follows;

“The cricket began at a fast pace with the IEE batting first with a score of 120 for 8. However, the claypuddlers were on fighting form clocking up 40 runs before the IEE captain broke-up this dangerous partnership in his first over. The challenger's innings closed for 89. The tennis had the difficulty of a shortage of players as they were all in the cricket match! This did not dampen spirits and six doubles were played in all of which the IEE were victorious.”

In the early years it was agreed that the meeting should be a three cornered one. The holder of the Trophy, being challenged by one of the other Institutions, and the winner decided in a knock-out competition. The Electricals followed their success of 1933 by winning the Trophy in 1934. In 1937 the Young Trophy was won for the first time by the Institution of Civil Engineers.

1937 Young Trophy Competition and a Photographer at the Start of his Career as an Engineer

The IET Archives has very recently received a donation of two photographs, taken at the 1937 Young Trophy competition, which can be seen below (catalogued as IET/UNO/2/4). The photographs were taken by Norman R Rice, a Student member of the IEE and also a member of the IEE’s London Student’s Section. The photographs were donated by Norman's son Peter J Rice.

The first photograph shows the Young Trophy being received for the first time in its history by the Institution of Civil Engineers with Mrs H T Young, who presented the trophy, in the background..


A report about the 1937 competition, which at that time comprise shooting, tennis and cricket, was printed in the IEE’s Student’s Quarterly Journal under the title ‘Young Trophy changes hands: Civil persistence triumphs’. An extract from the report says;

“Last year the Civils swore by all their gods that they would wrest the Young Trophy from us this year. Their ju-ju appears potent, for they succeeded by a handsome margin. As explained elsewhere, we were a poor second in the shooting tie, scoring only 80 as against 121. Our tennis was certainly on a higher level, but even so we again lost to the Civils by 5-4. This can only be attributed to those members who promised to play and then two days before the matches asked to be excused…. The cricket was much more successful, although here again our team was short of one man. However, we managed to give the Civils a run for their money, and were only beaten by 7 runs.” A full cricket scorecard is also given in the report.

The second photograph shows spectator’s at the Young Trophy including Henry Thomas Young himself (second person on the left).


The photographer for these two photographs, Norman Richard Rice, joined the IEE as a Student member in 1931 and he studied electrical engineering at Battersea Polytechnic from 1931 to 1934. Norman graduated with a BSc (Eng.) in 1934 and became a Graduate member of the IEE. His link with the Young Trophy and the London Student’s Section can be explained because in 1933 (aged 20) he was Assistant Secretary for Visits, IEE London Students Section and he became Vice Chairman of the London Students' Section in 1935.

Little could Norman have envisaged at that time that he would retain his link to the IEE for over 60 years! Having joined in 1931, he went on to became an Associate Member in 1940 and a Member in 1966, when the membership category structure changed. His name continued to appear on the IEE’s published membership lists until his last appearance on the list of 1994/1995.).

Jon Cable
Assistant Archivist
The Institution of Engineering and Technology

Edited: 03 September 2014 at 01:57 PM by Library and Archives Moderator


    Posted By: Jonathan Cable @ 08 August 2014 04:14 PM     Archives     Comments (0)  

July 31, 2014
IEE Pre-1930 Membership Records Now Available on Ancestry - Uncovering the Hidden Engineers including Jekyll and Hyde!

The pre-1930 membership records held by the IET Archives consist of the IEE’s membership application forms pre-1902 (no physical application forms exist after 1902) and also the published membership lists of the IEE. In 2013 Ancestry, the company which provides online resources to family historians, began a programme to digitise these records. Those records recently became publicly accessible via Ancestry’s website.

All visitors to the IET Archives, IET Library and Michael Faraday House, Stevenage can access the full website, not just the IEE’s membership records, for free from selected computer terminals at those locations. In addition IET Members worldwide can access IEE records on Ancestry, by contacting the IET Archives with their membership number, and we will provide details on how to log in. Further information on these digitised records and how to access them can be found on the IET Archives website page with the web address,

The digitised pre-1930 records can be used to find the membership application forms of engineers who joined either the Society of Telegraph Engineers (STE), since its creation in 1871, or who joined its successor, the Society of Telegraph Engineers and Electricians, which then became the Institution of Electrical Engineers in 1889. Amongst the membership application forms can be found those of many noted engineers for example, Nikola Tesla. The 1891 application form for Nikola Tesla to join the IEE as a Foreign Member is reproduced below.



Jekyll and Hyde and their links to the Institution of Electrical Engineers

The link between the published membership lists and Jekyll and Hyde is a story that was told by Sarah Hale in the ‘from the vaults’ column in the IET’s Member News, March 2013. The story is repeated below;

“Most people will be familiar with the 1886 novella ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ by Robert Louis Stevenson, the tale of a morally just man who transforms into an evil criminal after consuming a self-invented potion. The phrase ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ has since become a by-word to describe anybody or anything with a split personality, but where did Stevenson find inspiration for these intriguing and somewhat unusual names? As a novelist with a vivid imagination, it may be that he simply plucked them out of thin air, indeed, the name Jekyll originates from Stevenson’s native Scotland; but there is some evidence to suggest that he took these names from the first membership list of the Society of Telegraph Engineers.

The link between Jekyll and Hyde and the STE was first noticed by Rollo Appleyard in his book ‘The History of the Institution of Electrical Engineers 1871-1931’. When discussing the early days of the STE and referring to the membership list, which was published in 1872, Appleyard noted “the curious addition of Jekyll and Hyde”. ‘Jekyll’ was Lt H Jekyll, Royal Engineer, and one of the first members to join in 1871, while ‘Hyde’ was Major General H Hyde of the India Office, another prominent telegraph engineer of the time. There is also another name in the list that corresponds with a character in the novella, Frederick C Danvers, who shares a name with Hyde’s victim in the book, Sir Danvers Carew. A number of other characters also share names with civil and mechanical engineers of the 18th and 19th centuries, such as Inspector Newcomen, who possibly derived his name from the famed steam engine inventor.


These links were passed off as coincidental and not pursued further until 1949, when the IEE contacted the Society of Genealogists to ask them to research into the possibility of a relationship between Stevenson and Edward Alfred Stevenson, a member of the STE who also appears in the first membership list. The IET Archives hold a copy of the report that the Society of Genealogists sent to the IEE as a result of this research. It was concluded in the report that there was no link between Robert Louis Stevenson and Edward Alfred Stevenson, and suggested that Robert Louis Stevenson may have found access to the STE membership lists via his father, who was a prominent Scottish lighthouse engineer. There may have been some truth in this, but it is also possible that Stevenson came across the membership lists another way. As well as being the son of a lighthouse engineer, Stevenson studied engineering at the University of Edinburgh. Though he would come to loathe the subject and seek a career as a writer, Stevenson developed a close friendship with his professor at Edinburgh, Fleeming Jenkin. While Jenkin was a pioneering electrical and telegraph engineer, both men shared an avid interest in poetry and theatre and took part in amateur dramatics together. When Jenkin died suddenly in 1885 Stevenson was distressed and shocked. To aid the grieving process he began writing a memoir of Jenkin that was completed in 1887.


It is Stevenson’s friendship with Jenkin that perhaps provides the strongest evidence that he was inspired by the STE membership list for his characters’ names in ‘Jekyll and Hyde’. He wrote the book at the same time as writing Jenkin’s memoir during a period of intense activity and so it is likely that his research for the memoirs may have influenced the thinking behind the novella. This idea is compounded when one actually looks at the page of the STE membership list that contains the names of ‘Jekyll and Hyde’. Col H Hyde and Lt H Jekyll are right next to each other, while Fleeming Jenkin FRS MICE, of 5 Fettes Row, Edinburgh, is two places directly below Jekyll. Did Stevenson look up Jenkin’s entry in the STE membership lists, and see the names of Jekyll and Hyde so close together and be inspired, consciously or subconsciously, to use them in his latest work of fiction?”

The first published membership list of the STE to which the above story refers is not one of the lists digitised by Ancestry as the list was published as part of the STE journal, but the entry as published in that journal is reproduced below.


Jon Cable
Assistant Archivist
The Institution of Engineering and Technology


    Posted By: Jonathan Cable @ 31 July 2014 02:52 PM     Archives     Comments (0)  

July 9, 2014
18th Century Italian Earthquake Records - Conservation of Rare Books Held in the IET Archives

Whilst the large majority of published books and volumes, regardless of age, are held by the IET Library, there are a small number of rare books which because of their value or fragility are held within the IET Archives.

One such volume is the ‘Carta Corografica Della Calabria Ultiore’, a volume of large maps and engravings which was published in the 1780’s and which illustrates the aftermath of the Calabrian earthquakes of 1783. The 1783 Calabrian earthquakes were a sequence of five strong earthquakes, two of which produced significant tsunamis, which hit the region of Calabria in southern Italy which at the time was part of the Kingdom of Naples. The earthquakes occurred over a period of almost two months, all with magnitudes of 5.9 or greater and which have been estimated to have cause the deaths of 32,000 to 50,000 people.



The Neapolitan Royal Academy sent an expedition to Calabria following the earthquakes which in addition to causing vast numbers of deaths, destroyed hundreds of villages, caused mountains to collapse, and changed the courses of rivers. Even the coastline was altered as a result of the earthquakes.

The expedition comprised a group of scientists including Michele Sarconi, Angiolo Fasano, Nicolo Pacifico, Padre Eliseo della Concezione and Antonio Minasi as well as architects and draughtsmen. Padre Eliseo was the individual responsible for designing the Carta Corografica, a very accurate overview of the changes experienced by the region.



One importance of this work by Padre Eliseo is that it is the first seismic map produced in Italy and it rectifies the errors in latitude and longitude in previous maps of the region. Pere Eliseo designed the maps with the help of a ‘macchina equatoriale’ which he himself had invented and which is illustrated on the last page.



In addition to the numerous plates showing views of the area there are several engravings illustrating fossils such as the following illustration of ‘echiniti’ found near Orsigliadi.



This volume had been in quite poor condition, with a significant amount of dirt, some water damage and some missing pieces of paper around the edges (not affecting the individual plates). A few years ago the decision was taken that the volume required conservation work to stop any further significant and/or rapid deterioration in the volume. A specialist paper conservator was used to clean the individual pages, and repair the edges of the plates including the filling of the holes with a specialist conservation grade paper.

The restored volume, following conservation treatment, is now wrapped in protective paper within its own ‘book box’ and is stored in the Archive Centre strongroom and through this intervention is available to be consulted by both researchers and members of the IET.

Historical records such as these can often be used by present day researchers to re-evaluate past events and develop a better understanding of seismic activity. In the case of the Calabrian earthquakes there was a paper published in 2006 in the journal Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences titled, ‘A revision of the 1783-84 Calabrian (southern Italy) tsunamis’, which analysed historical sources to calculate that there had been 3 more tsunamis than previously estimated, and that the tsunamis had been previously underestimated and ‘erroneously considered a minor event’.

Jon Cable
Assistant Archivist
The Institution of Engineering and Technology

Edited: 11 July 2014 at 08:45 AM by Jonathan Cable


    Posted By: Jonathan Cable @ 09 July 2014 02:06 PM     Archives     Comments (0)  

July 4, 2014
New Collections Recently Deposited with the IET Archives

The IET Archives continues to receive a steady stream of fascinating deposits related to the history of engineering and technology and to key individuals who made important contributions to those sectors. Two such recent deposits are highlighted below.

Records of the STC Technical Society, latterly The Technical Society


The recent deposit comprises papers of the Society, primarily from the 1980’s and early 1990’s, and includes items such as committee minutes, details of programmes and events, and accounts.

The Society was founded as the Western Electric Engineering Society in 1912, a technical society for employees of Western Electric, which held regular technical meetings, lectures and organised visits. Western Electric began life in London as International Western Electric in 1883 (an agent for the US company Western Electric). The original notice proposing the Engineering Society was circulated amongst members of the Engineering Department on 5 September 1912.

In 1925 Western Electric's international operations were bought by ITT Corporation of the US and the company's UK operations were renamed Standard Telephones and Cables.

Soon after the end of World War II the Engineering Society was continued as the STC Telephone Technical Society (TTS). Members were then mostly electro-mechanical engineers and sales engineers with other members of the Telephone Division. Personnel engaged in, and associated with, the Manufacturing Division (Telephones) were allowed to become Associate Members subject to Committee approval. The highest number of members was just under 600 and in May 1985 membership totalled 551.

The 12 May 1989 constitution of the STC Telephone Technical Society (issue 14) shows that Full Membership was open to all employees of STC plc. Associate Membership was open to previous employees of STC plc who had retired and had been approved by the Committee. A class of Honorary Members could be elected by the Committee and there was an Associates class for people connected with Full Members.

In 1991 STC was bought by Northern Telecom of Canada (Nortel) and the name of the Society was changed to The Technical Society still referred to as TTS.

The collection has been catalogued as NAEST 227 and forms a useful addition to the collection of papers of STC, including photographs, related to its site at New Southgate (collection NAEST 211). NAEST 211 is a very large collection and is currently being catalogued as part of a long term project. The photograph below is one of the many images held within numerous albums in NAEST 211



Paul Voigt papers 

Another recent addition to the IET Archives is a collection of photographs related to Paul Voigt (collection SC MSS 111/3) which joins a small collection of Voigt papers already held in the IET Archives (SC MSS 111/1-2). 

Paul Voigt was born in London on 9 December 1901 and gained a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering from UCL at the age of 21. Voigt was first employed by J E Hough Ltd in 1922 at the Edison-Bell works in Peckham, London where he was employed for his specialist wireless knowledge. 

By 1926 Voigt had developed the 1st British electric recording system. Many Edison Bell products were protected by patents taken out by Voigt. After the cessation of trading of Edison Bell in 1933 Voigt set up his own company called Voigt Patents Ltd, based in Sydenham, London, and the company's 'Domestic Corner Horn' was released in 1934. 

During World War II the company's main work came from maintaining its horn speakers installed in cinemas. Voigt moved to Canada with his wife in April 1950, having previously come to an agreement with the Lowther Manufacturing Company to produce the Domestic Corner Horn under licence. 

Paul Voigt died 9 February 1981. [biographical information extracted from Lowther Voigt Museum website]. 

The collection was generously deposited by Mr E H Stubbes, a long-term supporter of the legacy of Paul Voigt and one of the main contributors to the ‘pink fish media’ website which is dedicated to promoting the legacy of Paul Voigt. For anyone interested in finding our more about Paul Voigt here is a link to that website;

There is very little material relating to Voigt known to survive and the most important photograph within the deposit is the photograph reproduced below which is a photograph of Voigt from the early 1920’s.


Jon Cable
Assistant Archivist
The Institution of Engineering and Technology

Edited: 07 July 2014 at 10:32 AM by Jonathan Cable


    Posted By: Jonathan Cable @ 04 July 2014 02:20 PM     Archives     Comments (0)  

June 23, 2014
Mrs Ayrton and the Hissing of the Electric Arc

“more can be learned from a careful observation of small phenomena, by observation and reflection in fact, than by passing any number of examinations…”

In 1899 a paper entitled, ‘The Hissing of the Electric Arc’ was presented to the Institution of Electrical Engineers and published in its journal. The subject matter was not unusual, but this was a first for the institution: a paper written and presented by a woman.

Hertha Ayrton was a mathematician and physicist whose work applied physical principles to practical engineering problems. Born Phoebe Sarah Marks (changing her name as a teenager after a Swinburne poem), she received an usually excellent education at a London school run by her aunt, Marion Hartog. Hertha’s widowed mother thought it was very important that her daughter be well-educated, because ‘women have the harder battle to fight in the world.’

Thanks to Barbara Bodichon, the co-founder of Girton College and a family friend, Hertha was able to attend Girton and study mathematics. After graduating, she returned to London to teach and met her husband William Ayrton while attending classes at Finsbury Technical College. William encouraged Hertha to continue her work after their marriage and the birth of their daughter, but it was a legacy from Barbara Bodichon which enabled her to employ a housekeeper and free up time for research.



Arc lamps were the first practical electric lamps and would have been seen and used widely in 1899, mainly for external and street lighting. The light came from a bright white spark generated by an electric current travelling between two carbon rods. Sometimes these lamps made humming and hissing noises, and it was the hissing on which Ayrton focused her research. This hissing meant that the arc was becoming unstable and less efficient. Ayrton set out to study the phenomenon in painstaking detail, concluding that it was the result of changes in the shape of the carbon ends. She stated that a) the hissing arc was caused by a crater shape forming on one side of the carbon (this is illustrated by a series of diagrams in the Journal), and b) that the drop in current thus produced is due to the effect of oxygen reaching this crater and combining with the carbon on the surface.

Ayrton concluded by thanking the IEE for giving her the chance to present her paper. This may seem odd to us, but a few years later her request to present a paper to the Royal Society was turned down on the grounds that she was a woman (as was her application for fellowship). Her paper at the IEE, in contrast, generated an enthusiastic response. The President, the electric lighting pioneer Sir Joseph Swan, stated that ‘I am sure that we on our part feel more than honoured that Mrs. Ayrton has chosen this Institution as the medium of [her paper’s] publication.’ A lively debate on the findings of Ayrton’s research followed – the original paper is thirty pages long, with the discussion taking up another twenty. The President concluded with,

“It is the first paper we have had the pleasure of receiving from Mrs Ayrton; I sincerely hope it will not be the last. We do not have the honour of numbering among us any lady members, but I do not know any legal disability against ladies becoming members. If not, I hope we may look forward to the pleasure of numbering Mrs Ayrton among the members of the Institution before long.”

Hertha Ayrton was elected as the first woman Member of the IEE later that year.

Ayrton went on to publish a book on the arc lamp and also extended her research to the phenomena of sand ripples and vortices in water and air. This research would lead to the development of the ‘Ayrton fan’, used in the First World War to expel gas from the trenches.


IET Archives biography

 WES Magnificent Women biographies:


Anne Locker, IET Library and Archives

Jon Cable
Assistant Archivist
The Institution of Engineering and Technology

Edited: 23 June 2014 at 11:31 AM by Jonathan Cable


    Posted By: Jonathan Cable @ 23 June 2014 11:13 AM     Archives     Comments (0)  

June 10, 2014
Two Recent Deposits Related to the 19th Century

Two recent deposits to The IET Archives have a connection to the 19th century. The first deposit is an object manufactured in 1898 by a US company with an interesting British electrical engineering connection. The second deposit is a privately published biography, published in 2013, about the 19th century electrician and electrical engineer Owen Rowland. 

Weston Electrical Voltmeter, 1898


The 1898 object is a Weston Electrical Instrument Co, Newark, New Jersey, USA voltmeter. It comes in an attractive wooden box and has a certificate number 2056 [IET Archives catalogue reference OPC/1/186]. The full title of the voltmeter is a Weston standard portable alternating & direct current voltmeter. The certificate, pasted into the wooden box housing the voltmeter, says that it was standardized at 101 St Martin's Lane, London on 11 November 1898 and was certified by A C Heap. 

The Weston Electrical Instrument Co was founded by the British-born American electrical engineer and industrialist, Edward Weston, in 1888. Edward Weston was a British-born American electrical engineer and industrialist who founded the Weston Electrical Instrument Company. A prodigious inventor, Weston held 334 patents, and helped revolutionize the measurement of electricity. In 1886 he developed a practical precision, direct reading, portable, instrument to accurately measure electrical current. 

Weston, who was born in Shropshire (England), moved to New York, USA, at the age of 20 where he found a job in the electroplating industry. In 1872 he opened a business in partnership with George G. Harris, called Harris & Weston Electroplating Co. He patented the nickel-plating anode here in 1875 and then developed his first dynamo for electroplating. 

By 1875 he moved to New Jersey, and began making dynamos. His company eventually became the Weston Electric Light Company, which won the contract to illuminate the new Brooklyn Bridge. 

In 1887, having left the generator and lamp business, he established a laboratory, and the following year the Weston Electrical Instrument Company began trading. In 1888 he developed a practical precision, direct reading, portable, instrument to accurately measure electrical current. The Weston Standard Cell, developed in 1893, was recognized as an international standard and was used by the National Bureau of Standards for almost a century to calibrate other meters. 

Weston became a U.S. citizen in 1923 and in 1932 Dr Edward Weston received the IEEE’s Lamme Medal ‘for his achievements in the development of electrical apparatus, especially in connection with precision measuring instruments’. 

Biography of Owen Rowland (1820-1877)


Two copies of this Owen Rowland biography, written by Michael J Cooke, were recently deposited with the IET by the author, one copy with the IET Archives and one copy with the IET Library. 

This is the first account of Owen Rowland’s activities. Rowland was appointed by William Fothergill Cooke as his resident engineer in 1844 for the construction of the first long-distance telegraph in Britain, and he was commissioned in 1857-58 to install the country’s first ‘truly overhead’ telegraph lines. If this wasn’t enough Rowland set up two periodicals in the early 1860’s, The Electrician and The Telegraphic Journal, and in the 1870’s ran a ‘weather forecast and storm warning’ service supplying daily forecasts to newspapers at a time when the Meteorological Office had stopped doing this. 

The IET Archives’ copy of this volume has an archive catalogue reference SC MSS 255 and is one of several privately published, unpublished, or draft biographies held by the IET Archives.

Jon Cable
Assistant Archivist
The Institution of Engineering and Technology

Edited: 12 June 2014 at 10:53 AM by Jonathan Cable


    Posted By: Jonathan Cable @ 10 June 2014 10:25 AM     Archives     Comments (1)  

May 28, 2014
Objects in the IET Archives

In the first half of the 20th century a decision was made to relocate the objects held in the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE) Museum. Since then objects have not been part of the IET Archives’ collecting policy. However, this does not mean that there are no objects in the IET Archives or under the care of the archivists or that objects do not, very occasionally, get added to the IET Archives.  

IEE Museum

The IEE started its electrical museum in 1901, in part due to the accommodation problems being experienced by the Victoria and Albert Museum (previously called the South Kensington Museum) which in 1901 included science collections – the Science Museum came formally into independent existence in 1909. Even in 1901 the IEE Council were making arrangements for the ‘South Kensington Museum’ to receive objects of public interest from the IEE collection on loan.

Early in 1923 the IEE Council and the Science Museum agreed to transfer the bulk of the IEE’s museum collection to the Science Museum amounting to several hundred objects. A further batch of historic objects was loaned to the Science Museum in 1953 and in 1994 the IEE converted its entire loan collection at the Science Museum into a gift.

Objects currently held by the IET Archives

Whilst the IET Archives usually decline offers of historic objects, and instead work with potential donors to find other homes for these objects, objects can still be found in the IET’s collections. These objects may be gifts to the IEE/IET and its Presidents and officials. Many such gifts were received in 1971 when we celebrated our centenary. On occasions small objects accompany manuscript donations to the archives such as medals awarded to individuals. Others have important associations with engineering history such as a small section of the transatlantic cable.

Some of the more unusual objects found in the archives include tea towels. One of the most frequently consulted collections is that of the records of the Electrical Association for Women (collection reference NAEST 093) which was formed in 1924. This collection includes a series of tea towels (NAEST 093/10/02) which the EAW used to explain the use of certain electrical items in the home. Tea towel subjects include ‘connections for standard plugs’, ‘which fuse’, and reading a meter.



The IET Archives only this week received the deposit of 2 tea towels (accession 2014-04), one of which included a new design not currently held in NAEST 093/10/02.

Large objects held in the IET Archives

Most of the objects still remaining in the archives are small items but there are some larger things such as the IET’s portraits, which are under the custodianship of the IET Archives. The largest single object that we currently hold is the metal railway locomotive nameplate ‘The Institution of Electrical Engineers’.



This sign is a significant item of railway heritage and is item serial number 437 (not designated), registered number 2002/07, on the Railway Heritage Designation Advisory Board's list (replaced the Railway Heritage Committee in March 2013). It is described on that list as 'locomotive nameplate: The Institution of Electrical Engineers (86607)'. The item is considered a 'disposed item' within the IET's jurisdiction.

Usually when talking to one of the IET’s archivists you will hear them say that the IET does not hold or accession objects. Whilst true as a general rule, you will now know to take this statement with a very small pinch of salt!

Jon Cable
Assistant Archivist
The Institution of Engineering and Technology

Edited: 10 June 2014 at 10:52 AM by Jonathan Cable


    Posted By: Jonathan Cable @ 28 May 2014 03:59 PM     Archives     Comments (0)  

March 21, 2014
The Importance of a Thimble in the History of the Transatlantic Telegraph Cable

One of the collections in the IET Archives, rediscovered as a result of the move of the archives out of Savoy Place, is an album of transatlantic telegraph ephemera which contains material from the period 1862 to 1872 (catalogue reference SC MSS 254). The album, titled, ‘Atlantic Telegraph 1865’ is likely to have belonged originally to Sir Peter FitzGerald, the 19th Knight of Kerry (1808-1880). Sir Peter was a Vice-Treasurer of Ireland in the last ministry of Sir Robert Peel and he succeeded his father as an Irish landlord, residing on Valentia Island just off the coast of mainland Ireland.

Valentia is important in the history of the transatlantic telegraph cable as it was the location of one end of the cable that was successfully laid over the period 1865 to 1866 and Sir Peter devoted much of his time and efforts to ensure that the laying of the cable was a success.

The album contains press cuttings, letters, photographs and other paper-based ephemera primarily related to the 1865-1866 Atlantic telegraph cable. There is a significant amount of correspondence with noted politicians of the time such as a letter from William Ewart Gladstone when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, letters from Sir Robert Peel, 3rd Baronet, the Irish Secretary in Palmerston's ministry, and letters from Stratford Canning, 1st Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe. There is also a significant amount of correspondence and ephemera related to those closely involved with the 1865 Atlantic telegraph cable such as the Atlantic Telegraph Company and officers/passengers on the various ships involved with the cable laying operations.

The relevance of a thimble to the transatlantic cable was mentioned to us recently by a thimble researcher, Anne Jansen, who was made aware of a ‘thimble letter’ contained within the album, having heard about it from Tessa O’Connor at the Valentia Heritage Centre in 1988. A press cutting in the album next to the letter says:-

 “The contents of a lady’s thimble would hardly be expected to constitute a very powerful instrument. They would scarcely have been thought capable of one of the most astonishing feats ever performed by science. The Chairman, however, of the Atlantic Telegraph Company informs us that this little instrument has actually achieved such a feat. By way of experiment, the Engineer of the Company joined the extremities of the two cables which now stretch across the Atlantic, thus forming an immense loop line of 3,700 miles. He then put some acid in a lady’s silver thimble with bits of zinc and copper, and by this simple agency he succeeded in passing signals through the whole length in little more than a second in time.”

The letter in the album, relating to this thimble, is reproduced below;

The letter, dated 12 September 1866 is from Latimer Clark, who acted as an engineer for the Anglo-American Telegraph Company at the time (the engineer referred to in the press article) and went on to become the 4th President of the Society of Telegraph Engineers (predecessor of the IET). The letter sent to Emily Fitzgerald, daughter of Sir Peter, says,

“Mr Latimer Clark presents his compliments to Miss FitzGerald and begs to return her thimble with many thanks, assuring her that when containing a little acid and a fragment of zinc, it formed the most efficient battery, and messages were readily transmitted by its means through both the Atlantic cables, even when they were joined together in a loop at Newfoundland, so as to form a circuit 3742 miles in length. Valentia September 12 1866.”

The album contains a small image of Emily next to the letter and the press cutting. The photograph is shown below. 


Jon Cable
Assistant Archivist
The Institution of Engineering and Technology

Edited: 21 March 2014 at 09:09 AM by Jonathan Cable


    Posted By: Jonathan Cable @ 21 March 2014 08:57 AM     Archives     Comments (1)  

February 7, 2014
Archive Office Now Relocated to Savoy Hill House

The IET's new Archive Centre is due to open to members and the public at the end of February. Visitors to the Archive Centre will need to arrange the timing of their visits in advance to allow time for the retrieval of collections from offsite storage (further details regarding visiting arrangements will appear on the library and archives pages of the IET website in due course). The core collections will be stored onsite with the remaining collections stored in a specialist facility in Oxfordshire - these collections will be retrieved as and when required for consultation by researchers. 

The new Archive Centre comprises an archive office, where staff and researchers will be located, and a strongroom which will hold the IET's core collections including rare books and items temporarily retrieved from offsite storage. 

The move of the archive office from its temporary home at Michael Faraday House in Stevenage is now complete and planning is underway for the transfer of the ‘permanent' collections into the strongroom at Savoy Hill House. 

In the last days at the old home of the archives in Savoy Place three pictures of Savoy Hill House were discovered and given to the archives team. It is rather fitting that these three framed pictures now adorn the walls of the new Archive Centre in Savoy Hill House. The pictures, all taken from the same viewpoint, are reproduced below and show; Savoy Hill House in 1926 (a caption describes the picture as the BBC building from the time when the BBC was based at Savoy Hill House); again in 1949 showing the bomb damage to one corner of the building; and finally in 1966 with the bomb damage repaired and the corner of the building rebuilt. 


Savoy Hill House - October 1926 (archive reference IET/SPE/1/19/1)



Savoy Hill House - January 1949 (archive reference IET/SPE/1/19/2)



Savoy Hill House - June 1966 (archive reference IET/SPE/1/19/3)



Jon Cable
Assistant Archivist
The Institution of Engineering and Technology


    Posted By: Jonathan Cable @ 07 February 2014 08:58 AM     Archives     Comments (0)  

December 20, 2013
New Archive Acquisition - Papers of Professor Brian P Smith, Bsc(Eng), CEng, MIMechE, FIProdE, FBIM, FInstM, FIMC

The papers of Professor Brian P Smith, a former President of the Institution of Production Engineers (IProdE), have recently been deposited in the IET Archives. The Institution of Production Engineers was formed in 1921 and changed its name to the Institution of Manufacturing Engineers (IMfgE) just prior to its merger with the Institution of Electrical Engineers in 1991.

The IET Archives holds the archives of the IMfgE/IProdE, including a comprehensive set of organisational papers. These include a full set of Council, General Meeting and Committee minutes as well as presented papers for the whole 1921-1991 period. Despite this, the IET Archives holds very few personal papers of prominent members and individuals associated with the IMfgE/IProdE. The exception to this is a small collection of Presidents' papers from the period from 1979 to 1988 when the relevant individual was in office.

The offer of the Brian P Smith papers from the Smith family therefore came as a very welcome offer particularly as they cover not just the period that Brian P Smith was President of the IProdE (1974), but also his whole life. After serving a full apprenticeship at Royal Ordnance Factories from 1941-46, he was one of a small team which established a new tool industry in the Cumberland Development Area, and was its General Manager when he left to join PA Management Consultants Ltd in 1949. He was appointed PA's Director of Research in 1959 and became Managing Director of the UK company in 1966. He became Chairman of the UK company and Managing Director of the international company in 1972 and subsequently Director of Development of the international company.

In 1976 Brian P Smith resigned his permanent position with PA to become an Associate Consultant with them, and on 1 January 1977 became the first Wolfson Professor of Design Management at the Royal College of Art. In this role his aim was to bring closer together the worlds of industry and design, and to build their mutual understanding and respect. He was a member of the Design Council and served on its Finance and General Purposes Committee; he was nominated by the Duke of Edinburgh as Vice-President of the Royal Society of Arts in 1976.

Building on his training as an engineer, his interests in management were to analyse the less tangible aspects of leadership, communications, human behaviour and design. He believed that such subjects were susceptible to a scientific approach and to practical training and that they were at the root of organisation and management performance.

The deposited collection consists primarily of Smith's published papers / articles, and notes / hand-outs for the many talks and speeches on management that he gave during his lengthy career as Managing Director of PA Management Consultants. However, there is also a wealth of additional material about Smith's life including, his own book of verse, his leisure and travel diaries, his journal, images of his many paintings (examples shown below) and audio recordings of two of his speeches including his speech at an IProdE dinner in 1974. The journal and travel diaries are particularly interesting as they cover Smith's thoughts and musings on a very wide range of topics.






Correspondence with a wide variety of senior government members and officials, Buckingham Palace and well known individuals such as the actress Joanna Lumley, the American jazz music impresario Norman Granz and the journalist Bernard Levin can be found in the collection.

The collection is titled, 'Papers of Professor Brian P Smith', and has been catalogued as collection SC MSS 251. It can be consulted in the IET Archives once the new archive centre opens in early 2014.

Written by Jon Cable

Edited: 06 February 2014 at 01:17 PM by Library and Archives Moderator


    Posted By: Mike Dunne @ 20 December 2013 02:43 PM     Archives     Comments (0)  

December 11, 2013
New Archive Acquisition - North London Electricity Supply Papers
A recent deposit to the IET Archives covers the subject of electricity supply and distribution in the North London area. The collection comes from a former Principal Engineer of the Lea Valley Area of the Eastern Electricity Board which was one of the 15 Area Electricity Boards created at the time of nationalisation of the electricity industry through The Electricity Act 1947.

The main group of papers are related to the North Metropolitan Electric Power Supply Company (Northmet). In addition to a copy of the document titled, 'North Metropolitan Electric Supply Acts 1900 to 1905', there are several interesting diagrams and maps. For example, there is a Northmet January 1907 plan of distributing mains in the Enfield District, and also a circa 1936 map with transmission lines and feeders in the Northmet area showing the lines leading from Willesden Power Station and Brimsdown Power Station. Another interesting item is a 1944 Northmet handbook supplement which includes public lighting maps.

The collection also includes 2 Northmet histories. One paper, written in July 1944 (supplemented in November 1946), marked private & confidential, is titled, 'Outline of the History of the Northmet Power Company', compiled by E T Kingbury and edited by Evelyn Boys. The second history is a contemporary account titled, 'Electricity Supplies in Essex - The First Half Century'.

One original document of wider interest perhaps is an original contract between British Insulated & Helsby Cables Ltd and North Metropolitan Electrical Power Distribution Company Ltd, dated 22 February 1907, relating to the installation of the Enfield Distribution System. British Insulated & Helsby Cables Ltd (BI&HC) was formed in 1902 from the merger of British Insulated Wire with the Telegraph Manufacturing Company of Helsby. In 1925 it was re-named British Insulated Cables Limited which after merging with Callenders of Erith in 1945 became British Insulated Callenders Cables Cables Ltd (BICC). A significant collection of BICC records is held by National Museums Liverpool.

The contract has the original signatures of two of the directors of BI&HC, Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti and Edmund Knowles Muspratt. Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti, the noted electrical engineer and inventor, was President of the Institution of Electrical Engineers in 1910 and 1911. Edmund Knowles Muspratt was an English industrialist who was a Fellow of the Institute of Chemistry and President of the Society of Chemical Industry in 1885/1886.

This collection of papers titled, 'the Vickers collection of North London electricity papers', has been catalogued as collection SC MSS 250 and can be consulted in the IET Archives once the new archive centre opens in early 2014. This new collection complements our existing collection of Northmet papers which is NAEST 170.

Written by Jon Cable.

Edited: 09 January 2014 at 02:36 PM by Mike Dunne


    Posted By: Mike Dunne @ 11 December 2013 08:50 AM     Archives     Comments (0)  

December 3, 2013
New Archive Acquisition - J E Calverley and T E Calverley Papers

The IET Archives recently received a donation from the Calverley family of a small number of the papers of John Earnshaw Calverley and his son Thomas Earnshaw Calverley, who recently passed away and whose obituary appears on page 25 of IET Member News, November 2013. Both the father and the son were very successful and noted electrical engineers whose personal histories are also interwoven with the history of the Institution of Electrical Engineers.

John Calverley was the co-inventor of the transverter together with W E Highfield, and the papers deposited in the IET Archives consist primarily of correspondence and agreements related to the transverter and transverter related publications. The transverter was exhibited by English Electric at the British Empire Exhibition in 1924 and the majority of papers date from the 1910's and 1920's. Unexpected discoveries amongst John Calverley's papers were letters from John Somerville Highfield, who was the IEE President in 1921. William Eden Highfield was John Somerville Highfield's younger brother and together they had their own engineering consulting business. Despite W E Highfield being the co-inventor of the transverter with John Calverley, several of the letters in this collection, relating to the commercial arrangements concerning the transverter, were between John Calverley and J S Highfield.

The John Calverley papers also give an insight into commercial arrangements in the early 20th century between inventors and their employers when inventions were patented whilst working for those employers. In this case John Calverley and W E Highfield were both working for the company Dick Kerr and Company Ltd (taken over by English Electric in 1919), when they invented the transverter.

Thomas Calverley, John's son, was honoured in 1983 by the Royal Academy of Engineering as one of the UK's 1000 most eminent engineers, and he was closely involved with the IEE. He won the IEE's Salmon Scholarship for 1939-40, was awarded a premium in 1945 for his South Midlands Students' Section paper, 'electrical technique in resistance welding', became Chairman of the North Staffordshire Sub-Centre of the IEE in 1961-62 and was Vice President of the IEE between 1980 and 1984.

The deposited papers of Thomas Calverley relate mainly to his biographical history including career summaries, important career dates, CV's, and career/award correspondence. The career correspondence covers his time with various employers including Cavendish Laboratory, English Electric and Preece Cardew & Rider and records tributes paid to Thomas when leaving a particular company or retiring. For example there is a glowing personal letter to Thomas written to him by the 2nd Baron Nelson of Stafford, Chairman of English Electric/GEC from 1962 to 1983, dating from when Thomas left the company in 1970. This material also includes articles written by Thomas, photographs, details of his Chairmanship of CIGRE Study Committee 14: DC Links, and correspondence regarding the award of the IEEE's prestigious Uno Lamm HVDC Award.

The John Calverley papers have been catalogued as collection SC MSS 248 and the Thomas Calverley papers have been catalogued as collection SC MSS 249 and can be consulted in the IET Archives once the new archive centre opens in early 2014.

Written by Jon Cable.

Edited: 06 February 2014 at 01:19 PM by Library and Archives Moderator


    Posted By: Mike Dunne @ 03 December 2013 10:13 AM     Archives     Comments (0)  

November 19, 2013
Anniversary of the Death of Gertrude Entwisle

Gertrude Lilian Entwisle, AMIEE, Hon. MWES, died on 18 November 1961 at the age of 69. She joined the Women's Engineering Society (WES) in 1919 on its formation and played a major part in its history. Gertrude was a member of the Council of WES from the outset until her retirement and she was President of WES from 1941 to 1943.

When Gertrude retired from Metropolitan-Vickers on 30 June 1954, a biography of her career printed in The Woman Engineer said that her retirement was, "the very first retirement in Great Britain of a woman who had a complete career in industry as an employed professional design engineer". The biography also told the story of how Gertrude came to work for Metropolitan-Vickers as;

"In 1915, the exigencies of the first World War caused Mr J S Peck, the Chief Engineer of British Westinghouse (as Metropolitan-Vickers then was) to write to the College of Technology in Manchester enquiring whether it knew of any lady engineers. After all, his firm had just successfully tried the tremendous experiment of employing an office girl so why should it not try to find some female technical staff? The Chief Engineer was an American and woman engineers already existed in the USA. The letter was handed by the Technical College to the Manchester High School for Girls who forwarded it to Gertrude Entwisle. Now Miss Entwisle had shaken the University of Manchester staff by attending the engineering lectures which were open to second year Physics undergraduates and so she decided to risk the British Westinghouse."

To read the full six page biography in The Woman Engineer the journal can be consulted in the IET Archives once the new archive centre opens in early 2014. The IET Archives holds the archives of WES (collection NAEST 92) which includes its journal. The 1954 biography contains several pictures of Gertrude and of motors designed by Gertrude. There is also a fascinating picture of Gertrude in 1914 (see below) as a member of the second year Honours Physics class at Manchester University which also shows the lecturers including Professor Sir Ernest Rutherford.

Gertrude is also an important figure in the history of the IET. In 1916 she became the first woman student member of the Institution of Electrical Engineers and by 1920 she was the first woman Associate Member of the IEE.

Written by Jon Cable

Edited: 06 February 2014 at 01:20 PM by Library and Archives Moderator


    Posted By: Mike Dunne @ 19 November 2013 09:31 AM     Archives     Comments (0)  

November 11, 2013
WWI Material in the IET Archives

On Armistice Day it is perhaps appropriate to mention the records relating to World War 1 that are held in the IET Archives. The archives of the IET would possibly not spring to mind as a source of World War I material. However, in addition to honour rolls, the archives does hold, for example, personal papers of engineers which include recollections and material related to their experiences during World War 1.

The Institution of Electrical Engineer's Roll of Honour is not actually a roll but a memorial book, published in 1924, commemorating those members of the Institution who died during the First World War. The volume contains an introduction titled, 'the causes and origin of The Great War, 1914-1919'. There then follows an alphabetical list of biographies for those IEE members who died during the war which includes some photographs.

As part of the 2013 project between the IET and which involved the digitisation of the pre-1930 IEE membership lists, the IEE honour rolls from World War I and World War II were also digitised. These digital copies will be made available in 2014 for IET members to view for free via the website.

An example of relevant personal papers can be seen with the papers of Harry Stephenson Ellis MIEE MIMechE (1881-1967) which is collection NAEST 155.

A series within these papers, NAEST 155/3, covers Harry's service in World War I. Harry became the City of Bradford's Chief Assistant Electrical Engineer in 1907 and was promoted to Deputy City Electrical Engineer and Manager of the Electricity Department in 1910. In 1912 he moved to South Shields to become the Borough Electrical Engineer, and during the First World War he served with No.3 Signals Section of the Durham Royal Engineers Volunteer Home Force. The 14 items in NAEST 155/3 cover Harry's attempts to serve overseas and his service with the Signals Company. Items include a printed letter from Neville Chamberlain, Director-General of National Service and future Prime Minister, to Ellis, and a photograph of the Signals Company which includes Ellis (see below).

Additional World War 1 material, whose presence might not be expected in the IET Archives, includes some records relating to the London Electrical Engineers (Territorial Army) which includes a photograph album with regimental pictures from 1915 and 1916.







The IET Archives' collections are currently closed to visitors while new facilities are being built, but they will re-open to members and researchers in early 2014.

Written by Jon Cable

Edited: 06 February 2014 at 01:29 PM by Library and Archives Moderator


    Posted By: Mike Dunne @ 11 November 2013 08:22 AM     Archives     Comments (0)  

November 5, 2013
New Discovery - Pre-WWI German Railway Signalling Equipment Catalogues
When the library and archive teams moved out of Savoy Place in the summer of 2013, and all the storage locations were, in theory, empty, a series of 'final walk- abouts' were arranged. This gave an opportunity to look at the back of cupboards, reach to the back of plan chests and get on hands and knees to see if anything remained.

Whilst there have been several smaller refurbishments over the decades of the IET's involvement with Savoy Place, this was the first complete move out of the building since the Institution of Electrical Engineers moved into the building over 100 years earlier in 1910. Perhaps unsurprisingly several items were found as a result of these searches and this is the story of two large volumes found in a basement cupboard at the back of a low shelf. These were the last two items found, on Friday 2 August 2013, before contractors moved into the building to begin strip-out work the following week.

Both volumes, in mixed condition, were trade catalogues for railway signalling equipment produced by German engineering companies between 1908 and 1910. These two catalogues were acquired at some point, perhaps directly, by Products Corporation Limited, Buchanan Buildings, EC1 which can be seen by the company's blue handstamps inside the volumes. Later the volumes were acquired by the IEE library as evidenced by library accession handstamps.

The earlier volume from 1908 (archive reference NAEST 045/439) is an A3-sized catalogue for the German company Maschinenfabrik Bruschal which was formerly called Schnabel & Henning and was founded in 1868. The catalogue, written in French, is targeted at the Swiss railway equipment market. The company, after several mergers, became fully owned by Siemens and Halske in 1941.

The later volume from 1910 (archive reference NAEST 045/440) is an A3-sized product book for the German company C Stahmer of Georgsmarienhutte which was founded in 1862. The company made railway and mining equipment and this book covers signalling equipment. The catalogue is in German. The company merged with Maschinenfabrik Bruschal in the 1914-18 period.

You can search for catalogue descriptions from deposited collections and IET records, in the IET's Archive online catalogue

Written by Jon Cable

Edited: 09 January 2014 at 02:22 PM by Mike Dunne


    Posted By: Mike Dunne @ 05 November 2013 09:30 AM     Archives     Comments (0)  

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