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Library and Archives - Two Recent Deposits Related to the 19th Century
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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  

June 11, 2014


Good to see Edward Weston getting some recognition!

Another of his inventions, developed in 1928 and so fairly late in his career, was the precision selenium cell lightmeter. This was designed for industrial photometry, but soon led to the famous Weston Master series of exposure meters for photographers, which were still being produced in the 1960s.

More information on Weston at my Weston website.

A good printed reference is the company's 50th anniversary book, "Measuring Invisibles," published in 1938. While the book itself is hard to find, it should be viewable on line at the Hathi Trust website.

 Posted By: Bill Burns @ 11 June 2014 12:40 AM   :  Post a reply

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