E.W. Cooke RA FRS
Within the IET Archives’ Special Collections there are a series of drawings and sketches by the artist E.W. Cooke RA FRS.
Whilst there is information to be found on the artist there is little information about his involvement with the expedition on the occasion of laying the first Atlantic Telegraph Cable in 1858.
Edward William Cooke (1811-1880) born in London, was the son of the famous engraver George Cooke. From an early age Cooke demonstrated his artistic ability with botanical drawings and by the age of nine illustrated an encyclopaedia of plants. Utilising his knowledge of the Thames he produced a portfolio in 1829 of shipping views which portrayed his skill in accurately depicting ships and rigging. As his fame grew he turned to oil painting and travelled across Europe and North Africa.
The Cooke collection
Despite the subject of Cooke’s drawings being of interest to the IET, it is a link with his son that insured that the collection was donated here.
A letter preserved with the drawings dated June 1915 is addressed to Mr Rowell (IEE Secretary) from Conrad W. Cooke. Conrad Cooke became a Member of the Institution in 1878 and his interest in electrical engineering is connected with the invention of the Gramme dynamo in 1870.
C.W. Cooke recognised its importance and introduced and made the machine in England. His interests in electricity remained and he became a respected consultant and author.
In July 1915 Conrad Cooke presented the collection of sketches by his late father to the Institution. His letter states that E.W. Cooke made the drawings whilst onboard HMS Agamemnon where they took half the cable from Valentia, Ireland, and met the USA Ship Niagara mid-ocean where the two portions were spliced.
He notes that his father made a series of 50 sketches in pencil which are beautiful and characteristic of his work. At the end of the letter, he adds that he hopes the Institution likes them as a record of a great historical electrical event of absolute accuracy.