NEMIG: From a Spark to a Flame: Wireless Telegraphy in the North-East up to and including World War One
Dr. Elizabeth Bruton - 16 December 2016


Abstract: In 1885, the Post Office Engineering Department conducted experiments in three new types of telegraphy systems at Town Moor, Newcastle. This programme of experiments were led by Post Office engineer William Preece and conducted locally by Post Office divisional engineer Arthur Heaviside. These new systems of telegraphy without wires were part of a systematic programme by the Post Office Engineering Department to develop systems of telegraphy without connecting wires that could be used in challenging locations such as lighthouses and islands while still connecting into the existing inland telegraphy network, then managed by the Post Office. These experiments pre-dated the discovery of Hertzian waves and hence wireless telegraphy but provided a foundation for later wireless systems developed by Marconi and others.

These experiments also marked the birth of wireless telegraphy in the north-east England, which has been largely overshadowed by early work in and demonstrations of wireless telegraphy in the north-east. However, the strong electrical and industrial context of the north-east was conducive to early developments in wireless telegraphy beginning with Preece and Arthur Heaviside's experiments on Town Moor in 1885 through to the development of a coastal wireless telegraphy network stretching along the east coast of England in the early twentieth century. Many of these stations were adapted to wartime demands when war broke out in 1914, being used for both communication and signals intelligence throughout the war.

This talk spanning over three decades at the turn of the twentieth century will reclaim the role of the north-east in many important developments in the early history of wireless telegraphy.

Bio: Dr Bruton is the Heritage Officer at Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre at the University of Manchester. Prior to this, she was co-curator and researcher for the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) funded project and exhibition 'Dear Harry: Henry Moseley, a scientist lost to war' at the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford. She has previously held roles as 2014-2015 Marconi Byrne-Bussey Visiting Fellow at the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford and postdoctoral researcher for AHRC-funded project 'Innovating in Combat: Telecommunications and intellectual property in the First World War' at the University of Leeds. Her research interests include World War One, telecommunications history, military history, radio astronomy, electrical history, history of technology, and scientific institutions.


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Elizabeth Bruton's talk - recorded from video camera - 53 minutes.


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Elizabeth Bruton's talk - recorded Screen and audio - 53 minutes.


Last modified 17/01/2017 by IGC