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Industrial research at the Eastern Telegraph Company, 1872–1929


By the late nineteenth century the submarine telegraph cable industry, which had blossomed in the 1850s, had reached what historians regard as technological maturity. For a host of commercial, cultural and technical reasons, the industry seems to have become conservative in its attitude towards technological development, which is reflected in the small scale of its staff and facilities for research and development. This paper argues that the attitude of the cable industry towards research and development was less conservative and altogether more complex than historians have suggested. Focusing on the crucial case of the Eastern Telegraph Company, the largest single operator of submarine cables, it shows how the company encouraged inventive activity among outside and in-house electricians and, in 1903, established a small research laboratory where staff and outside scientific advisers pursued new methods of cable signalling and cable designs. The scale of research and development at the Eastern Telegraph Company, however, was small by comparison with that of its nearest competitor, Western Union, and dwarfed by that of large electrical manufacturers. This paper explores the reasons for this comparatively weak provision but also suggests that this was not inappropriate for a service-sector firm.

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1 Coates, Vary T. and Finn, Bernard, A Retrospective Technology Assessment: Submarine Telegraphy. The Transatlantic Cable of 1866, San Francisco: San Francisco Press, 1979; Finn, Bernard and Yang, Daqing (eds.), Communication under the Seas: The Evolving Cable Network and Its Implications, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009; Headrick, Daniel R., The Invisible Weapon: Telecommunications and International Politics, 1851–1945, New York: Oxford University Press, 1991; Hunt, Bruce, ‘The ohm is where the art is: British telegraph engineers and the development of electrical standards’, Osiris (1994) 9, pp. 4863; Hunt, , ‘Doing science in a global empire: cable telegraphy and electrical physics in Victorian Britain’, in Lightman, Bernard (ed.), Victorian Science in Context, Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1997, pp. 312333; Israel, Paul, From Machine Shop to Industrial Laboratory: Telegraphy and the Changing Context of American Invention, 1830–1920, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992; Marsden, Ben and Smith, Crosbie, Engineering Empires: A Cultural History of Technology in Nineteenth-Century Britain, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005, pp. 178–225; Schaffer, Simon, ‘Late Victorian metrology and its instrumentation: “a manufactory of ohms”’, in Bud, Robert and Cozzens, Susan E. (eds.), Invisible Connections: Instruments, Institutions, and Science, Bellingham, WA: SPIE Optical Engineering Press, 1999, pp. 2356; Smith, Crosbie and Wise, M. Norton, Energy and Empire: A Biographical Study of Lord Kelvin, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989, pp. 649722.

2 Bernard Finn, ‘Submarine telegraphy: a study in technical stagnation’, in Finn and Yang, op. cit. (1), pp. 7–22, 21. See also Israel, op. cit. (1), p. 152; Finn, Bernard S. (ed.), Development of Submarine Cable Communications, 2 vols., New York: Arno Press, 1980, vol. 1, pp. 17; and Robert Boyce, ‘The origins of Cable and Wireless Limited, 1918–1939: capitalism, imperialism and technical change’, in Finn and Yang, op. cit. (1), pp. 81–114, 89.

3 Headrick, op. cit. (1), pp. 198–199; Finn, ‘Submarine telegraphy’, op. cit. (2), pp. 17–18.

4 Finn, ‘Submarine telegraphy’, op. cit. (2), pp. 19–20.

5 Garratt, G.R.M., One Hundred Years of Submarine Cables, London: HMSO, 1950, p. 40; Headrick, op. cit. (1), pp. 198–199.

6 Jacobsen, Kurt, ‘Wasted opportunities: the Great Northern Telegraph Company and the wireless challenge’, Business History (2010) 52, pp. 231250.

7 Baker, W.J., A History of the Marconi Company, London: Methuen, 1970, pp. 267273; Reich, Leonard, The Making of American Industrial Research: Science and Business at GE and Bell, 1876–1926, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985; Smith, George D., The Anatomy of a Business Strategy: Bell, Western Electric and the Origins of the American Telephone Industry, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985; Wasserman, Neil H., From Invention to Innovation: Long-Distance Telephone Transmission at the Turn of the Century, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985.

8 Edgerton, David and Horrocks, Sally, ‘British industrial research and development before 1945’, Economic History Review (1994) 48, pp. 213238, 215.

9 Finn, ‘Submarine telegraphy’, op. cit. (2), p. 16.

10 Fox, Robert and Guagnini, Anna, Laboratories, Workshops and Sites: Concepts and Practices of Research in Industrial Europe, 1800–1914, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999, pp. 149190; Edgerton and Horrocks, op. cit. (8); Sally Horrocks, ‘Quality control and research: the role of scientists in the British food industry, 1870–1939’, in Burnett, John and Oddy, Derek (eds.), The Origin and Development of Food Policies in Europe, Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1994, pp. 130145; Israel, op. cit. (1); Koenig, Wolfgang, ‘Science-based industry or industry-based science? Electrical engineering in Germany before World War I’, Technology and Culture (1995) 36, pp. 1728.

11 Fox and Guagnini, op. cit. (10), pp. 149–190.

12 Edgerton and Horrocks, op. cit. (8); Saul, S.B., ‘Research and development in British industry from the end of the nineteenth century to the 1960s’, in Smout, T. Christopher (ed.), The Search for Wealth and Stability: Essays in Economic and Social History Presented to M.W. Flinn, London: Macmillan, 1979, pp. 114138; Sanderson, Michael, ‘Research and the firm in British industry, 1919–39’, Science Studies (1972) 2, pp. 107151.

13 On this debate see Edgerton, David, Science, Technology and the British Industrial ‘Decline’, 1870–1970, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996, esp. pp. 29–36.

14 Edgerton, op. cit. (13), p. 58.

15 Boyce, Gordon, Cooperative Structures in Global Business: Communicating, Transferring Knowledge, and Learning across the Corporate Frontier, London: Routledge, 2001; Divall, Colin, ‘Technological networks and industrial research in Britain: the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, 1926–47’, Business History (2006) 28, pp. 4368.

16 Benjamin Davies, entry for 22 June 1920, Diary No 11, Box 5, Benjamin Davies Papers, National Library of Wales (hereafter BD-NLW).

17 Headrick, op. cit. (1), pp. 38–39, 196–197. Headrick's book is the source of the data in this paragraph. For a recent analysis of the Eastern group's monopoly and competitors see Winseck, Dwayne and Pike, Robert M., Communication and Empire: Media, Markets, and Globalization, 1860–1930, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007. For the general history of the ETC and the Eastern group see Barty-King, Hugh, Girdle Round the Earth: The Story of Cable and Wireless and Its Predecessors to Mark the Group's Jubilee, 1929–1979, London: Heinemann, 1979.

18 Scott, John and Giff, Catherine, Directors of Industry: The British Corporate Network 1904–1976, Cambridge: Polity Press, 1984, p. 38.

19 Between 1873 and 1901 the ETC's real dividends were all between 6.75 and 9.6 per cent: Report of the Interdepartmental Committee on Cable Communications, Parliamentary Papers, 1902 [Cd. 1056], p. 26.

20 These goals are clear from the text of agreements to license patents and to use outside advisers (see notes 21, 67 and 73 below). It is also clear from the text of the ETC's general meetings. See, for example, Anon., ‘Eastern Telegraph Company’, The Times, 25 July 1923, p. 20.

21 Agreements Nos 14 (with William Thomson, Cromwell Varley and Fleeming Jenkin), 17 (with John Muirhead, Herbert Taylor and Alexander Muirhead), and 76b (with Sidney Brown, Herbert Taylor and Arthur Dearlove) in Miscellaneous Agreements. Volume 1, Cable and Wireless Archive, Porthcurno Telegraph Museum (hereafter CWA), DOC/ETC/1/156. The ETC's patent licensing and other legal agreements are listed in ‘Index to Agreements’, CWA, DOC/ETC/1/253.

22 Examples of annual royalty payments include £3,000 (for the 1874 agreement with Thomson and others), £1,000 (for the 1876 agreement with Muirhead and others) and £4,000 (for the 1901 agreement with Brown and others). See note 21 above for details.

23 ‘Articles of Contract’, Agreement No 34, The Eastern Telegraph Company Limited. Miscellaneous Agreements. Volume 1, op. cit. (21). Smith's ‘improved’ gutta percha is described in Clark, Latimer and Sabine, Robert, Electrical Tables and Formulae, London: E. and F.N. Spon, 1871, pp. 124128.

24 Brown, F.J., The Cable and Wireless Communications of the World, London: Isaac Pitman, 1930, p. 84.

25 Siemens, C. William, ‘Address’, Journal of the Society of Telegraph Engineers (1878) 7, pp. 319, 15. Pender quoted in ‘The Eastern Telegraph Company Limited. Shorthand Notes of Meeting of January 24th, 1878’, in Report and Accounts and Proceedings at General Meetings Volume 5, CWA, DOC/ETC/1/222, pp. 6–7.

26 Pender, op. cit. (25), p. 6.

27 Brown, Sidney, ‘Automatic relay translation for long submarine cables’, Journal of the Institution of Electrical Engineers (1902) 31, pp. 10601085, 1063–1064; Gall, Douglas C., ‘The impedance of submarine cables’, Electrician (1920) 85, pp. 736738.

28 Israel, op. cit. (1), p. 130.

29 Israel, op. cit. (1), p. 131.

30 ETC electrician Julian Elton Young may well have spoken for many of his colleagues when, in 1899, he criticized the Journal of the Institution of Electrical Engineers for ‘poorly and unfairly’ representing the ‘patient advance’ made in electrical measurements of submarine cables. Young, J. Elton, ‘Capacity measurements of long submarine cables’, Journal of the Institution of Electrical Engineers (1899) 28, pp. 475489, 475. Examples of this unpublished inventive and research activity are Louis Schaefer's improvements to the siphon recorder and J.C. H. Darby's experiments on loaded cables. Henry Saunders to William Thomson, 7 September 1883, and Louis Schaefer to William Thomson, 10 March 1884, Kelvin Papers, Cambridge University Library, Add. 7342, E13 and E14a; J.C.H. Darby to Oliver Heaviside, 27 October 1897, Oliver Heaviside Papers, Institution of Engineering and Technology Archives, UL0108 SC MSS 005/II/4/18.

31 This figure is based on analysis of the service records listed in ‘Particulars of electricians and jointers afloat’, CWA, DOC/ETC/5/58. I have also used The Institution of Electrical Engineers, Late Society of Telegraph Engineers and Electricians … List of Officers and Members, London: Institution of Electrical Engineers, 1893; and obituary notices in the Journal of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, the Electrician, and the Eastern group staff magazine, Zodiac. The figure is necessarily approximate given the incomplete nature of the service records and other available sources.

32 This figure has been established by searching for Eastern group companies and its known electricians in the electronic database of the European Patent Office ( and the British Patent Office's published Abridgments of Specifications. The identities of the electricians have been established using the sources in note 31 above. The total number of patents is likely to be an underestimate since more electricians probably worked for the Eastern group than have so far been identified.

33 Bright, Charles, Submarine Telegraphs: Their History, Construction and Working, London: Crosby Lockwood and Son, 1898, p. 679.

34 H[arry] R[obert] K[empe], ‘Telegraph’, in Encyclopaedia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature, and General Information, 11th edn, 28 vols., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1910–1911, vol. 26, pp. 510–525, 524.

35 See comments from the leading British electrical engineering firm Clark, Forde, Taylor and Erskine-Murray: ‘Cable communications [1915]’, in Dominions Royal Commission. Royal Commission on the Natural Resources, Trade, and Legislation of Certain Portions of His Majesty's Dominions. Papers Laid Before the Commission, 1914–1917, British Parliamentary Papers, 1917–18 [Cd. 8460], pp. 22–25, 23.

36 Judd, Walter, ‘Submarine telegraphy’, Journal of the Institution of Electrical Engineers (1922) 60, pp. 406407, 406. For Judd see ‘J.C.B.’, ‘Walter Judd’, Journal of the Institution of Electrical Engineers (1930) 68, p. 1535.

37 On the Baudot and regenerator system see Harrison, H.H., ‘Developments in machine telegraph systems’, Journal of the Institution of Electrical Engineers (1930) 68, pp. 13691453.

38 Harry Vernon Higgitt and the Eastern Telegraph Company, ‘Improvements in and relating to the compensation of variations in the periodicity of vibrating reeds and the like’, British Patent No 221,876, filed 25 February 1924, accepted 22 September 1924; William Collister Hubble, Harry Vernon Higgitt, William Gordon Reed Jacob and the Eastern Telegraph Company, ‘Means for correcting distortion of signals in electric telegraph systems’, British Patent No 234,179, filed 29 October 1924, accepted 21 May 1925; William Gordon Reed Jacob and the Eastern Telegraph Company, ‘Improvements in and relating to electric telegraphy’, British Patent No 272,335, filed 17 January 1927, accepted 16 June 1927. For a contemporary assessment of the ETC regenerator system see G.N. Perkins, ‘Modern telegraph operation’, Electrician (1926), 97, pp. 638 and 646.

39 Minute No 81, 27 October 1909, Eastern Telegraph Company. Minute Book No 14, CWA, DOC/ETC/1/25.

40 Edward Wilshaw, ‘Suggestions and Inventions Committee’, printed circular, dated 8 December 1924, BD-NLW, File 1, Box 12. The wider economic function of the Committee was explained in an ETC meeting of 1925. Anon., ‘Eastern Telegraph Company’, The Times, 10 June 1925, p. 22.

41 Edward Wilshaw, ‘First list of awards in the inventions and suggestions scheme’, Zodiac (1925–1926) 18, p. 327; Wilshaw, ‘List of awards in the suggestions and inventions scheme for the year 1927’, Zodiac (1928–1929) 21, pp. 26–27; Anon., ‘Eastern Telegraph Company’, The Times, 9 June 1926, p. 25.

42 For Schaefer's promotion see ‘Particulars of electricians’, op. cit. (31); and Minute No 475, 22 November 1900, Eastern Telegraph Company. Minute Book No 10, CWA, DOC/ETC/1/21. Based partly on earlier investigations of fellow ETC electrician Arthur Kennelly, Schaefer's laws stated that for a constant area exposed, the resistance varied as the 1.3th root of the current strength: Schaefer, Charles, ‘A new method of localising total breaks in submarine cables’, Electrician (1897) 29, pp. 811818. Schaefer's work soon became part of the standard repertoire of telegraph testing methods. See, for example, Kempe, Harry R., A Handbook of Electrical Testing, 6th edn, London: E. & F.N. Spon, 1900, pp. 278282. For biographical details on Schaefer see Anon., ‘The late Mr. C.W.V. Schaefer’, Zodiac (1928–1929) 21, p. 312.

43 For example, Wilfrid Gaye was promoted in 1905 for his studies of duplex telegraphy. See ‘Particulars of electricians’, op. cit. (31); and Gaye, Wilfrid, ‘The duplex balancing of telegraph cables’, Electrician (1904), 53, pp. 905907, 954–956, 994–996, 1019–1020. For Gaye see Davies, Benjamin, ‘In memory of Wilfrid Gaye’, Zodiac (1928–1929), pp. 132133. Higgitt was promoted in 1922 partly on the basis of ‘good papers in technical journals’. Frederick Ryan to Edward Wilshaw, 12 December 1922, typescript copy, in ‘Staff – confidential’, CWA, DOC/ETC/7/18. These papers undoubtedly included Higgitt, Harry, ‘A loop test for high resistance faults’, Electrician (1921), 86, pp. 9697.

44 Preece, William Henry, ‘On the Pupin mode of working trunk telephone lines’, Electrical Engineer (1907), pp. 237238, 260–263, 237.

45 The Eastern Telegraph Company laboratory is mentioned only briefly in the standard company history: Barty-King, op. cit. (17), p. 217. For the laboratories at the Post Office and National Telephone Company see E.C. Baker, History of the Engineering Department, London: General Post Office, 1939; and Cohen, B.S., ‘Research in the British Post Office’, Journal of the Institution of Electrical Engineers (1934), 75, pp. 133151. For the Bell laboratories see A History of Engineering and Science in the Bell System, 7 vols., Whippany, NJ: Bell Telephone Laboratories, 1975–85; Reich, op. cit. (7); Smith, op. cit. (7).

46 Oliver Lodge to John Wolfe-Barry, 12 April 1906, CWA, DOC/ETC/7/1/121.

47 Edgerton, op. cit. (13), pp. 29–36; Sanderson, op. cit. (12), pp. 109–112.

48 On the Siemens and Halske laboratories see Georg Siemens, History of the House of Siemens (tr. A.F. Rodger and Lawrence N. Hole), 2 vols., Freiburg: Karl Alber, 1957, vol. 1, pp. 203–207, vol. 2, pp. 35–36. For the Western Electric laboratory see Israel, op. cit. (1), pp. 176–183; and Wasserman, op. cit. (7), pp. 107–111. For TCMC laboratory see Lawford, G.L. and Nicholson, L.R., The Telcon Story 1850–1950, London: The Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company, 1950, pp. 9394. For the Western Union laboratory see ‘A brief outline of the technical progress made by the Western Union Telegraph Company, 1910–1934, volume 1’, typescript, pp. 28–29, Box 1, Folders 1–4, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.

49 Minute No 58, 7 May 1902, Eastern Telegraph Company, Minute Book No 11, CWA, DOC/ETC/1/21. The workshop function of the Electra House laboratory was mentioned in Oliver Lodge to John Denison-Pender, 12 April 1906, CWA, DOC/ETC/7/1/121.

50 The ‘Investigation Department’ submitted its first report in June 1904: Minute No 992, 31 June 1904, Minute Book No 11, op. cit. (49). It continued until at least 1918: Alexander Robert Hardie to Walter Judd, 31 January 1918, Memorandum, in ‘Staff – confidential’, op. cit. (43).

51 Reich, op. cit. (7), pp. 69–79; Wise, op. cit. (1), pp. 97–129.

52 John Wolfe-Barry quoted in Eastern Telegraph Company (Limited), Report of the Sixty-Second Annual Ordinary General Meeting, Held on Wednesday 29th July 1903, in Reports and Accounts of Proceedings at General Meetings, vol. 1, CWA, DOC/ETC/1/212, pp. 3–4.

53 Agreement No 76b, op. cit. (21).

54 Anon., ‘Eastern Telegraph Company (Limited)’, The Times, 30 January 1902, p. 12.

55 The ETC built wireless stations at the Azores, Cocos, Malta and Porthcurno: see Minutes Nos 311 (28 January 1903) and 371 (11 March 1903), Minute Book No 11, op. cit. (49), and Minutes Nos 173 (19 January 1910) and 646 (13 December 1911), Eastern Telegraph Company, Minute Book No 14, op. cit. (39). In 1902 the ETC also hired the British inventor and stage magician John Nevil Maskelyne to build a small wireless station at Porthcurno for covertly monitoring Marconi's transmissions around the coast at Poldhu: see John Packer, The Spies at Wireless Point, Porthcurno: Porthcurno Telegraph Museum, 2001.

56 Barry quoted in The Eastern Telegraph Company Limited, Report of the Sixty-Fourth Half-Yearly Ordinary General Meeting, on Wednesday, the 22nd Day of July, 1903, in Report and Accounts and Proceedings at General Meetings Volume 5, CWA, DOC/ETC/1/222, p. 4. For the Pacific cable see Barty-King, op. cit. (17), pp. 113–140; Boyce, Robert, ‘Imperial dreams and national realities: Britain, Canada and the struggle for a Pacific telegraph cable, 1879–1902’, English Historical Review (2000) 115, pp. 3970; Winseck and Pike, op. cit. (17), pp. 142–176.

57 On Wolfe-Barry see [J. Strain], ‘Sir John Wolfe-Barry’, Proceedings of the Institute of Civil Engineers (1917–1918), 206, pp. 350–357.

58 Pender, op. cit. (25), p. 8; John Wolfe-Barry quoted in Anon., ‘Sir J. Wolfe Barry on technical education’, The Times, 7 January 1903, p. 10.

59 John Wolfe-Barry quoted in Eastern Telegraph Company, op. cit. (52), p. 4. Wolfe-Barry and Lodge served on the General Board of the National Physical Laboratory; Anon., ‘The National Physical Laboratory’, Nature (1899) 60, p. 373.

60 Hunt, Bruce J., The Maxwellians, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991, pp. 152174; Nahin, Paul J., Oliver Heaviside: The Life, Work and Times of an Electrical Genius of the Victorian Age, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988, pp. 139185.

61 In the 1880s Lodge was an adviser to the Electric Power Storage Company. See Lodge, Oliver, Past Years: An Autobiography, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1931, pp. 175179. For Lodge and wireless telegraphy see Aitken, Hugh G.J., Syntony and Spark: The Origins of Radio, Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 80178; Hong, Sungook, Wireless: From Marconi's Black Box to the Audion, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001, pp. 2552; and Rowlands, Peter and Wilson, J. Patrick (eds.), Oliver Lodge and the Invention of Radio, Liverpool: PD Publications, 1994, pp. 75114. Aitken (p. 159) notes the business with the Eastern group. Other academic physicists who consulted for the electrical industry include John Ambrose Fleming and William Thomson. For Fleming see Hong, op. cit. (61), pp. 54–88. For Thomson see Smith and Wise, op. cit. (1), pp. 649–722.

62 Extracts from Lodge's official report are quoted in Anon., ‘Eastern Telegraph Company (Limited)’, The Times, 30 January 1902, p. 12. A similar report was obtained from William Henry Preece.

63 John Wolfe-Barry to Oliver Lodge, 8 January 1903, typescript copy, CWA, DOC/ETC/7/1/2. In 1902 Heaviside still resented the cable companies for their earlier neglect of his suggestions regarding loaded cables. See, for example, Oliver Heaviside to Oliver Lodge, 26 March 1902, No 156, MS. Add. 89/50(iii), Oliver Lodge Collection, University College London Archives. On Heaviside and ‘distortionless’ telegraphy see Hunt, op. cit. (60), pp. 132–146; and Nahin, op. cit. (60), pp. 139–185.

64 For the early history of loaded telephone cables see Brittain, James, ‘The introduction of the loading coil: George A. Campbell and Michael I. Pupin’, Technology and Culture (1970) 11, pp. 3657; Kragh, Helge, ‘The Krarup cable: invention and early development’, Technology and Culture (1994) 35, pp. 129157. For contemporary doubts about loaded oceanic cables see Bright, op. cit. (33), pp. 686–689.

65 Oliver Lodge to John Wolfe-Barry, 11 January 1903, CWA, DOC/ETC/7/1/3. Lodge initiated cable telegraphy experiments in 1899 when he was still at University College Liverpool: Oliver Lodge, Research Notebook No 9, MS.3.18, ff. 94–95, Oliver Lodge Papers, University of Liverpool Archives.

66 Oliver Lodge to John Wolfe-Barry, 12 July 1903, CWA, DOC/ETC/7/1/28.

67 ‘Agreement with Sir Oliver J. Lodge’, CWA, DOC/ETC/7/1/1/, p. 2.

68 ‘Agreement with Sir Oliver J. Lodge’, op. cit. (67), pp. 3–4.

69 Davies started following up Lodge's cable research requests at Muirhead's London works by at least early March 1903 and in Electra House by the following month. Benjamin Davies, ‘Experiments carried out at Elmer's End in the year 1899. Also at Elmer's End and Carteret Street in 1903’, File 6, Box 10, BD-NLW; Oliver Lodge to Benjamin Davies, 27 April 1903, Letter No 312, File 3, Box 3, BD-NLW. For Davies see Nani N. Clow, ‘The laboratory of Victorian culture: experimental physics, industry and pedagogy in the Liverpool laboratory of Oliver Lodge, 1881–1900’, unpublished PhD thesis, Harvard University, 1999, UMI Microform 9949744, pp. 180–259; D.G. Roberts, ‘The training of an industrial physicist: Oliver Lodge and Benjamin Davies, 1882–1940’, unpublished PhD thesis, University of Manchester, 1984.

70 Henry Saunders to John Denison-Pender, 6 March 1903, typescript copy, CWA, DOC/ETC/7/1/72.

71 Minute No 573 (29 November 1905), Eastern Telegraph Company, Minute Book No 12, CWA, DOC/ETC/1/23; Minutes Nos 166 (6 October 1920) and 181 (20 October 1920), Eastern Telegraph Company, Minute Book No 17, CWA, DOC/ETC/1/28.

72 Minute No 628 (1 July 1902), Minute Book No 11, op. cit. (49); Minute No 381 (26 May 1905), Minute Book No 12, op. cit. (71).

73 The advisers, topics and periods of service were William Duddell, wireless, 1907–1912; William Henry Eccles, wireless, 1928–1929; Henry William Malcolm, loaded cables, 1925–1926; Frederic Eugene Pernot, multiplex signalling, 1923–1924; and Philip Schidrowitz, cable insulation, 1911–1912. See Minute No 877 (25 July 1906), Minute Book No 12, op. cit. (71) (Duddell); Minute No 14 (18 October 1911), Minute Book No 14, op. cit. (39) (Schidrowitz); Minutes Nos 604 and 652 (12 June 1923 and 13 March 1928), Eastern Telegraph Company, Minute Book No 18, CWA, DOC/ETC/29 (Pernot and Eccles). For Malcolm see ‘Agreement with Dr. H.W. Malcolm’, in Eastern Telegraph Company Limited, Agreements &c. Miscellaneous No 3, CWA, DOC/ETC/1/554.

74 ‘Particulars of electricians’, op. cit. (31).

75 In the early 1920s, for example, ETC electrician Mr Hoadley assisted in duplex experiments and American electrical engineers Frederick Pernot and Lester Rich conducted research into multiplex signalling. For Hoadley see ‘Duplex Experiments Vol. 1’, f. 187, CWA, DOC/E&ATC/3/49. For Pernot and Rich see note 104 below.

76 ‘Particulars of electricians’, op. cit. (31).

77 This has been calculated from statements of total annual expenses listed in the ETC's annual accounts. Report and Accounts of the Directors for the Half-Year Ended 31st March 1913, CWA, DOC/ETC/2/9, p. 3; Report of the Directors and the Accounts for the Year ended 31st December 1913, CWA, DOC/ETC/1/222, CWA, DOC/ETC/1/222; Report of the Accounts for the Year Ended 31 December 1924, CWA, DOC/ETC/1/222, p. 4.

78 Edgerton and Horrocks, op. cit. (8), pp. 219–222.

79 In 1913 General Electric and Bell Telephone Company spent $250,000 and $71,000 respectively on their research laboratories alone. Reich, op. cit. (7), pp. 92, 176. Taking the pre-war gold exchange rate at £1=$4.86, this is equivalent to around £50,000 and £15,000 respectively.

80 Research budget quoted in Anduaga, Aitor, Wireless and Empire: Geopolitics, Radio Industry, and Ionosphere in the British Empire, 1918–1939, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009, p. 77. The percentage has been calculated from a statement of accounts from 1919: ‘Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company, Limited’, Financial Times, 15 June 1920, p. 10.

81 ‘A brief outline’, op. cit. (48), vol. 1, pp. 28–32. For the AT&T takeover see Hochfelder, David, ‘Constructing an industrial divide: Western Union, AT&T and the Federal Government, 1876–1971’, Business History Review (2002) 76, pp. 705732, esp. 720–725.

82 Floor plans of the building were published in ‘Electra House: the new home of the Eastern and Associated Telegraph Companies’, Builder's Journal and Architectural Record, 20 August 1902, pp. 1–13.

83 Edgerton, op. cit. (13), p. 58. Edgerton suggests that American industry spent more than British industry and employed over ten times the number of R & D personnel.

84 ‘A brief outline’, op. cit. (48), vol. 1, pp. 31–36.

85 Lawford and Nicholson, op. cit. (48), pp. 93–94; Anon., ‘Research and cables’, Electrician (1924) 93, pp. 634–636.

86 Benjamin Davies, ‘In memory of Wilfrid Gaye’, typescript, file 8, Box 21, BD-NLW. A shorter version was published as Davies, op. cit. (43).

87 Lodge, Oliver, Eastern and Associated Telegraph Companies: Report Presented by Sir Oliver Lodge, Birmingham: University of Birmingham, 1904, CWA, DOC/ETC/7/125.

88 Davies summarized his findings in the printed discussion following O'Meara, W.A.J., ‘Submarine cables for long-distance telephone circuits’, Journal of the Institution of Electrical Engineers (1911) 46, pp. 309427, 377–379.

89 Walter Judd, ‘Investigation Branch – Electrical Department’, typescripts, CWA, DOC/ETC/7/1/113–115.

90 Walter Judd, ‘Investigation Branch – Electrical Department. Report of work done quarter ended 30th June 1905’, p. 3, CWA, DOC/ETC/7/1/115.

91 Lodge to Wolfe-Barry, December 1905, CWA, DOC/ETC/7/1/18.

92 Brown, Sidney, ‘Modern submarine telegraphy’, Nature (1910) 84, pp. 2328, 25; International Library of Technology: Duplex and Quadruplex Telegraphy … Scranton: International Textbook Company, 1913, pp. 32–35.

93 Davies, Benjamin and Gaye, Wilfrid, The Use of Inductance in Signalling, London: [Eastern Telegraph Company], 1909, copy at CWA, DOC/E&ATC/1/5.

94 On the adoption of the new methods of using inductance see Davies, op. cit. (88), pp. 379–380.

95 The ETC's dwindling reliance on Lodge is suggested by Lodge's somewhat puzzled remark of 1909 that he ‘very seldom’ heard from Electra House: Oliver Lodge to Benjamin Davies, 18 November 1909, File 5, Box 3, BD-NLW, f. 550.

96 This work is documented in experimental notebooks dated from 1910 to the early 1920s: CWA, DOC/E&ATC/3/48–54.

97 Benjamin Davies and the Eastern Telegraph Company, ‘Improvements in and relating to telegraphy’, British Patent No 9768, filed 17 November 1913, accepted 23 April 1914.

98 Citation from Benjamin Davies to Oliver Lodge, 10 December 1910, File 5, Box 3, BD-NLW, f. 558. For the trials and tribulations of installing the inventions see Davies diary entries from September 1911 to June 1914, Diaries 5–7, Box 5, BD-NLW. On Porthcurno see Dan Cleaver, History of Porthcurno (ed. John Packer), Porthcurno: Porthcurno Telegraph Museum, 1988, p. 35. The reduced patent costs are obvious from Eastern Telegraph Company, Report of the Directors and the Accounts for the Year Ended 31st December 1915, p. 4, CWA, DOC/ETC/1/122.

99 For Davies see Diaries vols. 8–10, Box 5, BD-NLW. For Wood see ‘Particulars of electricians’, op. cit. (31). Much of the wartime research is documented in the experimental notebook, CWA, DOC/E&ATC/54.

100 For the Eastern group and the First World War see Barty-King, op. cit. (17), pp. 141–179. See also Henry Grant to Oliver Lodge, 20 December 1919, File 6, Box 3, BD-NLW, f. 647.

101 Davies, entry 22 June 1920, Diary No 5, Box 5, BD-NLW. For the early twentieth-century debates on industrial research see Alter, Peter, The Reluctant Patron: Science and the State in Britain 1850–1920, Oxford: Berg, 1987, pp. 191214; and Varcoe, Ian, ‘Scientists, government and organised research in Great Britain, 1914–1916: the early history of the DSIR’, Minerva (1970) 8, pp. 192216.

102 Davies to Lodge, 12 December 1919, Box 3, File 5, BD-NLW, f. 644.

103 Davies to Lodge, 13 February 1922, Box 3, File 5, BD-NLW, f. 657; and Davies to Lodge, 4 March 1918, Box 3, File 5, BD-NLW, f. 627.

104 The high-level ETC support is evident from Lodge to Davies, 11 December 1919, Box 3, File 5, BD-NLW, f. 643. For Davies and the TCMC see Davies to Lodge, 13 October 1922, Box 3, File 5, BD-NLW, f. 643. Davies's key loaded-cable patent is Benjamin Davies and the Eastern Telegraph Company, ‘Improvements in and relating to electric signalling over submarine cables’, British Patent No 190,736, filed 23 June 1921, accepted 27 December 1922. For Pernot and Rich see Frederick E. Pernot and Lester J. Rich, ‘Multiplex operation of submarine cables’, 2 vols., manuscript dated 25 October 1922, CWA, PUB//CABL/43; and Anon., ‘Eastern Telegraph Company’, The Times, 25 June 1924, p. 21. The valve research led to Harry Higgitt, ‘Improvements in and relating to thermionic amplifiers’, British Patent No 287,259, filed 5 January 1927, accepted 22 March 1928.

105 Geoffrey Clarke, ‘The future of telegraphy’, The Times, 23 November 1926, p. 15. Citation from Raymond-Barker, Edward, ‘Submarine cable telegraphy’, Electrical Review (1921) 88, pp. 661662, 662.

106 See, for example, Appleyard, Rollo, ‘Submarine telegraphy’, Electrical Review (1922) 91, pp. 725726.

107 Lodge to Davies, 14 May 1923, File 6, Box 3, BD-NLW, ff. 677–679.

108 Davies to Lodge, 13 December 1922, File 6, Box 3, BD-NLW, f. 661.

109 Headrick, op. cit. (1), pp. 38–39, 196–197.

110 For beam radio see Baker, op. cit. (7), pp. 216–225.

111 Anon., ‘Eastern Telegraph Company’, The Times, 25 May 1927, p. 24.

112 Anon., ‘Eastern Telegraph Company’, The Times, 25 July 1928, p. 26.

113 Brown, op. cit. (24), pp. 82–85.

114 Anon., ‘Eastern Telegraph Company’, The Times, 9 June 1926, p. 25; Anon., ‘Eastern Telegraph Company’, op. cit. (112), p. 26.

115 For analysis of the merger see Barty-King, op. cit. (17), pp. 203–227; and Boyce, op. cit. (2).

116 J.C. Besly, ‘Memorandum from engineer-in-chief to general manager and secretary’, 16 January 1933, in ‘Staff – confidential’, op. cit. (43). The activities of the laboratory in this later period, which included a significant amount of instrumental testing, are documented in experimental notebooks: CWA, DOC/E&ATC/3/54–55.

117 Divall, op. cit. (15), p. 55.

118 Divall, op. cit. (15), p. 44.

119 Winseck and Pike, op. cit. (17).

120 Jacobsen, op. cit. (6), p. 236; Davies, entry for 6 December 1921, Diary No 11, Box 5, BD-NLW; Edward Wilshaw to Electrical Department, 29 June 1926, ‘Staff – confidential’, op. cit. (43); Minute No 233 (28 April 1925), Minute Book No 18, op. cit. (73).

I thank Alan Booth, Graeme Gooday, Sally Horrocks and the anonymous referees for comments on earlier drafts of this paper. I also thank Donard de Cogan, Charlotte Dando, Allan Green, David Hochfelder, Kurt Jacobsen, Amal Khreisheh and Alan Renton for advice and help. For permission to quote from unpublished sources I thank the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum and the National Library of Wales.

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