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British Industrial History

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Alexander Bain

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1858. Glover and Alexander Bain's electrical telegrapgh.

Alexander Bain (October 1811 – January 2, 1877), was a Scottish instrument inventor, technician, and clockmaker. He invented the electric clock, the electric printing telegraph, and the first fax machine. Bain installed the railway telegraph lines between Edinburgh and Glasgow.

1810 October: Born in Watten, Caithness[1]. He was baptised in November[2]. Bain's father, John, was a crofter; his mother was Isobel. Bain had a twin sister, Margaret, and, in total, he had six sisters and six brothers.

Bain did not excel in school. He was apprenticed in the art of clock making to a clockmaker in Wick and moved eventually to Edinburgh

1837 Moved to London (Clerkenwell). Bain frequented the lectures at the Polytechnic Institution and the Adelaide Gallery. He later constructed his own workshop for building instruments which was at Hanover Street.

1840 His first patent was in October 1840 for the first electric clock, followed by a patent in January 1841 for one with a pendulum kept in motion by electromagnetic impulses. He went on to design a number of electric clocks and the Earth battery to supply them with a reasonably stable and constant current of low electromotive force (or voltage). He also developed the automatic telegraph, electrical timepieces, and insulation for electric cables, an electric fire alarm, inkstands, ink holders, and a form of ship's log.

Bain's ideas on electrical horology were incorporated in five UK patents taken out during the period 1841 to 1852, and these also include much of his work on telegraphy. In 1842, he transmitted a first image over a wire and went on to patent the facsimile machine in May 1843. His fax machine relied also on the movement of a pendulum. Initially Bain made a considerable sum from his inventions but, due to poor investments, he was eventually supported only by his Civil List pension of £80 per year.

1852 Alexander Bain, of No. 43, Old Bond-street, Electric Clock Maker, Dealer and Chapman, was declared bankrupt[3]

1852 Details given of his electric telegraph as fitted to the Edinburgh to Glasgow railway. [4]

1853 Patent application by Alexander Bain, of Paddington, Engineer, for the invention of "an improvement in cases for holding cards"[5]

1853 Patent application by Alexander Bain, of Paddington, Engineer, for the invention of " an apparatus for damping paper and other substances in order to prepare the same for the reception of labels, stamps, and other like articles coated with a gummy or adhesive matter."[6]

1854 Patent application by Alexander Bain, of No. 4, Queen's row, Grove-lane, Camberwell, in the county of Surrey, Mechanical Engineer, in respect of the invention of "improvements in fire-arms and the apparatus connected therewith."[7]

1855 Patent application by Alexander Bain, of Westbourne-park Road, Paddington, for the invention of "an instrument or apparatus for distributing liquids."[8]

1855 Patent application by William Lund, of Fleet-street, in the city of London, Manufacturer, and Alexander Bain, of Paddington, in the county of Middlesex, Engineer, for the invention of "improvements in pencil-cases."[9]

1856 Patent application by Alexander Bain, of Westbourne-park road, Paddington, in the county of Middlesex, Mechanical Engineer, for the invention of "improvements in the construction of inkstands." [10]

1856 Patent application by Alexander Bain, of Brompton, in the county of Middlesex, and Bennett Johns Heywood, of Leicester-square, in the same county, Gentleman, for the invention of "improved apparatus for supplying and drawing off liquids and for stopping the flow of liquids and aeriform bodies."[11]

1857 Patent application by Thomas Glover, of Upper Chadwell street, Myddleton-square, in the county of Middlesex, Manufacturer, and Alexander Bain, of Fetter-lane, Holborn, in the same county, Electric Telegraph Engineer, for the invention of "improvements in electric telegraphs."[12]

1860 Patent application by Alexander Bain, of Rahere-street, Goswell-road, in the county of Middlesex, Engineer, for the invention of "improvements in the means of obtaining copies of letters and other writings or documents."[13]

1860 Patent application by Alexander Bain, of Clerkenwell-green, in the county of Middlesex, Engineer, for the invention of "improvements in means, apparatus, or articles for holding and supplying ink."[14]

1864 Patent application by Alexander Bain, of Euston-road, in the county of Middlesex, Engineer, for the invention of "improved apparatus for drawing off liquids." [15]

1877 Died in Broomhill Home, Kirkintloch


1877 Obituary [16]



1877 Obituary [17]



See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. Memorial stone picture on Ancestry
  2. Scotland, Select Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950
  3. London Gazette 10 December 1852
  4. The Imperial Journal 1852 Vol I. p150
  5. London Gazette 2 December 1853
  6. London Gazette 16 December 1853
  7. London Gazette 26 September 1854
  8. London Gazette 14 September 1855
  9. London Gazette 30 November 1855
  10. London Gazette 1 February 1856
  11. London Gazette 8 August 1856
  12. London Gazette 8 December 1857
  13. London Gazette 11 May 1860
  14. London Gazette 3 August 1860
  15. London Gazette 12 September 1864
  16. The Engineer 1877/01/12, p 22.
  17. Engineering 1877 Jan-Jun: Index: General Index