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British Industrial History

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Cyril Frank Elwell

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Cyril Frank Elwell (1884-1963) was an important figure in the newly born fields of wireless telegraphy and radio broadcasting during the first two decades of the 20th century.

Born in Melbourne, Australia in 1884 of American parents, he completed his studies in Electrical Engineering at Stanford University, California.

1917: Granted a patent for a circuit to reduce noise in the reception of wireless telegraphy signals, the abridgement of specification for it being published in The Engineer 1917/02/09 (page 143). His address is given as 18 Cathcart Road, South Kensington, London.

After significant experimental work on radio-telegraphy and telephony in California, he took several engagements overseas, mainly in Europe. Also of significance was his work on, and championing of, the novel method of radio transmission devised earlier by the Danish engineer Valdemar Poulsen. Elwell made important improvements to the 'Poulsen Arc Generator' presenting them later in the book The Poulsen Arc Generator (1923)[1]. Subsequently he moved to England where in the early 1920s he established and managed the company C. F. Elwell, Limited, originally to mainly supply wireless apparatus for maritime communication but later manufacturing home radio receivers for the nascent radio broadcasting service. During his stay in England he became actively involved in other electronics-related enterprises, such as the joint venture in talking pictures with Lee de Forest that he founded and directed, The British de Forest Phonofilms Company. He was also a founding investor in the Mullard Radio Valve Company[2].

With the end of the Phonofilms business, which could not survive its technically-superior competitors, Elwell moved to France as a consultant on talking films to the Compagnie Radio-Cinema, but that position lasted just about one year and in 1930 Elwell finally ended his involvement with the talking motion pictures.

In the latter part of his career he did electrical engineering consulting work in USA. Beside the radio transmission systems and sound pictures Elwell was also a recognised expert on radio mast design, having throughout his career received important contract work in this field. Last but not least was the mid 1930s design of the aerial masts for the BBC transmitting station at Droitwich and the masts of the R.A.F. Radiolocator stations between Dover and Bawdsey Manor, which were to play an important role in the British radar defence during WW2.

C F Elwell died in California in 1963.

See Also

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Sources of Information

Sanders, Ian L. (2013). Cyril Frank Elwell. Morgan Hill, California: Castle Ridge Press. ISBN 978-0-615-81241-0.

<references> [1] [2]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Elwell, C. F. (1923) The Poulsen Arc Generator. London: Benn; New York: Van Nostrand.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Sanders, Ian L. (2013). Cyril Frank Elwell. Morgan Hill, California: Castle Ridge Press. pp.46-7.