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British Industrial History

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Edward M. Clarke

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Edward Marmaduke Clarke (c. 1806–1859), scientific instrument maker

c.1806 Born in Ireland. Little is known about his early life.

1826 He is thought to have taken an active role in the formation of the Dublin Mechanics' Institution.

By the early 1830s Clarke had settled in London, working for the scientific instrument making company of Watkins and Hill, who were among the largest London dealers in philosophical apparatus, specializing among other things in electromagnetic apparatus. Clarke was employed by Watkins and Hill to investigate the possibility of producing locomotion by means of electricity, an area of increasing interest among London's practical electricians.

Clarke soon set up an instrument making company in his own right.

Within a few years he was embroiled in controversy with Francis Watkins (of Watkins and Hill) and in particular with his protégé, the American instrument maker Joseph Saxton, over the invention of the magneto-electric machine.

A few years later Clarke put his own version of the magneto-electric machine on the market, writing extensive descriptions in the scientific press to advertise his new product. Saxton publicly accused Clarke of piracy, alleging that his machine was simply a variation of his own invention and that no experiment could be conducted with it that could not equally well be carried out with Saxton's.

1837 Clarke played a key role in the foundation of the short-lived Electrical Society of London. The society's first meeting was held at his shop on the Lowther Arcade near the Strand.

Mid-1840s Clarke appears to have largely abandoned his scientific instrument business

By 1845 he was the proprietor of the Rodney Iron Works in Battersea.

Early 1850s: he embarked upon another ambitious project. He was the projector and then the first proprietor of the Royal Panopticon of Science and Art in Leicester Square, which, having been granted a royal charter on 21 February 1850, opened to the public on 16 March 1854.

1856 Clarke resigned from the panopticon. Shortly afterwards the panopticon itself closed down

1859 Clarke died at Cornhill, London.

A different version of his biography is given in Currier's "History of the Induction Coil":

Edward M Clarke (1804-1846) was born in Ireland and trained in instrument making in Dublin. In 1833 he moved to London to work for instrument makers Watkins and Hill. He studied magneto-electric machines made by Hippolyte Pixii and by Joseph Saxton, and developed one of his own design. He soon resigned his job, and by 1835 he was making and marketing his own improved electrical machine, with two armatures. A heated debate arose between Saxton and Clarke over piracy of ideas. See here for more information.[1]

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