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British Industrial History

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Eustace Thomas

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Eustace Thomas (1869 - 1960), B.Sc. (1st Class Hons.),. Partner in firm of Bertram Thomas, Switchgear Makers, Worsley Street, Hulme, Manchester.

1960 Obituary.[1]

Eustace Thomas who died on the 11th October 1960 was born near Aylesbury on the 23rd February 1869. He was educated at the City of London School and at Finsbury Technical College, remaining at the college as chief assistant to Prof. Silvanus P. Thompson. In 1897 he became an engineer with the British Thomson-Houston Co.

In 1900 he joined his two brothers, Bertram and Frank, to form Bertram Thomas (Engineers), Manchester, with whom he stayed as co-proprietor and director until he retired in 1955. He was responsible for all the electrical engineering development of the company for 55 years, during which time it established its position as a leading maker of d.c. switchgear in this country with a world-wide reputation. He was responsible for the design of circuit-breakers and switchboards for all the Services (but particularly the Admiralty), for industry and later for traction work (tramways, trolley-buses and railways) where his personally designed high-speed circuit-breaker became well known and adopted.

He travelled all over the world, often in the course of his work, often for adventure. He was a man of intense vitality, with an interest in many things, and was equally successful in his various sporting activities. In 1921, when already over 50, he broke the Fell record in the Lake District by walking 66½ miles with 25000 ft of ascent in 24 hours. Not satisfied with this he went for a further 4½ hours, reaching a total of 75 miles and 30000 ft of ascent. Later he became the first Englishman to climb all the Swiss mountain peaks of 4000 metres and over and climbed over 83 summits within six years. He designed and developed a rescue stretcher used by most mountain rescue teams today.

In his earlier days he played golf until he became a scratch player. At the age of 60 he learnt to fly, holding a silver award for gliding—at 70 he flew his own aircraft, with a co-pilot, to Egypt and at 85 flew an aircraft over Australia.

He was a man of extremely simple and unaffected ways, deeply interested in everything new, friendly with all with whom he came in contact, old or young. One of his most endearing characteristics was that of being willing and able to discuss, work and enjoy leisure with people often half or even a third of his age.

He joined The Institution as a Student in 1886 and was elected an Associate in 1895 and a Member in 1913. His paper entitled 'The management of engineering workshops' was published in the Journal in 1908.

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Sources of information

  1. IEEE Obituary notices.