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Fleeming Jenkin

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(Henry Charles) Fleeming Jenkin FRS, (1833–1885), electrical engineer and university teacher.

1833 Born on 25 March near Dungeness, Kent, the only child of Captain Charles Jenkin RN (1801–1885), a coastguard, and his wife, Henrietta Camilla Jenkin (c.1807–1885), a novelist.

1841 School in Jedburgh prior to attending Edinburgh Academy (from 1843) where J. C. Maxwell was his senior and P. G. Tait his classmate.

1846 the Jenkins moved to Frankfurt

1847 moved to Paris, where Fleeming acquired French and became interested in mathematics.

1848 moved to Genoa; Fleeming studied natural philosophy at the university.

1850 On graduation, began employment in Philip Taylor's Genoese locomotive workshop.

1851 Returned to Britain; began a three-year apprenticeship at Fairbairn's works in Manchester

1854 Undertook railway surveying in Switzerland for 6 months.

1855 draughtsman at Penn's steam engine works in Greenwich.

1856 Joined Liddell and Gordon. Jenkin became deeply involved in marine telegraph engineering through Lewis Gordon's association with the cable manufacturer R. S. Newall of Birkenhead.

1857 Jenkin moved to Newall's as philosophical assistant, and was introduced to William Thomson.

1859 On 26 February he married Anne (d. 1921), only child of Alfred Austin (1805–1884) and his wife, Eliza née Barron (d. 1885); they had three sons, Austin Fleeming (1861–1910), Charles Frewen Jenkin (1865–1940), and Bernard Maxwell (1867–1951) who became a consulting engineer.

Jenkin tested the first Atlantic and Red Sea telegraph cables, whose subsequent failures led to a parliamentary enquiry into construction procedures. Furnishing evidence in December 1859 Jenkin urged an alliance of standardized practice with theory, a conclusion the joint committee strongly endorsed.

1860 Jenkin left Newall's and filed his first joint patent with Thomson

1861 Formed a partnership with H. C. Forde (1827–1897) that laid a Lowestoft–Norderney cable for Reuters in 1865.

Advised British governments on telegraph nationalization, and served Reuters, the French Atlantic, and the German Union telegraph companies.

Took the lead in standardisation of electrical resistance.

Messrs. Forde and Fleeming Jenkin were involved in the construction of the waterworks at Rouen in France.

1865 Patent pooling agreement with William Thomson and C. F. Varley.

Elected FRS

1866 Accepted the chair of civil engineering at University College, London.

1868 Became professor of engineering at the University of Edinburgh. Dissolved his partnership with Forde in favour of one with Thomson.

1868 member of the Institution of Civil Engineers

Jenkin filed thirty-five British patents and c.40 published papers, mainly concerning telegraphy

1875 member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers

1877 Started to campaign for healthy houses. His public lectures during early 1878 inspired Edinburgh's Sanitary Protection Association, modelled on Fairbairn's Steam Boiler Users' Association. Jenkin was consultant engineer.

1879 he was elected vice-president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh

1882 Jenkin filed the first of a dozen patents for telpherage.

1883 With William Edward Ayrton and John Perry formed the Telpherage Co. A telpher line was opened at Glynde, Sussex, in October 1885, and Jenkin received a posthumous gold medal at the International Inventions Exhibition (1885).

1885 Died in Edinburgh


1885 Obituary [1]

HENRY CHARLES FLEEMING JENKIN was born on 25th March 1833, at Hythe in Kent, where his father, Capt. Jenkin, R.N., was on coast-guard service.

He received his early education at Jedburgh and at the Edinburgh Academy, afterwards going to school in Frankfort-on-the-Main and in Paris.

He then studied for about two years in the University of Genoa, where he graduated as master of arts in the year 1850.

After serving an apprenticeship in a locomotive establishment at Genoa, he returned to England in 1851, and served an apprenticeship of three years in Manchester at Messrs. Fairbairn's engineering works, from 1851 to 1854.

He was then employed successively by Mr. Hemans in railway surveying in Switzerland, at Messrs. John Penn and Sons in the drawing-office, and by Messrs. Liddell and Gordon in railway work.

In 1857 he entered the employment of Messrs. Newall at Birkenhead, to whom was entrusted the manufacture of the wire required for the first Atlantic cable; and was placed by them in superintendence of the machine construction of their factory, in which position he was engaged in fitting up steamships for laying submarine cables and in designing picking-op and paying-out machinery. He had general charge of the electrical testing of the cables during their manufacture; and as chief electrical engineer personally accompanied many cable-laying expeditions, including that for laying the first cable between Malta and Alexandria.

In 1859 he gave evidence before the commission on submarine telegraphs, on which subject he had become an authority.

From 1861 he acted as reporter to the committee then formed of the British Association for the purpose of determining what standards should be used in making electrical measurements ; and in the same year entered into a civil engineering partnership in London with Mr. H. C. Forde.

In 1862 he read a paper to this Institution upon the construction of submarine telegraph cables (Proceedings 1862, page 211).

In 1865 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society ; and in the following year was appointed professor of civil and mechanical engineering in University College, London, which position he held until 1868, when he was elected to the similar chair newly instituted in Edinburgh University.

In 1868 he gave evidence before the committee of the House of Commons on scientific instruction.

For some years before going to Edinburgh he was associated with Sir William Thomson as joint engineer to the Western and Brazilian and Platino-Brazilian Telegraph Co., and to the Mackay-Bennett Cable Co. ; and also as joint inventor in connection with the working of long submarine cables.

In 1877 he delivered two lectures before the Edinburgh Philosophical Institution on healthy houses and on ventilation and warming, to introduce and draw attention to the Sanitary Protection Association of Edinburgh ; which led to the subsequent establishment of similar associations in London and numerous other large towns. During the last three years of his life he devoted much attention to his system of electrical transport or haulage, which he called "telpherage."

He died on 12th June 1885, at the age of fifty-two, from blood-poisoning following upon a surgical operation.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1875 ; and was a member of the Research Committee on Friction.


1885 Obituary [2]




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