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British Industrial History

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Harry William Charles Cox

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Harry William Charles Cox (1864-1910), electrician who studied X-rays, which eventually killed him.

1865 Born in Shoreditch[1] son of Thomas Cox (a plumber) and his wife Eliza

1881 Plumber improver[2]

At some point established in business which became Harry W. Cox and Co

1895 of Cricketfield Road, Hackney[3]

1910 of Cricketfield Road, Clapton when he died[4]


1910 Obituary[5]

WE have to record with regret the death on Saturday last of Mr. Harry W. Cox, who has been fitly termed a martyr to science. Mr. Cox was an electrician who devoted his life to the study of the X-rays from the time of their discovery by Rontgen in 1895, and succeeded in greatly improving the necessary apparatus, especially that type of it which is peculiarly adapted for surgical purposes. The effects of the rays on the human body were not thoroughly understood when he commenced to investigate and manufacture the apparatus, or possibly his life need not have been sacrificed. While their beneficent effects in some cases was fully established, the fact that under certain circumstances or when applied too frequently these rays could do serious damage was unsuspected, or at any rate ignored.

About eight years ago, Mr. Cox, when engaged in some investigations, noticed a mark on one of his hands. It was the commencement of the trouble, and eventually what is now known as X-ray dermatitis, made its appearance. For this disease, which it is said has much resemblance to cancer, there is at present no known cure. Gradually at first, and latterly more quickly, the disease took hold of its victim. First the left hand, then the right hand and arm were effected. Amputation was resorted to, but was of no avail, and finally the neck and head were attacked.

In spite, however of intense suffering and the knowledge that no mortal aid could help him, Mr. Cox continued his business, striving to make and making more perfect the apparatus which was to be such a help and blessing to others, till, a few months back, even his indomitable will could no longer urge on his crippled body, and he had to give up work. For months, nay, for years, he suffered agony which was sometimes intense, but it is said of him that he was never known to complain, and - in a word - cheerfully laid down his life for the good of others.




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Sources of Information

  1. BMD
  2. 1881 census
  3. Electoral Register
  4. National Probate calendar
  5. The Engineer 1910/07/15