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British Industrial History

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James Bowman Lindsay

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James Bowman Lindsay (1799–1862), experimenter with electricity and writer on theology

James B. Lindsay was given the title 'Father of Wireless Telegraphy' by Richard Kerr [1]

1799 Born at Cotton of West Hills, Carmyllie, Arbroath, the eldest son of John Lindsay, tailor, and his wife, Elizabeth Bowman.

Apprenticed as a weaver

1821 Educated at St Andrews University .

1829 Appointed science and mathematics lecturer at the Watt Institute, Dundee.

Spent time abroad teaching

1834 settled in Dundee and resumed his science classes, demonstrating his enthusiasm for the possible uses of electricity, including telegraphy and power from batteries.

1835 Claimed to have developed a continuously burning electric light but the details are unclear.

1841 Appointed as a teacher in Dundee prison, a post he held until 1858.

1845 he sent a proposal to the Dundee Advertiser for an autograph telegraph, which used vibrating needles to etch messages into pith balls. In response to the suggestion of a submarine Atlantic telegraph cable, Lindsay responded with ideas of how a cable might be constructed, using uninsulated copper wire with joints welded by electricity. This was probably the first suggestion of the use of electricity for welding. Also he proposed a telegraphic dictionary — a combination of signals to represent words.

1853 Demonstrated underwater wireless telegraph. This involved instruments and batteries connected to metal plates submerged in the water. Lindsay persevered in publicizing his system through several demonstrations in Scotland and England between 1853 and 1860.

1854 Patented his telegraph scheme and demonstrated it to the Electric Telegraph Co.

1859 Presented a paper and made demonstrations to the British Association. His scheme for sending signals through water was not taken up.

At the same time he continued his theological research, which was as important to him as electricity, and published his conclusions.

He reputedly had little mechanical skill, so he commissioned apparatus from a local instrument maker, George Lowdon.

1862 He died at home in Dundee.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. [1] Machinery (USA) March 1914, p.514
  • Biography of James Bowman Lindsay, ODNB
  • James Bowman Lindsay [2]