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James Grieve Lorrain

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James Grieve Lorrain (1852-1917)

1896 of Norfolk House, Norfolk Street, London, W.C


1918 Obituary [1]

JAMES GRIEVE LORRAIN was born in 1852 and died on the 23rd August, 1917.

The son of a physician and the grandson of a Grammar School Head Master, Mr. Lorrain started life with inherited capacity in science and literature.

His engineering career commenced as a pupil of a Civil Engineer of Edinburgh, and he subsequently became a pupil of Professor Fleeming Jenkin, F.R.S. At Edinburgh University he studied two years, passing with distinction in mathematics, physics, and mechanics. University College, London, the Royal School of Mines, and lectures at the College of France in Paris, were further successive stages in his education.

He held an appointment as chemist to the Oakbank Works, Midcalder, and then started in private practice as an electrical engineer in Edinburgh. When so engaged, the telephone was brought out and Mr. Lorrain was amongst the first to realize its value and afford the public practical experience of its utility. He erected some of the first telephone lines in Scotland, and in association with an American named Tracy was concerned also in the first exchanges at Manchester, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Dundee, and Belfast, as well as such distant fields as India.

All these enterprises were early acquired by other companies and merged into larger organizations - the British exchanges eventually becoming "National" and the Indian exchanges "Oriental." It must be accounted a misfortune that only the enterprises were merged and Mr. Lorrain himself not taken over, for his training and experience would have been of value in the development of the telephone business.

In 1881 Mr. Lorrain resumed his practice as a Consulting Engineer, this time opening an office at Westminster. At some time in the early eighties he was associated with the [Kinetic Engineering Co|Kinetic Engineering Company]], introducing new electrical applications including the Berthoud Borel Cable - one of the earliest makes of lead-covered cable.

In 1886 he commenced the study of patent law, and after two years' assiduous application started in practice as a patent agent, to which (in addition to practising as a consulting engineer) he applied himself for the remainder of his life. Mr. Lorrain took an active part in the social side of electrical interests, as a Mason, as a Member of Council of the "Dynamicables," and as Secretary of the Twenty-Five Club. With a distinctly aristocratic appearance he held very democratic views, to which may perhaps be attributed the absence of any prefixes in the record of attendances of the Twenty-Five Club. He would sometimes tell how there was at one time in his employ a certain John Burns who subsequently acquired the suffix of M.P. and the prefix of "Right Hon."

Mr. Lorrain was elected a Member of the Institution in 1879. He was also a Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, a Fellow of the Royal Physical Society of Edinburgh, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Patent Agents, a Member of the Societe Francaise de Physique, a Member of the Society of Chemical Industry, and a Member of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. His loss is deplored by a wide circle as that of an able, kindly, and cultured friend.


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