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Richard Secker Brough

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Robert Secker Brough (1846-1879)


1880 Obituary [1]

MR. RICHARD SECKER BROUGH, youngest son of Dr. Thompson Brough, M.D., was born at Kiltegan, in the county of Wicklow, on the 17th of October, 1846.

His early education was pursued at a private school in Jersey, kept by a Mr. Thompson ; and later at the Victoria College, in those days ably ruled by Dr. Henderson, whose prim yet kindly manner and impartial treatment rendered him a great favourite with the boys. In a society like that of Jersey, where many retired military officers had settled, and where the troops garrisoning the island were held in high esteem, most boys naturally inclined to the army as the profession of their choice ; and as two elder brothers had already joined the service, young Brough was strongly inclined to follow their example.

However, it was decided that he should study for the Indian Civil Service, and with this object in view he was sent to Avranches, in France, where more individual attention could be bestowed upon him than was possible in a large school. Here he quickly acquired a perfect knowledge of the French language, learned Italian and German, natural and physical sciences, and showed a permanently increasing interest in mathematics. It was then that his talent for physical research began to be perceived. He returned to London to cont.inue his preparations ; but, notwithstanding his natural ability, there was not time to accumulate that large amount of positive knowledge which is required to pass successfully through the ordeal of an Indian Civil Service Examination: he failed, and being over age, another profession had to be selected.

About this time Sir Stafford Northcote, Bart., M.P., had introduced the present system of examination for the Indian Telegraph Service. Mr. Brough got nominated for that service, and, after another year’s study at University College, London, and under Mr. W. H. Preece, M. Inst. C.E., he passed first in the examination. He was appointed, by the Secretary of State in Council for India, a fourth grade Assistant Superintendent, with effect from the 30th of October, 1869.

On arriving in Calcutta, on the 8th of January, 1870, he was posted to the Telegraph Stores and Workshops for instruction ; but his skill was so marked that he was promoted to Assistant Superintendent of Stores on the 5th of May in the same year. In the November following he was transferred to Madras, to take chalge of that important telegraph office.

In March 1871 he was recalled to Calcutta, to become an assistant to the Superintendent Electrician, which important position he retained up to the time of his death. In the electrician's office, where physical experiments of a varied nature are daily executed, he had every opportunity to develop his special talents, which he did with marked success.

During the absence from India of Mr. Schwendler, M. Inst. C.E., the Superintendent Electrician, he was invariably deputed by the Director General to officiate for that officer, on account of the great ability he had shown in all the technical branches connected with the telegraph administration.

He was thus mainly occupied in special duties; but he constructed the line of telegraphs from Eureli to Saugor, 70 miles; and his latest practical work was undertaken for tho purpose of testing and repairing the faulty Paumben cables in connection with the Ceylon cable, which he carried out most successfully.

Mr. Brough was one of the most active members of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, and since 1871 he had been a member of the Physical Science Committee of that society. To the Proceedings of that body he contributed the following Papers : in 1877, "On a case of lightning, with an evolution of the potential and quantity of the discharge in absolute measure;" "On the diameter of the wire to be employed in winding an electro-magnet in order to produce the maximum magnetic effect;" "A theoretical deduction of the best resistance of a telegraph receiving instrument ;" "Note on Professor Graham Bell's telephone:' and in 1878, "A few magnetic elements for Northern India:Carl Louis Schwendler " On the proper relative sectional areas for copper and iron lightning rods."

The night before his death, which occurred suddenly, from cholera, at Calcutta, on the 3rd of April, 1879, he attended, in apparently full health, a meeting of the Asiatic Society, where he assisted in showing experiments in connection with a Paper on A new standard of light," read by Mr. Schwendler.

He also published a small book containing useful formulae for practical telegraphy ; afterwards incorporated, under the head of “Telegraph Construction,” in the 19th edition of Molesworth‘s “ Pocket Book of Engineering Formulae" to which was added, "Electrical Formulae, &c.,” by Dr. Higgs and Mr. Brough. He further brought out, by order of the Director General of Telegraphs in India, a second edition, revised and amplified, of “ Instructions for Testing Lines, Batteries, and Instruments,” by Mr. Schwendler ; and in a Supplement to vol. i. he gave a “Table of Correction Coefficients.”

He was elected a member of the Society of Telegraph Engineers in May 1872, a member of the Physical Society of London in June 1875, and an Associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers in February 1878. He possessed all the qualities to become in time an eminent physicist and telegraph engineer ; but great as were his mental gifts and accumulated knowledge, both were surpassed by his kind and generous disposition, especially shown towards those who had the fortune to serve under him.


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