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British Industrial History

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Shelford Bidwell

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Shelford Bidwell (1848-1909), Barrister and Physicist, President of the Physical Society.

1848 March 6th. Born in Thetford

1871 Graduated at Cambridge LLB

1873 Gained MA; called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn

1877 Joined the Physical Society.

c.1880 Investigated the photo-electric properties of selenium.

1881 Developed a device for "telephotography", which electrically transmitted pictures along a wire, a forerunner of the modern fax machine.

1886 Elected FRS

1899 Described "Bidwell's Ghost", an after-image trailing behind a moving spot of light in a dim room, in his book "Curiosities of Light and Vision".

1909 December 18th. Died.


1910 Obituary [1]

SHELFORD BIDWELL, F.R.S., died on December 18, 1909, at the age of 62.

He was born at Thetford, and was educated at Caius College, Cambridge.

Called to the bar in 1875 at the age of 28, he eventually abandoned law for scientific research, for which his natural talents better fitted him. He was the author of numerous papers before this Institution, the Royal Society, and the Physical Society, and lectured on electrical subjects at the Royal Institution and other centres.

In 1881 he was elected an Associate Member, and three years later was transferred to full Membership. He carried out numerous valuable researches in magnetism and physiological optics, but his greatest scientific work was the discovery, in 1881, of the change caused by light in the electrical resistance of selenium, on which were founded several methods of electrically transmitting pictures to a distance.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1886, and was President of the Physical Society in 1897 and 1898.

He was an Associate Member of Council of the Institution for the year 1883-4.



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Sources of Information

  • Find-a-grave [1]
  • Biography ODNB