Thursday, 18 August 2011
Whilst researching the work carried out by Dr Wildman Whitehouse prior to the laying of the 1858 Atlantic telegraph cable I came across an interesting set of curves plotted by him in June 1857. They relate to measurements he made on a length of cable using his magneto-electrometer ( more on this item to follow) and utilising both voltaic cells and induction coils as an energising source.
The curves were uncovered in the Library & Archives of the Science Museum at Wroughton . Interested to discover whether the shape of the curves were electrically meaningful my colleague Donard de Cogan did some work on them using a tool known as TLM ( Transmission Line Matrix) ...............the results of this work were written up and have been published by the IET in ‘Science Measurement and Technology’ Vol. 5, Issue 4, pp.117-124.
A PDF copy of the paper can be found on the PK website at http://www.porthcurno.org.uk/userfiles/misc_pdfs/wroughton_curves_paper.pdf
So what might one conclude from all that ?
Whitehouse, his instruments and his (alleged) 'non-scientific' approach to his work have all been heavily criticised by historians over the past 150 years. The main reason for this is that he was made the scapegoat for the failure of the 1858 cable and anything and everything he did before or after that event has been largely ignored by by historians. Even present day writers invariably refer to Whitehouse as setting the benchmark for scientific inadequacy. The fact that with his magneto-electrometer he was able to make such sensitive measurements as required to plot the curves goes some way to support an argument that he deserved a rather better 'press' .
As Shakespeare had it in Julius Caesar: ' The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones'.