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Augustus Eden

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Augustus Eden (1842-1915), of the Post Office


1916 Obituary [1]

AUGUSTUS EDEN was born on the 28th November, 1842.

He started life in the Electric Telegraph Company on the operative side, and joined the Engineering Department of the Post Office in 1884 as a technical officer. Although he had a good working scientific groundwork and a sound knowledge of electrical engineering principles, his real strength - that which made his services invaluable to the Department - was his faculty for seeing the true inwardness of every practical detail. In handling problems of high-speed Wheatstone working or dealing with the occult intricacies of telegraph repeater working, he was unexcelled and unexcellable.

By a strange irony the two things which should by all ordinary expectation have proved his lasting monument, scarcely survived his official life. The battery-testing instrument, the conception of which was due to him, was an ingenious device of two rheostats and a system of shunts which, in conjunction with a galvanometer, provided for the direct reading of the voltage and the resistance of any known number of bichromate, Leclanche, or Daniell cells. The introduction, however, of a single (duplicate) set of secondary cells for working the whole of the circuits in an office necessarily put the battery-testing instrument out of commission.

His morning-test system also was another happy inspiration. Every important telegraph circuit was tested every morning in order to ascertain its condition before the commencement of the day's work. His conception was to use a differentially wound galvanometer and to test the circuits in pairs, thus reducing the number of tests to half; and to eliminate discrepancies due to differing "constants" at different offices by making the complete test at one end of the two looped circuits. The whole scheme was perfected and developed in a most ingenious and thorough manner. Another invention was the "skew zero" tangent galvanometer, a device whereby the open portion of the tangent scale became available for the higher readings. But no one uses a tangent galvanometer now!

These and many other ideas were the results of his faculty for observing things that, as he said, "no fellow could understand." Anyone could easily explain them mathematically when he had discovered them; but the instinct that led him to correct results was all his own.

In 1902 he refused promotion in order that he might not have to change to duties for which he (as well as those of his colleagues who knew him best and regarded him most) felt himself to be little suited; but in 1904, seeing no other channel of progress, he accepted charge of a district as superintending engineer. He transferred to Edinburgh in charge of East Scotland in 1905, and retired in 1907.

His earlier experience as a Territorial artillery officer enabled him to do good work in training young officers during the earlier days of the present war—work which probably led to a breakdown of his health early in 1915.

His death occurred on the 8th July, 1915.

He was elected an Associate Member of the Institution in 1874 and a Member in 1891, and he served on the Council in 1890.


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