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British Industrial History

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British Museum

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1753 Sir Hans Sloane was a renowned doctor who travelled the world treating royalty and members of high society. During his travels he satisfied his passion for collecting natural history specimens and cultural artefacts. After his death in 1753, his will allowed Parliament to buy his extensive collection of more than 71,000 items for £20,000 - significantly less than its estimated value. The government built the British Museum so these items could be displayed to the public.

1879 'THE ELECTRIC LIGBT AT THE BRITISH MUSEUM. An important experiment with the electric light took place at the British Museum last evening. A grant having been made by her Majesty's Treasury towards a trial of the electric light for the illumination of the Reading-room and other portions of the premises, the Trustees of the British Museum have lately made arrangements with Dr. Siemens, and, in consequence, several lamps on the principle employed by that gentleman have been fitted up in that institution. .... The regulators wbich govern the lights in the Reading-room are the invention of Messrs. Siemens and Halske, of Berlin, and are constructed with a degree of simplicity wbich admits of their being managed by inexperienced hands. The carbons are nineteen inches long, burning at the rate of nearly three inches per hour, and therefore furnishing a light which continues for six hours without the regulators being touched. For the seven lights sustained by the alternate currents other regulators are employed. These are actuated by two "solenoids," one forming part of the main circuit, and tending to separate the carbons which sustain the voltaic arc, while the other forms a shunt round the carbons, and tends to bring them together. The position of the carbons is thus made to depend, not on the strength of the current, but on the relative amount of electricity passing through each solenoid. If properly arranged at the first, the lamps require no further adjustment after they have left the hands of the makers. These regulators are also constructed in such a manner that the accidental extinction of one light does not affect the burning of the other lights in the same circuit. New carbons can be put into one of these lamps in about half a minute, when they are ready to burn for another five hours, that being the period of combustion. The machines supplying electricity for the whole of the lights are also those invented by Dr. Siemens. They are placed in a shed behind the Museum and are driven by two eight-horse power semi-fixed engines constructed by Messrs. Wallis and Steevens, of the North Hants Iron Works, Basingstoke. The governors of these engines are of the cross-armed, central-weighted type, extremely sensitive, so as to ensure great regularity in the speed — an essential point in supplying power for electric lights. Messrs. Wallis and Steevens are about to furnish another desideratum in the management of electric lights, whereby it will be possible to change the rate of speed without stopping the engine. Whilst it it necessary that the speed of a steam engine which is working a system of electric lights should be uniform, it is sometimes desirable to change the rate, so as to suit such varying circumstances as may arise from change of weather or other cause. The ability to do this without endangering the continuance of the lights cannot be otherwise than very valuable. The two eight-horse engines can be worked up to nearly three times their nominal power. It will be seen that the total amount of lighting power it nearly equal to 23,000 candles. With this amount of light it was stated last evening that the engines were working up to about 26, or from that to nearly 30, horse power indicated. It would therefore appear that about one-horse power indicated was equivalent to rather more than 800 candles: Particulars of expense are not yet fully given ; .... [1]

1856 Sir Richard Owen - a brilliant natural scientist who came up with the name for dinosaurs - left his role as curator of the Hunterian Museum and took charge of the British Museum’s natural history collection. Dissatisfied with the lack of space for its ever-growing collection of natural history specimens, Owen convinced the British Museum's board of trustees that a separate building was needed to house these national treasures. This resulted in the formation of the Natural History Museum

1963 A separate board of trustees was appointed for the Natural History Museum

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. London Evening Standard - Tuesday 21 October 1879