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D. Monnier

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D. Monnier ( -1914)

1917 Obituary [1]

D. MONNIER, who died on the 9th December, 1914, was born at Odessa of French parents, and was educated at the Ecole Centrale.

In 1885 he was appointed engineer to the Gas Company at Marseilles, a position which he held for many years, and he was responsible for the installation of a modern gas-supply system in that city. A sedentary occupation did not, however, appeal to him, and being of an investigating turn of mind, he joined in 1879 the Paris-New York Transatlantic Telegraph Company and was responsible for the construction and laying of cables and for the control of the Company's stations in France, England, and America - a very different role from that of supplying gas in Marseilles.

It was, however, the International Electrical Exhibition of Paris in 1881 which showed him his real bent, namely, the industrial applications of electricity. The electric glow lamps shown at that exhibition foreshadowed a complete change in methods of lighting. The old and powerful gas companies were afraid of what such lamps might lead to, and some of them united to form a research laboratory where the possibilities of the new rival could be investigated. They had no hesitation in placing in charge of this laboratory Monsieur Monnier, who was both a gas and an electrical engineer. They could not have made a better choice.

In 1884 the English Continental Gas Company requested him to undertake the lighting of two theatres and the erection of a power station to supply them, which at that date was an enterprising scheme. The same year the Ecole Centrale decided to create a special department for the teaching of electricity and its industrial applications. Monsieur Monnier was appointed head of the department, a position which he held until his death. This was the first occasion on which electrical engineering had been a recognized course in a large French technical school. When one looks back now at those electrical courses of 1884-1885 which comprised only 20 lessons, it is amusing to see what a small number of lessons were sufficient to instruct an engineer in the general theory of electricity and magnetism, electrical measurements, continuous and alternating-current machines, transformers, lighting, photometry, electrical transmission and distribution, batteries, galvanoplasty, and even telegraphy. When one turns to the last course of lectures given by Monsieur Monnier in 1913-1914, at the age of nearly 80 - a course of 50 lessons, including the design of machines, overhead lines and distribution of alternating currents, with or without the use of the method of imaginary quantities - one can truly admire the remarkable youthfulness of spirit of a man who, at an age when most people begin to forget the little they have known, kept himself thoroughly informed as to all that was published on his subject in France and other countries, and continually introduced into his lessons the results of the most recent researches.

He had a charming personality and his good humour made him one of the most popular of the professors, and those who knew him will always remember him with affection. More than 6,000 engineers now scattered throughout the world were educated by him, and more than once during recent years he has seen, seated on the forms before him, the sons of those whom he had taught in the early days. Throughout his long career Monsieur Monnier took part in all the important technical commissions ; he was also one of the judges at all the electrical exhibitions and he received numerous honorary distinctions.

He was elected a Foreign Member of the Institution in 1880 and became a Member in 1911.

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