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Harold Lyon Thomson

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Harold Lyon Thomson (1860 -1924)

Born the son of Robert William Thomson

1924 Obituary [1]

HAROLD LYON THOMSON, who died after a short illness on the 13th March, 1924, was one of the earliest electrical engineers.

He was the son of the late R. W. Thomson of Edinburgh, to whom the automobile owes so much for his invention of rubber and pneumatic tyres, and he inherited much of his father's genius for mechanics.

In 1880 he went to Crompton's works at Chelmsford at a time when the invention of the electric lamp by Swan and by Edison had made indoor electric lighting a possibility. His first work was in A. P. Lundberg's shop. At that time he showed remarkable facility in designing domestic fittings of all kinds, and a large proportion of the ordinary fittings now used in connection with indoor lighting were then designed by him, in many cases the original form being still in use with very little modification. He was with Cromptons when they carried out at the Law Courts the first large installation of electric light, this installation being completed in 1882. Many of his fittings are still in use and serve to show how little his first designs have been departed from. He was Cromptons' representative in Paris at the first Electrical Exhibition in 1881.

In the early days when so much propaganda work in connection with electric light was carried out by means of portable apparatus he was generally to the fore in showing the advantages of the new illuminant. When representing Cromptons at the Vienna International Exhibition he was invited by the then Khedive of Egypt to go to Egypt, originally to develop electrical work in that country, but eventually to become secretary to the Khedive. Gradually he went over to the political side, that being the stormy period when the expedition was arranged for the relief of General Gordon at Khartoum.

When at Cairo he became a student of Arabic and Oriental literature, and on his return to this country he became a distinguished Orientalist.

Later he was elected to the Westminster City Council, subsequently becoming Alderman, and Mayor in 1912. He was responsible for Westminster being the first city to take up mechanical transport, and he developed it to such an extent that when the war broke out in 1914 he went over to Flanders in charge of a fleet of the Westminster City vehicles.

His skill as a mechanic was exceptional and was much remarked on by his friends. Just before his death he was engaged on finishing the miniature set of gold saucepans for the Queen's doll house which has been shown at the Wembley Exhibition. Westminster owes to him many improvements, not the least of which is the daily collection of house refuse. As a man he was universally loved and his place will be found a difficult one to fill.

He was elected a Member of the Institution in 1898.

1924 Obituary[2]


Captain Harold Lyon Thomson,' M.I.E.E., who died after a short illness on March 13, was one of the earliest electrical engineers. He was the son of Mr. R. W. Thomson, of Edinburgh, who was well known owing to his pioneer work in connection with rubber and pneumatic tyres. His son inherited much of his father’s genius for mechanics. He joined Crompton and Co. in 1880, and designed many early fittings and appliances. Later Crompton’s put him in charge of their outdoor installation work. When the new Law Courts were being fitted with electric light, in 1881-82, Thomson was in charge of the work, and most of the switches and pendants, brackets, and other fittings which he then designed and fitted are still in use.

After leaving Crompton’s he became Secretary to the Khedive of Egypt, and was at Cairo during the stormy periods of the expedition for the relief of Gordon at Khartoum. During his life at Cairo he studied Arabic and Oriental literature so thoroughly that on his return to England he became a distinguished Orientalist. After his return he became a member of the Westminster City Council, and was alderman, and eventually Mayor in 1912. He was responsible for organising the mechanical transport for the City Council, and when war broke out he went out as a captain in the Army Service Corps in charge of a fleet of their vehicles. Thomson’s skill as a mechanic was remarkable; he preserved up to the last that facility in inventive detail coupled with great skill of the fingers which he had shown in the early days at Crompton’s. His death is a loss to his colleagues on the Westminster City Council and to all Westminster residents."

See Also


Sources of Information

Obituary. Captain H. L. Thomson. The Times, Friday, Mar 14, 1924