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Michael Birt Field

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Michael Birt Field O.B.E. (1874-1930) M.I.E.E. Ass. Inst. C. E., managing director of Kelvin, Bottomley and Baird

1930 Obituary [1]

MICHAEL BIRT FIELD was born in London in May 1874, and died as the result of a street accident in February, 1930.

He was educated at Highgate Grammar School and at Finsbury Technical College, where he studied under the late Professors Silvanus Thompson and John Perry, becoming personal assistant to the latter.

In 1893 he entered the workshops of Messrs. Johnson and Phillips, and then joined Prof. Gisbert Kapp as assistant in 1894.

The following year he went to Messrs. Brown, Boveri and Co., Baden, for whom he worked for three years in Switzerland and also in Spain.

He joined the British Thomson-Houston Co. in London in 1898, but in 1900 went to Glasgow, where he was appointed chief electrical engineer to the Corporation Tramways and took charge of the newly-installed electrified system. During this period he read several papers before the Institution and was awarded a premium for one on "The Testing of Tramway Motors," which is a standard work on the subject.

In 1903 he was appointed chief engineer to Messrs. Ferranti, of Hollinwood, where, after a visit to the United States for the purpose of studying American developments, he organized a switchgear department and prepared for the firm a catalogue on switchgear which was, in effect, an original and illuminating treatise on the subject.

In 1911 he returned to Glasgow, being appointed chief engineer and general manager, and, afterwards, managing director to Messrs. Kelvin, Bottomley and Baird, the makers of Lord Kelvin's instruments.

During the War period this firm was engaged in highly specialized work for the Admiralty, and Mr. Field was largely occupied in pioneer work on the design and construction of modern submarine periscopes.

His attention had long been concentrated on navigational instruments, and in 1919 he delivered a lecture before the Institution on "The Navigational Magnetic Compass considered as an Instrument of which was awarded the Institution Premium.

In the following year he contributed a paper on "Multiple-Unit Shunts for the Measurement of Very Heavy Currents" which was also awarded a Premium.

Latterly his interests were concerned with aerial and marine navigational instruments, and before his death he was chiefly engaged on problems relating to acoustic depth-sounding. He was a man of outstanding ability as an engineer, a scientist, and a mathematician, and his untimely death is a very real loss to the profession and industry of engineering.

He was elected an Associate of the Institution in 1894 and a Member in 1901.

1930 Obituary[2]


The increasing toll on life arising from motor-oar traffic has imposed a loss on engineering oiroles in the death, following a street accident, of Mr. Michael Birt Field, managing director of Messrs. Kelvin, Bottomley and Baird, Limited, Glasgow. Mr. Field, who was only 55 years of age at the time of death on February 15, received his technical education at Finsbury Technical College, under the late Professor John Perry, to whom he was personal assistant, later acting in the same capacity to the late Mr. Gisbert Kapp. After a short period with Messrs. Johnson and Phillips, Limited, Charlton, during which he had some workshop experience, he went to the Baden works of Messrs. Brown Boveri and Company, and here his practical engineering work may be said to have begun. Then came service in the London office of Messrs. The British Thomson-Houston Company, Limited, followed by the post of chief electrical engineer to the Glasgow Corporation Tramways. He resigned this post to become chief engineer and head of the switchgear department of Messrs. Ferranti, Limited, and then, about eighteen years ago, joined the firm of Messrs. Kelvin and James White, Limited, as it then was, as general manager, later becoming, as already stated, managing director of the firm now known as Messrs. Kelvin, Bottomley and Baird, Limited. Under Mr. Field, the activities of the firm expanded very greatly, especially so during the war period, when it was engaged in the production of special apparatus in connection with submarine and anti-submarine warfare. The Government recognised Mr. Field’s services in this direction by including his name in the first list of the Order of the British Empire. Mr. Field was a member of both the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Institution of Electrical Engineers. He contributed to the latter outstanding papers on “ The Navigational Magnetic Compass Considered as an Instrument of Precision,” and “ Eddy Currents in Solid and Laminated Masses.” Others dealt with losses in cable sheaths and similar subjects, while he was a frequent contributor to the electrical technical journals, a notable example of this kind being a series of articles in The Electrical Review on the theory of the single-phase induction motor. Mr. Field was very greatly interested in his work, but a series of losses in recent years of his friends and colleagues on the board was keenly felt by him."

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