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British Industrial History

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William John Graham

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William John Graham (1856-1927)


1927 Obituary [1]

WILLIAM JOHN GRAHAM, who was born on the 4th June, 1856, and died on the 23rd January, 1927, was one of the oldest members of the Institution.

He was elected a Student in 1872, an Associate in 1876, and a Member in 1898.

After being educated at the Greenwich Proprietary School he, at the age of 16, became a pupil of the late Samuel Edmund Phillips, then chief electrician to the firm of W. T. Henley. At this time the period of rapid development of submarine cable telegraphy had commenced, and at the early age of 19 Mr. Graham was in China installing telegraph stations on the Yangtse River. He remained in China about two years.

After his return he became connected for a time with the French Atlantic Cable Co., and later was in the service of Messrs. Greener, inspectors to the India Office.

In 1881 he joined the staff of Messrs. Siemens Brothers and Co., in whose service he remained until his death. During the greater part of this period he was prominently connected with almost every cable expedition undertaken by the firm, either in charge of the electrical department on board the C.S. "Faraday" or in charge at the shore station during laying operations. The total length of these cables was between 27 000 and 28 000 nautical miles.

After 1913 he ceased to accompany the laying expeditions, which he had regularly done, as chief electrician since 1901. He continued, however, to attend to his duties in the cable works, with the conscientious thoroughness which had distinguished his life.

Under a somewhat stern exterior and inflexible devotion to duty he had a most kindly disposition which was probably best known to those who had been his assistants during dreary watching in cable huts, more often than not on lonely, barren coasts. His life story is an epitome of the history of submarine cable development.


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