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British Industrial History

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William Leonard Madgen

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William Leonard Madgen (c1862-1925)

1925 Obituary [1]

WILLIAM LEONARD MADGEN died in January 1925 at the age of 63 years.

He was a pupil in the School of Electrical Engineering, Hanover-square.

He then joined the Telephone Company, and in 1882 went to Belfast as district manager; a little later he joined Woodhouse and Rawson as one of their departmental managers.

Between 1888 and 1891 he was associated with Mr. Manville (now Sir Edward Manville) and with Mr. Statter. (possibly John Grice Statter - Ed)

In 1892 he co-operated with the late Robert Hammond in establishing the journal Lightning (now the Electrical Times).

In 1893 he was engaged in developing the Ferranti meter business.

During the next three years he was occupied with propaganda relating to the maximum demand system of charging for electricity, introduced by Mr. Arthur Wright.

In 1896 he did important work in connection with the formation of the Municipal Electrical Association. He and the writer thus approached the development of the electrical industry from opposite poles. He was at first a strong advocate of municipal trading; but he changed his views, notwithstanding his close association with municipal authorities, and became a supporter of the Industrial Freedom League, formed to show the unwisdom of developing the electrical industry on parochial lines.

In 1900 he was busy promoting electrical power Acts; his paper and the discussions before the Institution on this subject, published in the Journal, constitute interesting landmarks in the development of the industry.

When in 1897 the Electrical Power Distribution Co. was formed, no outside capital could be raised for the enterprise; for even the writer's financial group regarded it as too speculative. The pioneering work of this company required several years of hard work without profit; some time later the British Electric Traction Co. absorbed the E.P.D. Company, and Mr. Magden became a director of the B.E.T. Company.

His ideas of business were tempered by social views prompted by genuine, not political, desire to ameliorate the conditions of the masses, as is shown by his paper on "Industrial Distribution: the Crux of the Overcrowding Question" [Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, 1902). In his schemes he aimed at symmetry and completeness not generally attainable. This is seen in the titles he adopted. For instance, a little lighting company for Lewes was called the County of Sussex Company. He had a friendly emotional disposition, with a keen sense of justice. He could easily forget as well as forgive unintentional injuries, but he would never forgive the sins of insincerity. Unfortunately, he did not sufficiently organize his activities on matters outside business to obtain the diversion which intense application to responsible work required.

He was elected an Associate of the Institution in 1881, and a Member in 1890.

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