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Frank King

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Frank King (c1854-1899)

1900 Obituary [1]

FRANK KING, who died on Thursday, August 3, 1899, at the age of forty-five, was one of those electrical engineers who, since 1880, have been intimately connected with works of electrical distribution and storage.

His name, associated with those of Messrs. Brougham and Taylor, became known in the pioneer days of town electric lighting as one of the inventors of the B.T.K. accumulator, used first at Colchester in 1882.

Soon after joining the Electric Power Storage Company in 1886 he turned his attention, not only to the improvement of accumulators, but also to the association of storage with distribution on a larger scale than had been previously attempted.

At that time the numerous failures with secondary batteries in private installations had led many to doubt if so costly though convenient an adjunct to electric lighting would succeed commercially, and it required a man of Mr. King's perseverance and ingenuity to apply the experience which these failures provided, so as to arrive at the success which is now taken for granted. He improved the means of fixing and insulating the plates, the prevention of short-circuiting within the cell, and of removing, replacing and connecting them. These improvements were the subject of patents of which little may now be thought, but which at the time covered valuable adaptations, the use of which had the effect of removing many of the difficulties and much of the prejudice which at first, between 1883 and 1887, existed against the use of accumulators. While following up these minor improvements, Mr. King turned his attention to the use of accumulators on a large scale in connection with the public supply and distribution of electricity, and there is little doubt he looked forward to the time when this kind of transformation would be in universal use.

For purposes of practical application he designed a combination of apparatus and circuits whereby the charge and discharge of secondary batteries was automatically accomplished at the proper times without interruption of the charging or discharging circuits, and whereby the charging current, which was of high tension, was prevented from reaching the distributing mains.

The system which formed the subject of Mr. King's patents of 1886 and 1887 formed part of the original installation of the Chelsea Electricity Supply Company in 1889, and the whole of the apparatus was designed and installed in Chelsea (and in a part of Kensington, which was then included in the Chelsea order) by Mr. King as engineer of the Electric Power Storage Company.

In the same year it was described to a meeting of G Section of the British Association at Newcastle by Major-General Webber, who at the time was in charge of the engineering management of the Chelsea. Company, and later on it was again described by him. in a paper read before the Institution, and published in Vol. XX. of the Journal.

The chief objects of the inventor, namely, (1) for effecting his object without interrupting the supply ; (2) for automatically indicating the completion of the charging of each of batteries; (3) for automatically, on such completion, changing a set of batteries from a position of being Charged to one of being discharged, requiring the transposition of its connections from series to parallel and vice versa ; and (4) the employment of counter electro-motive force-cells and controlling apparatus for regulating the pressure in the discharge circuit, was carried out, not only in theory but in practice, all possible conditions having been anticipated and provided for.

As with other appliances, experience showed that, as the network of distribution extended and the demand for current increased, the same ends could be secured by more simple methods.

Soon after 1892, when Mr. King was appointed to the engineering management of the Chelsea Company, while the large use of storage continued to be the chief characteristic of the system in that parish, the use of this remarkable example of Mr. King's inventive genius was discontinued.

To his ripe experience the Chelsea Company owes the design not only of their present central station in Manor Street, Chelsea (which, since his death, has been completed), but also of several of their continuous current transforming stations, in each of which are placed large batteries of accumulators, of a capacity to provide the summer daylight load, within the districts of which these sub-stations form the centre of supply.

Mr. King was elected an Associate of this Institution on the 11th of December, 1884, and was transferred to the class of Members on the 10th of January, 1889. Although he never contributed a paper, he sometimes took part in the discussions at meetings of the Institution.

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