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Frederick Herbert William Higgins

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Frederick Herbert William Higgins (c1849-1915)

1916 Obituary [1]

FREDERICK HERBERT WILLIAM HIGGINS, who was for 40 years chief engineer of the Exchange Telegraph Company and one of the few surviving pioneers of telegraphy, died on the 1st September, 1915, at the age of 66.

He began his career with the Electric and International Telegraph Company, and before he was 20 years old had devised the non-inductive shunt which is still in use on repeater circuits.

Later, in Mr. R. S. Culley's laboratory he investigated the conditions affecting the rise of current in a submarine cable, and was successful in effecting such an acceleration of the speed of transmission in the Dutch cables as to render unnecessary the provision of a contemplated new cable.

He was then appointed Telegraph Engineer to the island of Mauritius.

After three years he returned to England and entered the service of the Exchange Telegraph Company. The form of tape machine then used in this country was far from perfect, and he devoted himself with considerable success to its improvement.

In 1884 he devised a tape machine working on a single wire. The new invention contained also an improvement in the method of transmission and in, the transmitter itself, which resulted in a considerable increase of speed combined with greater reliability. The instrument in this form remained in use for nearly 30 years, but the developing needs of the public for a more rapid news service led him to make further improvements, and in 1902 he patented the apparatus now in use.

The column printer was also his invention, his first patent for this being taken out in 1880. Among his other numerous inventions are an automatic transmitter for the tape machines, the "annunciator" - a machine in use in the smoking-rooms, etc., of the Houses of Parliament which indicates in large letters the name of the member speaking and the subject of the debate - and the first public fire alarm system used in the streets of London.

He was elected an Associate of the Institution in 1873 and a Member in 1877, and served on the Council in 1877-8.

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