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John George Appold

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1858. Apparatus for laying submarine telegraphs.

John George Appold (1800-1865)

1856 Of Wilson St, Finsbury Square, subscribed £10 to the Smith Testimonial Fund, commemorating the work of F. P. Smith in promoting the screw propeller.

1866 Obituary [1]

MR. JOHN GEORGE APPOLD, F.R.S., etc., was born on the 14th of April, 1800.

As a boy he evinced considerable talent for calculation and a decided turn for mechanical pursuits, which he was enabled to gratify by introducing improvements in the processes in use in his father’s business - that of a fur skin-dyer, to which he eventually succeeded; and which, by his ingenuity and scientific improvements, he rendered very lucrative.

In the early part of his career there were but rare opportunities for improvement by mixing with scientific men; but, as soon as it was practicable, Mr. Appold became a Member of the London Institution, where he enjoyed the advantages of the use of the Library, and of attending the evening meetings.

In 1834 he was named one of the Auditors, and in 1844 he was elected one of the Managers; and henceforth he took great interest in the welfare of that Society. The excellent ventilation of the Library and of the Meeting Room are mainly due to his judicious instructions.

The processes of his own business being chiefly secret, it can only be inferred, that his ingenuity and scientific acquirements were aptly applied; and when great engineering works became more common, wherever there was any peculiar process, or any remarkable work, there Mr. Appold was to be found, and many eminent men have not hesitated to avow their obligations to his suggestions for a great part of their success on special occasions. He had peculiar facility for detecting the causes of error and of defects in machines, and he would watch indefatigably for any length of time to discover the cause of any peculiar action; his next employment being to devise some simple means of avoiding a recurrence of the error.

By degrees, as he could afford to devote more time to the labour of his predilection - watching the mechanical progress of the period - the presence of Mr. Appold, on all experimental occasions, was naturally expected, and he thus made a very extensive acquaintance among the scientific and practical men of his day. Stimulated by the examples around him, he produced several very ingenious machines, the advantage of which he generally gave to the public - only a few of them being patented by Messrs. Easton and Amos, who were usually intrusted with the execution of his projects.

His name will probably be most universally connected with the Appold Centrifugal Rotary Pump, which was so prominent a feature in the International Exhibitions of 1851 and 1862. He took great and unceasing interest in the laying of the Submarine Telegraph Cable to America, and the paying-out apparatus employed in the early attempts was mainly of his invention.

In addition to his own inventive powers, he possessed a peculiarly retentive memory, and the power of adapting parts of machines, or of contrivances to special circumstances. An instance of this occurred on the event of the unfortunate blowing up of the Outfall Works of the St. Germains’ Sluice, Middle Level Drainage. As soon as Mr. Appold heard of the event, he started for the scene of the disaster, and watched for some time, with great interest, the attempts at closing the dam against the tide. That being partially accomplished, he heard the discussions as to the means to be adopted for relieving the fen country from the accumulating upland water. Here his good memory and his natural shrewdness became evident; and he ventured in his usually modest manner to suggest the use of syphons for carrying off the water in the manner so fully described in the Paper on the 'Draining Syphon,' for which the Gold Vulcan Medal of the Society of Arts was awarded in 1827 to the late Mr. R. Cowen, of Carlisle (Assoc. Inst. C.E.).

The syphons employed at the St. Germains’ Sluice were in importance and dimensions far beyond anything that was contemplated by Mr. Cowen, or had been used by Mr. Blackwell (M. Inst. C.E.) on the Avon Navigation; but the principles enunciated in the Paper so many years previously were of necessity adopted.

The useful scientific instruments invented, or improved by Mr. Appold, as well as the mechanical contrivances introduced by him, were very numerous; the principal among them - in addition to those which have been already mentioned - were, 'The Hydrometer for Damping the Air to any specific degree of Moisture;' 'A very delicate Thermometer;' 'A system of Ventilation employed in the Hospital at Scutari;' 'An Instrument for showing the Rise and Fall of Vessels at Sea;' 'An Apparatus for Scraping and Cleaning the Water Pipes at Torquay,' with many others which were adopted on the spur of the moment for special purposes.

His residence was full of his own ingenious inventions and adaptations. There everything that could be made so was automatic. The doors opened as the visitor approached them, and they closed after he had entered; water came unbidden into the basins; in the operation of lighting the gas the shutters were closed; a self-acting thermometer prevented the temperature rising or falling above or below certain fixed points; and the air supplied for ventilation was both washed to cool and screened to cleanse it from the otherwise inevitable soot. Even the gates of his stableyard opened of themselves as he drove through, and closed again without slamming.

All this ingenuity, combined with a genuine love of scientific pursuits was, however, as nothing when compared with the innate worth and honesty of Mr. Appold. Naturally of a simple, unobtrusive character, he was unbending in what he knew to be right: he was singularly unselfish; and his personal liberality was profuse. His means - honestly earned by his own energies - were very considerable, and he delighted to have his friends frequently around him, to dispense that hospitality in which he was so gracefully assisted by his amiable wife.

During the last few years of his life Mr. Appold suffered from an unsparing and painful complaint; and in the hope of obtaining relief, he made long journeys abroad, and tried all parts of his own country, but in vain; and his active and useful career terminated at Clifton on the 31st of August, 1865, in the sixty-fifth year of his age. He had amassed a large fortune, which, by his will, was very judiciously disposed of among his relatives and friends, he not having any family. All his workmen and servants were well remembered, and several bequests were made to scientific societies. Among others, he bequeathed One Thousand Pounds to the Institution of Civil Engineers, 'for the general use and benefit of the Society.'

Mr. Appold was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in June, 1853, a distinction which he prized very highly. In May, 1850, he was elected an Associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers, served for one year on the Council, and as Auditor of Accounts on several occasions. He was a very constant attendant at the Meetings, frequently taking part in the discussions, and always contributing models and objects of interest for the Conversazione, and was on every occasion ready to assist any good object, pecuniarily or otherwise. Few men have deservedly enjoyed more fully than Mr. Appold the affectionate confidence and esteem of a large circle of friends, and his memory will long be cherished.

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