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Beyond Marconi: the roles of the Admiralty, the Post Office, and the Institution of Electrical Engineers in the invention and development of wireless communication up to 1908

Bruton, Elizabeth Mary (2012) Beyond Marconi: the roles of the Admiralty, the Post Office, and the Institution of Electrical Engineers in the invention and development of wireless communication up to 1908. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

One of the first histories of wireless communications, J.J. Fahie's A History of Wireless Telegraphy 1838-1899 (1899), was written by a contemporary to many of the early practitioners within its pages and featured an illustrated list entitled “The Arch Builders of Wireless Telegraphy”. This list stretched from key contributors to the early study of electromagnetism such as Ampère, Faraday, and Maxwell through to developers of early wireless apparatus and systems such as Branly, Lodge, Preece, and Marconi. The equal recognition recorded to these twelve men and the collective contribution of scientists, engineers, government employees, along with men of commerce, to the embryonic field of wireless communications has been mostly ignored in the existing body of scholarship on wireless telecommunications. In this thesis, I offer an early history of wireless communications deeply familiar to contemporaries but take a novel approach and study the roles of institutions rather than individuals. Traditionally institutions are presented as grateful consumers and passive users of telecommunication systems. I utilise contemporary periodicals and rich yet underused archival resources in order to map the influence, agency, and roles of three historic case studies – the Admiralty, the Post Office, and the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE) – in wireless communications. Furthermore I will consider how these institutions constrained the activities of the Marconi Company. This thesis begins with a consideration of the community, expertise, and practices of wireless practitioners centred about the Post Office and IEE that pre-dated the discovery of Hertzian waves and Marconi's arrival in Britain in 1896. Furthermore I will explore the technical expertise located within the Royal Navy and show how this shaped military demand for wireless communication in the early twentieth century. The final two chapters of this thesis explore the influence and agency of the Admiralty and the Post Office in domestic legislation and international regulations of wireless communications. This thesis demonstrates how and why these “institutional innovations” and activities shaped this technology during its formative years and laid the foundation stone for wireless communications and its successes in Britain and beyond.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
ISBN: 978-0-85731-374-4
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > School of Humanities (Leeds) > School of Philosophy (Leeds) > Division of the History and Philosophy of Science (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.574473
Depositing User: Repository Administrator
Date Deposited: 05 Sep 2013 11:10
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2014 11:26
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/4431

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