Biography of Latimer Clark

[Trade Journal]

Publication: The Telegraphic Journal and Electrical Review

London, England
vol. 4, no. 84, p. 205-207, col. 1-2





Past President of the Society of Telegraph Engineers.

MR. LATIMER CLARK, whose photograph by Messrs. Mayall we herewith present to our readers, was born at Great Marlow in 1822. In early life he studied chemistry, and for some time practiced as a scientific and manufacturing chemist, in which capacity he had entire charge of an extensive business in Dublin. The railway mania of 1845 induced him to engage in railway surveys, and in 1848 he was engaged under the late Robert Stephenson at the Britannia Bridge, as assistant resident-engineer; his brother, Mr. Edwin Clark, being resident-engineer. This position he filled until 1851, having during the time very responsible duties to perform. In the course of this work he narrowly escaped losing his life by the bursting of an hydraulic press, under which he was standing.

During the construction of the bridge the works were frequently visited by men interested in science, and amongst others by Mr. S. L. Ricardo, the founder of the Electric Telegraph Company. The Messrs. Clark, always fond of scientific recreations, had established an eight-o'clock time-gun, fired by voltaic electricity; and to this apparently trivial circumstance may be traced their more intimate acquaintance with Mr. Ricardo, who, in 1850, appointed Mr. Edwin Clark engineer-in-chief, and Mr. Latimer Clark assistant-engineer to the Electric Telegraph Company. In 1854, Mr. Edwin Clark resigned, and Mr. Latimer Clark became engineer-in-chief—a position which he held until 1861; from which time until the transfer of the telegraphs to the Post-office he had a retaining fee from the Electric Telegraph Company as consulting engineer. During this period he was enabled to render much assistance to the Astronomer-Royal in the electrical arrangements for the determination of the longitudes of various places and the distribution of Greenwich time.

In 1853 he made many original researches on the subject of electric currents through underground telegraph wires laid between London, Leeds, and Liverpool. In the course of these experiments he was the first to witness experimentally the retardation of the electric current in subterranean lines, and, at the request of the Astronomer Royal, Professor Faraday, and Professor Melloni, he showed experimentally "that currents of low tension traveled with the same velocity as currents of high tension." His experiments were repeated before Professor Faraday, and formed the subject of a lecture at the Royal Institution in January, 1854. From this circumstance these researches are generally supposed to be Faraday's experiments on subterranean lines.

In 1854 he introduced the pneumatic system for the transmission of messages now extensively employed; and in 1857 he became engineer, in conjunction with Mr. Rammell, to the Pneumatic Dispatch Company, who laid down a system of lines from Euston Station to Holborn and the General Post-office. In 1856 he patented the double-cup insulator which is extensively used; and in 1858 he patented the now well-known method of preserving submarine cables from rust, by a covering of asphalte hemp and silica.

In 1859, after the failure of the 1858 Atlantic Cable, Mr. Clark was appointed engineer to the Atlantic-Telegraph Company, but no practical steps were taken by this Company for several years, owing to the want of confidence in submarine cables caused by the failure of the cable of 1858.

In 1860 he was appointed a member of the "Joint Committee appointed by the Board of Trade and the Atlantic-Telegraph Company to inquire into the construction of submarine cables," and he had the management of many of the investigations. In 1861 he resigned his position as engineer to the Electric-Telegraph Company,