Wilde, Henry

Wilde, Henry
SUBJECT AREA: Electricity
b. 1833 Manchester, England
d. 28 March 1919 Alderley Edge, Cheshire, England
English inventor and pioneer manufacturer of electrical generators.
After completing a mechanical engineering apprenticeship Wilde commenced in business as a telegraph and lightning conductor specialist in Lancashire. Several years spent on the design of an alphabetic telegraph resulted in a number of patents. In 1864 he secured a patent for an electromagnetic generator which gave alternating current from a shuttle-wound armature, the field being excited by a small direct-current magneto. Wilde's invention was described to the Royal Society by Faraday in March 1866. When demonstrated at the Paris Exhibition of 1867, Wilde's machine produced sufficient power to maintain an arc light. The small size of the generator provided a contrast to the large and heavy magnetoelectric machines also exhibited. He discovered, by experiment, that alternators in synchronism could be connected in parallel. At about the same time John Hopkinson arrived at the same conclusions on theoretical grounds.
Between 1866 and 1877 he sold ninety-four machines with commutators for electroplating purposes, a number being purchased by Elkingtons of Birmingham. He also supplied generators for the first use of electric searchlights on battleships. In his early experiments Wilde was extremely close to the discovery of true self-excitation from remnant magnetism, a principle which he was to discover in 1867 on machines intended for electroplating. His patents proved to be financially successful and he retired from business in 1884. During the remaining thirty-five years of his life he published many scientific papers, turning from experimental work to philosophical and, finally, theological matters. His record as an inventor established him as a pioneer of electrical engineering, but his lack of scientific training was to restrict his later contributions.
Principal Honours and Distinctions
FRS 1886.
1 December 1863, British patent no. 3,006 (alternator with a magneto-exciter).
1866, Proceedings of the Royal Society 14:107–11 (first report on Wilde's experiments). 1900, autobiographical note, Journal of the Institution of Electrical Engineers 29:3–17.
Further Reading
W.W.Haldane Gee. 1920, biography, Memoirs, Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society 63:1–16 (a comprehensive account).
P.Dunsheath, 1962, A History of Electrical Engineering, London: Faber \& Faber, pp. 110–12 (a short account).

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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