Bright, Sir Charles Tilston

Bright, Sir Charles Tilston
SUBJECT AREA: Telecommunications
b. 8 June 1832 Wanstead, Essex, England
d. 3 May 1888 Abbey Wood, London, England
English telegraph engineer responsible for laying the first transatlantic cable.
At the age of 15 years Bright left the London Merchant Taylors' School to join the two-year-old Electric Telegraph Company. By 1851 he was in charge of the Birmingham telegraph station. After a short time as Assistant Engineer with the newly formed British Telegraph Company, he joined his brother (who was Manager) as Engineer-in-Chief of the English and Irish Magnetic Telegraph Company in Liverpool, for which he laid thousands of miles of underground cable and developed a number of innovations in telegraphy including a resistance box for locating cable faults and a two-tone bell system for signalling. In 1853 he was responsible for the first successful underwater cable between Scotland and Ireland. Three years later, with the American financier Cyrus Field and John Brett, he founded and was Engineer-in-chief of the Atlantic Telegraph Company, which aimed at laying a cable between Ireland and Newfoundland. After several unsuccessful attempts this was finally completed on 5 August 1858, Bright was knighted a month later, but the cable then failed! In 1860 Bright resigned from the Magnetic Telegraph Company to set up an independent consultancy with another engineer, Joseph Latimer Clark, with whom he invented an improved bituminous cable insulation. Two years later he supervised construction of a telegraph cable to India, and in 1865 a further attempt to lay an Atlantic cable using Brunel's new ship, the Great Eastern. This cable broke during laying, but in 1866 a new cable was at last successfully laid and the 1865 cable recovered and repaired. The year 1878 saw extension of the Atlantic cable system to the West Indies and the invention with his brother of a system of neighbourhood fire alarms and even an automatic fire alarm.
In 1861 Bright presented a paper to the British Association for the Advancement of Science on the need for electrical standards, leading to the creation of an organization that still exists in the 1990s. From 1865 until 1868 he was Liberal MP for Greenwich, and he later assisted with preparations for the 1881 Paris Exhibition.
Principal Honours and Distinctions
Knighted 1858. Légion d'honneur. First President, Société Internationale des Electriciens. President, Society of Telegraph Engineers \& Electricians (later the Institution of Electrical Engineers) 1887.
1852, British patent (resistance box).
1855, British patent no. 2,103 (two-tone bell system). 1878, British patent no. 3,801 (area fire alarms).
1878, British patent no. 596 (automatic fire alarm).
"The physical \& electrical effects of pressure \& temperature on submarine cable cores", Journal of the Institution of Electrical Engineers XVII (describes some of his investigations of cable characteristics).
Further Reading
C.Bright, 1898, Submarine Cables, Their History, Construction \& Working.
—1910, The Life Story of Sir Charles Tilston Bright, London: Constable \& Co.

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

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