Cooke, William Fothergill

Cooke, William Fothergill
SUBJECT AREA: Telecommunications
b. 1806 Baling, London, England
d. 25 June 1879 Farnham, Surrey, England
English physicist, pioneer of electric telegraphy.
The son of a surgeon who became Professor of Anatomy at Durham University, Cooke received a conventional classical education, with no science, in Durham and at Edinburgh University. He joined the East India Company's aimy in Madras, but resigned because of ill health in 1833. While convalescent, Cooke travelled in Europe and began making wax models of anatomical sections, possibly as teaching aids for his father. In Germany he saw an experimental electric-telegraph demonstration, and was so impressed with the idea of instantaneous long-distance communication that he dropped the modelling and decided to devote all his energies to developing a practical electric telegraph. His own instruments were not successful: they worked across a room, but not over a mile of wire. His search for scientific advice led him to Charles Wheatstone, who was working on a similar project, and together they obtained a patent for the first practical electric telegraph. Cooke's business drive and Wheatstone's scientific abilities should have made a perfect partnership, but the two men quarrelled and separated. Cooke's energy and enthusiasm got the telegraph established, first on the newly developing railways, then independently. Sadly, the fortune he made from the telegraph was lost in other ventures, and he died a poor man.
Further Reading
G.Hubbard, 1965, Cooke and Wheatstone and the Invention of the Electric Telegraph, London, Routledge \& Kegan Paul (provides a short account of Cooke's life; there is no full biography).

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

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