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Alexander Siemens

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Alexander Siemens (1847-1928).

Alexander Siemens (1847-1928) of Siemens Brothers and Co

1847 January 22nd. Siemens was born in Hanover, then a kingdom within the German Confederation, to Gustav and Sophie Siemens. His father was a judge and a cousin of William Siemens the famous electrical engineer.

He was educated in Hanover and moved to Woolwich, London in 1867 to work at the Siemens Brothers and Co factory.

He returned to the German Confederation in 1868 to study at the University of Berlin, interrupting his studies there to lay telegraph cables in the Middle East. These cables were to form part of the Indo-European Telegraph and much of the work was undertaken by Siemens Brothers.

Upon the annexation of Hanover by Prussia in 1866 following the Austro-Prussian War Siemens became a Prussian citizen and liable to conscription. He was conscripted in 1870 as a private to fight in the Franco-Prussian War where he was wounded at the Battle of Beaune-la-Rolande. It was for his actions in this battle where Prussian forces won a decisive victory over the numerically superior French army that he was awarded the Iron Cross. After demobilization in 1871 he returned to the family business in Woolwich and assisted with the building of furnaces for use in steel foundries and crematoria.

Siemens was a founder member of the Society of Telegraph Engineers and Electricians in 1871. This society was to become the Institution of Electrical Engineers in 1888, he was president of this institution twice, in 1894 and in 1904. His first inaugural address was an analysis of the Electric Lighting Acts of 1882 and 1888, his second advocating a wider use of the metric system.

In 1875 he sailed aboard the cable ship Faraday, laying several cables across the North Atlantic. In between voyages he built several furnaces for companies in the USA and Canada.

Returning to the UK in 1877 he became a British citizen through naturalization in 1878.

He was appointed the manager of the electric lighting division of Siemens Brothers in 1879 and was involved in the manufacture of generators, arc lamps and cables for the electric industry.

In 1881 he married Louisa Dodwell with whom he would have three daughters. Later that year Siemens Brothers took over a project to provide the world’s first public electricity supply in Godalming, Surrey. This project was never a viable business but the company undertook it in order to gain more experience in the lighting industry.

Siemens had been a director of Siemens Brothers and Co since it became a limited company in 1880 and was made managing director in 1889, a post he was to hold until a significant reorganization replaced him, though he remained on the board of directors until his retirement in 1918.

He was appointed to be a British delegate to the International Electrical Congress in 1893 and to a similar congress in Paris in 1901. In the same year as the Paris congress he was appointed to the board of the new National Physical Laboratory in Teddington.

He served as President of the Institution of Civil Engineers between November 1910 and November 1911.

In retirement he lived at Westover Hall, Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire, where he died, from heart failure, on 16 February 1928.


1928 Obituary [1]

ALEXANDER SIEMENS, who was born in Hanover in 1847, came to England twenty years later on the invitation of his uncle, Sir William Siemens, to enter the works of Messrs. Siemens Brothers.

In 1871, after returning from work in Persia in connexion with the erection of the Indo-European telegraph line, he was engaged on the design and erection of regenerative furnaces.

Four years later he joined the cable ship "Faraday" at Halifax, Nova Scotia, but still keeping in touch with furnace work, he assisted in the erection of blast and steel furnaces for the Steel Company of Canada and at Pittsburg.

In 1878 he became a naturalized British subject and in the following year was made manager of the electric light department of the Woolwich works, playing a prominent part in the rapid development of commercial electrical engineering which subsequently took place.

Following the death of Sir William Siemens he became a director of the company.

Mr. Siemens became a Member of the Institution in 1891; he was twice President of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, and in 1910 was President of the Institution of Civil Engineers. He also occupied in 1913 and 1914 the distinguished post of Secretary to the Royal Institution in succession to Sir William Crooks.

His death occurred on 16th February 1928, at Milford-on-Sea.


1928 Obituary [2]

ALEXANDER SIEMENS was the son of Gustave Siemens and Sophie Siemens (nee Heise) and was born in Hanover on the 22nd January, 1847. When Hanover was annexed by Prussia in 1866 he automatically acquired Prussian nationality.

In 1867 he came to England to assist his uncle, William (afterwards Sir William) Siemens, firstly in the workshops of Siemens Brothers at Woolwich and subsequently in connection with the firm's contract for the erection of the Indo-European telegraph line in Persia.

In 1871 he returned to Woolwich and was engaged for some time on the design and erection of regenerative furnaces.

In 1875 his attention was turned to submarine cables and he joined Siemens Brothers' cable-ship "Faraday" when that vessel was occupied with work at Halifax, N.S.

Still keeping in touch with furnace work, however, he assisted in the erection of blast and steel furnaces for the Steel Company of Canada and at Pittsburg. Becoming a naturalized British subject in 1878 he took over, in the following year, the management of the electric light department of Siemens Brothers at Woolwich, which department, with other work in this connection, was engaged upon the manufacture of dynamos. Some of these machines were used for lighting the Albert Hall, the British Museum and the Royal Albert Docks.

Another contract carried out by the company about this time was one for electrically lighting the streets of Godalming, Surrey, which town was the first to be so lighted in this country.

Following the death of Sir William Siemens in 1883 he became a director of the company, which position he retained until 1918.

He became a member of the Council of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1898 and in 1910 he filled the office of the president of that Institution. He was a founder member of the Institution of Electrical Engineers and was elected a Member of Council in 1880, subsequently becoming Vice-President in 1890 and President in 1894, while he occupied the presidential chair a second time 10 years later. He was also a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, the Iron and Steel Institute, the Physical Society, the Society of Engineers, president of the Junior Institute of Engineers in 1894 and secretary of the Royal Institution from 1913 to 1915 in succession to Sir William Crookes. He was instrumental in forming the London Association of Engineering and Shipbuilding Employers, of which Association he was the first president. He served as a member of the committee appointed in 1897 to inquire into the desirability of establishing the National Physical Laboratory, and later joined the Executive Committee. He was also a member of the British Admiralty committee formed to consider the use of electricity on warships. He had inventive gifts and during his long association with Siemens Brothers was responsible for a number of patents. He died on the 16th February, 1928, aged 81, and at the time of his death he had long ceased to take any part in matters of business. He was of a kindly disposition and was very popular with all grades of employees.


1928 Obituary [3]

ALEXANDER SIEMENS, Past-President, son of Gustav Siemens, was born in Hanover on the 22nd January, 1847. When Hanover was annexed by Prussia in 1866 he automatically acquired Prussian nationality, which he renounced in 1878, when he became a naturalized British subject.

He was educated at the Lyceum, Hanover, and entered the Polytechnic School at Hanover in 1866. In the following year he spent several months as a pupil of his cousin, the late Sir William Siemens, M. Inst. C.E., in the works of Messrs. Siemens at Woolwich. As a Prussian subject in 1868 he was ordered military service but was rejected on account of defective eyesight. After spending some time at the University of Berlin, he went at the end of 1868 to Persia to assist in the building of the Indo-European telegraph line.

He re-entered Berlin University towards the end of 1869, and on the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war was conscripted as a private in an infantry regiment. He was present at the fall of Metz, and was wounded at the battle of Beaume-la-Rolande, in the Orleans campaign, where he gained the Iron Cross.

Returning to England in 1871 he spent some time in the drawingoffice of Messrs. Siemens Brothers, and was then sent to Birmingham, where he experimented for Sir William Siemens with the latter’s regenerative furnace.

He was a member of the expedition which set out in 1875 in the cable-ship “Faraday ” to lay the Direct United States Transatlantic cable. He assisted in the design and erection of works at Londonderry (Canada) for the Steel Company of Canada, and he also went to Pittsburg to start a regenerative furnace. On his return to England he was placed in charge of the electric light department of Messrs. Siemens Brothers in 1879, and was responsible for numerous electric lighting plants, including those at the Albert Hall, the British Museum, and the Albert Docks. The firm also carried out one of the earliest, if not the first, public electricity supply schemes in the country, namely, that at Godalming, Surrey. Among other work which Messrs. Siemens Brothers carried out under his supervision may be mentioned the electrification of the Portrush Tramway, Ireland, and the construction of electrical machinery for the City and South London Railway and for the Waterloo and City Railway. After Sir William Siemens’s sudden death in 1883 he gradually assumed greater responsibility for the direction of the firm. He was elected to the board in 1889, and subsequently became managing director, in charge of both the Woolwich works and the associated Siemens Brothers Dynamo Works established in Stafford early in the present century.

Mr. Siemens was admitted as a Student of The Institution in 1871 ; he was elected an Associate in 1873 and transferred to the class of Members in 1890. He was a Member of Council from 1898 to 1912, and was President during the session 1910-11. In his Presidential Address, which covered a wide range of subjects, he dealt particularly with the work of the engineer as affecting the progress of civilization. He was a firm believer in the usefulness of technical societies ; and, in addition to delivering Lectures or reading Papers before the Royal Institution, the Royal Society of Arts, the British Association, and the Institution of Electrical Engineers, he frequently took part in discussions on engineering matters.

Among the bodies of which he was a member may be mentioned the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, the Institution of Electrical Engineers, of which he was President in 1894 and again in 1904, the British Association, the Iron and Steel Institute, the Physical Society, the Society of Engineers, and the Junior Institution of Engineers, of which he was President in 1894. He was a member of the Committee appointed in 1897 to report on the founding of the National Physical Laboratory, and he served later on the Executive Committee of that body. He was one of the founders of the Association of Engineering and Shipbuilding Employers, and became its first President in 1901, in which year also he was a member of the British Admiralty Committee on the utilization of electrical energy on warships.

During 1908-9 he was a member of the Railway Conference at the Board of Trade, and he also served on the Departmental Committee on Railway Amalgamations and Agreements which reported in 1911. In 1913 he was appointed Secretary of the Royal Institution, in succession to Sir William Crookes. He resigned this office early in 1915 and retired into complete seclusion, placing on record simultaneously, in a letter to The Times, his entire sympathy with the country of his adoption.

He died on the 16th February, 1928, at Milford-on-Sea.

He married, in 1881, Frances Dodwell, of Campden, Glos., by whom he had three daughters, the eldest of whom married the late Professor Bertram Hopkinson, M. Inst. C.E.


1928 Obituary [4]

ALEXANDER SIEMENS died at his home, Westover, Milford-on-Sea, on February 16, 1928.

He was for many years associated with the famous engineer and inventor Sir William Siemens, and until the war was the chief representative in this country of the great Siemens electrical interests.

Like other members of the Siemens family, he was a Hanoverian, born on January 22, 1847, of parents who both owned allegiance to the King of England until under the Salk Law Hanover was separated in 1837. When that country was annexed by Prussia in 1866 he automatically acquired Prussian nationality, which, however, he formally renounced in 1878, becoming a naturalized British subject later in the same year. In the meantime he was liable to military service in Prussia, and though in 1868 he was rejected on account of defective eyesight, he was called up in 1870 to serve in the Franco-German War. As a private in an infantry regiment he was present at the fall of Metz, and he received the Iron Cross, after being wounded at the battle of Beaume-la-Rolande in the Orleans campaign.

For the greater part of his subsequent life he lived in this country, and early in 1915 a letter from him was made public, declaring that his sympathies were entirely on the side of the Allies.

Coming to England in 1867 at the instance of Sir William Siemens, he entered the shops of the telegraph factory then recently established by Siemens Brothers at Woolwich, and in the two following years he was engaged in the erection of the Indo-European telegraph line in Persia and in laying cables in the Black Sea. Returning to this country after his release from the German Army, he spent seven or eight years in assisting Sir William Siemens with the design and application of the latter's regenerative furnaces, though for a time he was absent in the cable-laying steamer Faraday, which in 1876 and 1877 was stationed at Halifax, Nova Scotia.

In 1879 he turned his attention to electric lighting with arc lamps, two of the early installations erected under his supervision being those at the Albert Hall and the British Museum reading-room.

After the death of Sir William Siemens in 1883, he assumed a more important position in the firm of Siemens Brothers, and ultimately became its chief permanent director resident in England.

Alexander Siemens was twice president of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, in 1894 and 1904, and in 1910-11 he served the Institution of Civil Engineers in the same capacity. At the Royal Institution, of which he was secretary in 1913-15 in succession to Sir William Crookes, he gave four Friday evening lectures, his subjects including cable-laying on the River Amazon, the experiments on the Marienfelde-Zossen electric line, in which speeds up to 125 miles an hour were attained, and the application of the metal tantalum to the manufacture of electric glow lamps. At the Edinburgh meeting of the British Association in 1892 he described the electric locomotives built for the City and South London Railway. He was a member of the committee which in 1897 inquired into the desirability of establishing the National Physical Laboratory, and later he served on the executive committee of that institution.

He married in 1881 Frances Dodwell, of Campden, Gloucestershire, by whom he had three daughters. Mr. Siemens read a paper on "Metal Filament Lamps" at the March Meeting of the Institute of Metals in 1913. He was an Original Member of the Institute.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1928 Institution of Mechanical Engineers: Obituaries
  2. 1928 Institution of Electrical Engineers: Obituaries
  3. 1928 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries
  4. 1928 Institute of Metals: Obituaries