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Donald Murray

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Donald Murray (1866-1945)


1945 Obituary [1]

DONALD MURRAY, M.A., was born at Invercargill, New Zealand, in 1866, and died at Territet, Switzerland, on the 14th July, 1945. After leaving the University at Sydney, he took up journalism, for he had a facile pen. He was also a born mechanic, so that the mechanical features of a newspaper office attracted him, and ideas of setting type by telegraph began to germinate in his mind. In 1898, when these ideas had taken a practical form, he went to New York, where he joined the staff of the Postal Cable Co. Two years later he came to London and for a short time worked at the General Post office on the development of his first system of printing telegraphy. This system was fully described in his paper on "Setting Type by Telegraph," which was published in the Journal in 1905 and for which he was awarded the Fahie Premium. The paper marked an era in the presentation of papers on telegraphy; among other things it laid down the fundamentals required of a successful printing telegraph system with respect to the form of alphabet or code to be employed.

He then designed a system of multiple telegraphy which possessed important advantages over that of Baudot: his phonic-wheel motor, in combination with Baudot's epicyclic correcting train, gave such excellent synchronism that it was adopted by the French Telegraph Administration. This system was described in a second paper, entitled "Practical Aspects of Printing Telegraphy," which was published in the Journal in 1911 and for which he was again awarded the Fahie Premium. In 1914-15 he contributed a series of articles to the Telegraph and Telephone Journal, entitled "Press the Button Telegraphy," and in 1925 he was awarded the Paris Exhibition Premium for his Institution paper on "Speeding up the Telegraphs: a Forecast of the New Telegraphy."

Murray sold his American rights in his multiplex system, but he retained its manufacture and sale in Europe in his own hands until his retirement. As an employer he was stern but just. Nothing but the best work was good enough for him, and he gathered around him a group of craftsmen who were unrivalled.

In his later life abroad he engaged in literary work. Two of his books, "The Philosophy of Power" and "The Theory of Control" have been published. A third book, "Speeding up the Railways" is unfinished; he was half-way through this, in 1940, when brain trouble set in. He underwent three operations at Monte Carlo, after which he and Mrs. Murray moved into Switzerland; but he was too ill to take up his work again and lingered on in a state of invalidism, never fully recovering.

He became a Member of The Institution in 1910. In the field of machine telegraphy his name deserves to rank with those of Wheatstone, Kelvin, Baudot and Gulstad.


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