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British Industrial History

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Ernest B. Schattner

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Ernest B. Schattner (c.1880-1944)

1944 Obituary.[1]

ERNEST B. SCHATTNER, who died on the 12th February, 1944, at the age of 64, was brought to this country as a child, the family having been obliged to leave Germany and Switzerland, in turn, owing to the socialistic activities of his stepfather. He was coached in English by Mrs. Karl Marx and was educated at the Central Foundation School and Finsbury Technical College. In 1897 he obtained a post with the London Electric Supply Corporation, as an assistant in the Meter Testing Department, and the following year, on the recommendation of Prof. Silvanus P. Thompson, he was appointed Chief Meter Tester to the Norwich Electricity Co. At the age of 18 he lodged his first patent specification—for a prepayment electricity meter. Owing to a disagreement over this patent, he left the Electricity Co. and started to manufacture the instrument. In 1900 his specification for "improvements in electrical incandescent lamps" was accepted, and in 1902 he produced a mercury-vapour lamp. His claim that this was the prototype of the various lamps used in electro-therapy appears to be justified.

At this time both the A.E.G. and the American G.E.Co. appear to have become interested in him, and in 1903 he accepted an offer from the G.E.Co. and went to Schenectady where, in the Research Department, he worked in association with Steinmetz. Here he invented and developed a host of instruments and meters, and he has claimed that he was instrumental in forging a link in the hydro-electric equipment at Niagara Falls, concerning its control in relation to the varying volume of water. In this period he married and, always intensely proud of the land of his adoption, he returned to England in 1905 and founded the Electrical Apparatus Co. In 1919 he disposed of his interest in that company and formed companies to deal mainly with a current limiter and household electrical appliances. One of his later developments was a street-lighting switch controlled automatically by means of a selenium cell. Owing to the photo-ageing effect in selenium, this was not a success.

In winter he suffered severely from sciatica, and in 1930 his impetuous nature took him to the Sudan to try out his own idea of a cure by heat in the desert sun. Unfortunately the result was severe sunstroke; his period of unconsciousness was exceptionally long, and upon his recovering consciousness it was found that his brain was affected. Further research work was out of the question. He lived in retirement for his remaining years, convinced that his disability was mainly due to overwork in his early life: be that as it may, those who knew him best can testify that his energy and application were outstanding.

He joined The Institution as a Student in 1896, and was elected an Associate in 1898, an Associate Member in 1903 and a Member in 1919.

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