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British Industrial History

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Francis Thomas Bacon

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Francis Thomas Bacon (1904–1992), engineer and developer of the fuel cell as a viable power source, which was used in the Apollo missions to the moon

1904 Born on 21 December at Ramsden Hall, Billericay, Essex, the second of three sons of Thomas Walter Bacon (1863–1950), electrical engineer, and his wife, Edith Mary, née Leslie-Melville (1864–1950).

Educated at St Peter's Court school in Broadstairs, Kent, and then at Eton College from 1918 to 1922

1922 Trinity College, Cambridge, where he took the mechanical sciences tripos in 1925.

1925 apprenticed with C. A. Parsons and Co Ltd (Bacon was related to Sir Charles Parsons).

Worked on development and production of reflectors for searchlights, and for lights for the film industry.

1932 Inspired by two articles in Engineering, Bacon began to consider the storage of energy as hydrogen and releasing it as electricity.

1934 married Barbara Winifred Papillon (1905/6–2000), daughter of Godfrey Keppel Papillon. They had two sons and one daughter.

His experiments were conducted clandestinely at Parsons but, when he was found out, he decided to leave.

He then used his inheritance to support his research on fuel cells

Charles Merz also provided finance for his experiments[1] at King's College, London

WWII examined possibility of using fuel cells in submarines

1941 Bacon was re-directed to research on Asdic at Fairlie, Scotland.

1946 the Electrical Research Association agreed to sponsor fuel cell research

1956 A six-cell 150 watt fuel cell was demonstrated at a London exhibition but no interest was shown by industry.

The National Research Development Corporation agreed to finance further development of the Bacon fuel cell. Marshall of Cambridge provided the necessary facilities.

1959 Bacon and his team achieved a 6 kW system.

The Leesona-Moos organization in the USA took a licence which was then exploited by the Pratt and Whitney Division of United Aircraft as a highly efficient power source for the Apollo moon project, the exhaust providing drinking water for the astronauts and humidification of the spacecraft atmosphere.

After the success of Apollo, Bacon was widely honoured.

1973 Fellow of the Royal Society.

1992 died at Little Shelford, Cambridgeshire

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Times 1965
  • Biography, ODNB [1]