Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,165 pages of information and 245,632 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Frank Edward Smith

From Graces Guide

Sir Frank Edward Smith (1876-1970), industrial scientist and scientific administrator.

1876 Born in Aston Manor, Birmingham, the son of Joseph Smith, an office clerk, and his wife, Fanny Jane Hetherington.

Educated at Smethwick Central School

c.1900 Became a laboratory assistant at Smethwick Technical College.

Studied part-time at the Birmingham Technical School

Won a national scholarship to the Royal College of Science.

1899 Awarded the associateship of the Royal College of Science in physics (first class).

He remained at the college as a part-time teacher and demonstrator, and became much involved in the study of electrical measurements.

1900 The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) was opened. Smith was appointed as one of the director's first assistants.

For the next 10 years he worked on establishing accurate electrical standards and methods of measurement.

1902 Married Nellie May King.

Proposed an international congress on electrical units and standards, which was held in London in 1908.

1910 Smith went to Washington to assist the national bureau of standards to implement the decisions of the 1908 congress.

WWI Involved with the board of invention and research, along with many other scientists from the NPL. Invented the first magnetic mine which sank a number of German submarines. For this Smith received an award of £2000 from the Admiralty.

1917 Superintendant, Electricity Department NPL

1918 FRS Citation. "Principal Assistant in the National Physical Laboratory (Physics Department). Author of a number of papers dealing with electrical units which have appeared in the Philosophical Transactions and elsewhere. Among the more important, published in 1907-1908, are those on 'A New Current Weigher' (in conjunction with the late Prof Ayrton and Prof Mather); and on the 'Silver Voltameter' (with Profs Mather and Lowry). Papers on 'Mercury Standards of Resistance,' and on 'The Changes of Standards of Resistance,' appeared in 1909. Since that time Mr Smith has been occupied with the 'Determination of the Absolute Unit of Resistance,' and a most important paper giving the results of this enquiry has just been communicated to the Royal Society. He has also recently edited the Collected Volume of Reports of the BA Electrical Standards Committee. In 1908 he gave valuable assistance in connection with the International Congress on Electrical Units, and as a member of Lord Rayleigh's Committee appointed by the Congress, has since assisted in international work at Washington. In a paper recently published by the Bureau of Standards it is stated that his work in 1907 'marks the beginning of a new epoch in the history of the absolute measurement of electrical quantities.' It is in no small degree in consequence of these researches that the National Physical Laboratory has gained the high position it now occupies in regard to fundamental electrical measurements."

1918 NPL was transferred to the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.

1919 Smith left to join the Admiralty.

1920 He was appointed director of the new scientific research and experimental department. The Admiralty Research Laboratory was constructed at Teddington, under his control.

1929 Became Secretary to the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.

1929-38 Physical Secretary of the Royal Society

1931 Knighted

1938 Acting director of the National Physical Laboratory[1]

1939 He retired from DSIR and became adviser on scientific and industrial research to the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co.

WWII 1940-2 Controller of telecommunications equipment, Ministry of Aircraft Production; also director of instrument production of the Ministry of Supply 1939-42, and controller of bearings production at the same ministry.

1940-6 Chairman of the technical defence committee of MI5.

1941-7 Chairman, Scientific Advisory Council

1944 Appointed Chairman of the research committee of Birmingham Small Arms Co.

1946-54 Chairman, Road Research Board

1947 he became a director of BSA.

1955 Retired from Anglo Iranian/BP.

1970 Died in Minehead.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Times Oct 7 1938
  • Biography of Sir Frank Edward Smith, ODNB
  • [1] National Archives