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British Industrial History

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George Wilkinson

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George Wilkinson (c1861-1950)

1951 Obituary [1]

"GEORGE WILKINSON, who died in his eighty-ninth year at Wimborne, Dorset, on 30th November 1950, was educated at the Commercial School, Southport. From 1880 to 1883 he served an apprenticeship as an instrument maker in Liverpool.

In 1883 he was appointed junior engineer in the Manchester works of Messrs. Siemens Brothers, where he worked in the drawing office, machine and electrical shops, and contracts department. In the evening he attended classes at Owens College, Manchester. In 1888 he joined The Brush Electrical Engineering Co as assistant engineer. Shortly afterwards he commenced business on his own account as an electrical engineer and two years later became manager of the Gwynne Pilsen Electric Supply and Manufacturing Co. Through these activities, Mr. Wilkinson gained a wide and varied experience of the early days of the electric supply industry in Great Britain, being associated with many of the pioneers, including Crompton and Ferranti.

In 1892 he began to practise as a consulting engineer, and in this capacity he designed and carried out various schemes, one noteworthy example being electrical work on behalf of the Southport Corporation. As a result of his comprehensive report entitled "Electric Light" to the Harrogate Town Council in 1892, the Harrogate Corporation Electricity Department came into being with Mr. Wilkinson as consulting engineer. When supply commenced in April 1897, the undertaking represented advanced practice for those days, single-phase current being generated at 2,000 volts, and 50 cycles per sec. The station at Oakdale was an excellent example of its kind and included three compound condensing engines, direct coupled to open coil alternators, the total capacity being 275 kW.

On the successful inauguration of the scheme, Mr. Wilkinson accepted an invitation to become borough electrical engineer, an appointment he held until 1927. In 1922 he opened a small factory to manufacture automatic temperature control devices. During the next three years, he directed much original work on the development of direct acting thermostats for the control of domestic and industrial apparatus. When the factory was closed at the end of 1925, manufacture continued under licence by various specialist firms. On his retirement as borough electrical engineer, Mr. Wilkinson devoted himself to consultative work and the development of the numerous engineering projects in which he was interested. Throughout the whole of his career, he was most active in evolving new designs and apparatus over a very wide field. His patents covered automatic temperature control, boiler-feed systems, domestic electrical apparatus, load limitation and discrimination devices, gas burners, switchgear, thermal storage arrangements, and small electrode boilers. He was elected a Member of the Institution in 1898 and subsequently became a life member.

He entered the Institution of Electrical Engineers in 1889 as an associate, being transferred to full membership in 1891. He was a regular contributor to the technical press and presented many papers to various bodies. Mr. Wilkinson was a fine engineer in the fullest sense of the term, and he possessed a wide knowledge of both mechanical and electrical technology gained through long experience. He was a capable draughtsman and an excellent fitter and turner; he retained his manual skill almost to the end of his life. These technical accomplishments were accompanied by marked commercial ability. His long career was characterized by the immense energy and enthusiasm which he brought to bear on any problem which faced him. Much of his work was original in character, some of it being ahead of its time. A man of deep religious convictions, he was closely identified with the Trinity Wesleyan Chapel in Harrogate, where he spent the greater part of his life.

He was a gifted musician and for many years was active in local musical circles. Of George Wilkinson it can be said that the passing of the years brought no change of outlook, for he always remained young in heart. He was an inspiration to the younger generation and many of those who studied engineering under his guidance now occupy important positions in various parts of the world. His friends, particularly his old pupils and employees, of whom the present writer is one, will always remember him with sincere respect and deep affection. C. W. Mustill, M.B.E., M.I.Mech.E."

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