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Harry Robert Kempe

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Harry Robert Kempe (1852-1935)

Founder of Kempe's Engineers Year Book

Editor of the Telegraphic Journal and Electrical Review

1907 Appointed "The Electrician" (chief electrician) to the Post Office


1935 Obituary [1]

HARRY ROBERT KEMPE will be best remembered for the notable service which he rendered to the engineering profession in compiling "The Engineer's Year Book." The first issue appeared in 1894 and no less than thirty-six annual editions were produced under his editorship in conjunction with his partner, Mr. W. Hanneford-Smith, up to the year 1929, when publication was taken over by The Engineer.

Mr. Kempe was also the author of various standard technical books of which "A Handbook of Electrical Testing," which appeared in 1876, was the first. In 1890 he published his "Electrical Engineer's Pocket Book," and in 1916 a handbook on alternating currents.

Mr. Kempe was born in London and was educated at Westminster School and King's College, London. He was articled for three years to Sir Samuel Canning, engineer-in-chief of the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company, and later became associated with Sir Charles Wheatstone and Mr. Robert Sabine.

In 1871 he joined the Postal Telegraph Service at Southampton, under Mr. (afterwards Sir) William Preece, M.I.Mech.E., to whom he acted as assistant for many years; subsequently he became principal technical officer, staff engineer, and finally electrician to the Post Office, the latter post being specially created and made personal to him. He retired in 1913.

During his association with the Post Office, he designed and perfected many electromechanical devices and instruments. With the introduction of the pneumatic tube system, he conceived the idea of feeding carriers into long tubes on an elapsed time basis and he produced the apparatus needed to carry it out. In 1890 he was responsible for the design of the first submarine telephone cable, laid between England and France. The type of cable served as a standard until "loading" was introduced, a development which also took place under his superintendence.

He was one of the founders of the Society of Telegraph Engineers and Electricians, now the Institution of Electrical Engineers. In addition he was also associated with Messrs. Alabaster and Gatehouse in the founding, in 1872, of The Electrical Review, and he was for many years one of its editors and chief contributors. He also contributed articles on telegraphs, telephones, and pneumatic dispatch tubes to the "Encyclopaedia Britannica."

Mr. Kempe, who had been a Member of the Institution since 1912, was also a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers and a Member of the Institution of Electrical Engineers.

He died at Brockham, Surrey, on 10th April 1935, in his eighty-fourth year.


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Sources of Information

  • Mechanical Engineer Records