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Richard Atwood Glass

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Sir Richard Atwood Glass (1820-1873) of Glass, Elliot and Co

Son of Mr Francis Glass, of Bradford, Wilts,

Educated at Kings College, London

For some years was in partnership with Mr. George Elliot], of Morden Wharf, Greenwich, and carried on an extensive business as wire rope makers which firm afterwards merged into the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Co.

At this factory 1250 miles of the first Atlantic cable were made, half of the entire length. That cable was wholly constructed under the direction of Mr Glass, who, on the successful completion of the undertaking after ten years of unremitting labour, received the honour of knighthood.

1867 He retired from the company, and afterwards became chairman of the Anglo-American Telegraph Co.

Represented Bewdley from December 1868, to March, 1869.

1874 Died at Southampton aged 53.


1875 Obituary [1]

SIR RICHARD ATWOOD GLASS was born at Bradford, in the county of Wilts, in the year 1820.

He began life as an accountant in the office of one of the leading firms in the City of London. In the course of his duties he became acquainted with Mr. Kuper, in conjunction with whom he established a wire-rope manufactory, which, under Mr. Glass’s able management, soon became an important concern.

In the year 1852 Mr. Glass introduced the use of twisted iron wires as a protecting medium for submarine telegraphs, first adopting it in the Dover and Calais cable, which was the pioneer of the many lines now laid in all parts of the world.

The firm of Messrs. Glass, Elliot and Co. undertook the manufacture of a length of 1,250 miles of the Atlantic cable of 1858, which, however, failed.

Operations in April 1860 for the recovery of some portion disclosed two facts, namely, that the gutta-percha was in no way deteriorated, and that the electrical condition of the core had been improved by nearly three years’ immersion. These circumstances induced the resuscitation of the enterprise, and Messrs. Glass, Elliot and Co. accepted the offer by capitalists of influence to make the new cable.

Mr. Glass’s firm had been identified with the history of submarine telegraphy from its earliest existence, and now, having previously incorporated the Gutta-Percha Cornpany, it became absorbed in the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company, Mr. Glass being managing director.

In July 1865 the Great Eastern commenced laying the new cable, and, though at first all went well, an accident occurred that resulted in partial failure for that year, and the postponement of further efforts until the following season.

In August 1866 the “Great Eastern” successfully completed the laying of a second cable, which with that of 1865, afterwards recovered, has, with slight intermissions, been at work ever since. For his share in this great enterprise Mr. Glass was knighted, along with several others to whose untiring energy success was due. But the mental and bodily strain which the work entailed seriously undermined his health, and, though in the prime of manhood, his enjoyment of the well-deserved honours was marred by incessant suffering from an incurable disease. For seven years this caused Sir Richard to live in comparative retirement, and ultimately resulted in his death on the 22nd of December, 1873.

Sir Richard Glass was elected an Associate of the Institution on the 4th of May, 1858. He sat in Parliament for a short time in 1868-9, as representative for Bemdley in the Conservative interest.


See Also

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  • Biography of Sir Richard Attwood Glass, ODNB [1].

Sources of Information

  1. 1875 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries