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British Industrial History

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Rollo Appleyard

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Commander Rollo Appleyard O.B.E. (1867-1943) of London.

1885-92 with Silvertown Co., sub-marine cables.

1892-1914 Tech. Adviser and Writer to The Times.

1905-14 R.N.V.R.

1914-30 lent to Air Service, as Adviser on Aero Instruments.

1917 War staff, Convoy Section.

1918 Founded and directed Tech. History Section, Admiralty. Research on Dielectrics, Alloys, Surface-Tension, etc.; invented the Conductometer and various Aeronautical and other Instruments; Discovered and Tabulated the Length-Function for Solution of catenary problems.

Books: "The Conductometer and Elec. Conductivity," "Measurement of Air-Speed," "The Elements of Convoy Defence in Submarine Warfare," Charles Parsons, his life and work," "The History of the Institution of Electrical Engineers," etc.


1943 Obituary [1]

COMMANDER ROLLO APPLEYARD, O.B.E., J.P., R.N.V.R., who was born on the 1st January, 1867, and died on the 1st March, 1943, at the age of 76, will be greatly missed by all who knew him. After leaving Dulwich College he became one of the earliest students, with Drs. Sumpner and Walmsley, in the laboratory of Profs. Ayrton and Perry at Cowper St. Subsequently he was appointed a demonstrator in Physics at Bedford College, London, and after a short workshop experience he obtained an appointment as an assistant in physics and telegraphy at the Royal Indian Engineering College, Coopers Hill.

His industrial career commenced in 1892, when he entered the submarine cable department of the India Rubber and Gutta Percha Co. at Silvertown and was sent to Brazil to assist in duplexing the cables between Pernambuco and Santos. He then took charge of one of the Silvertown research laboratories and devoted himself principally to the investigation and improvement of the electrical and mechanical properties of gutta-percha and other insulators, leading to his being appointed Manager of one of the cable manufacturing departments. His greatest manufacturing achievement, resulting from his improvement of dielectrics, was the core of the long Pacific Cable between San Francisco and Honolulu, which had an unprecedentedly low capacitance and attenuation. With his assistant Alfred Penfold, to whom he assigned the chief credit, he also developed the popular rubber-cored golf ball. His researches included investigations on the conductivity of copper, for which he devised a conductometer, described in a paper that gained him a Telford Premium from The Institution of Civil Engineers in 1903; and on coherers, contact resistances, and ageing of alloys.

In 1914, soon after the outbreak of the last war, Lord Fisher requisitioned him for the Admiralty Service with the rank of Commander R.N.V.R., and he devoted himself primarily to boom defences and technical records. In 1917 he was temporarily transferred to the Air Service and devised instruments for height and speed measurements, after which he returned to the Admiralty, where he joined the Convoy Section of the War Staff for which he wrote various confidential memoranda, leading to his founding the Technical History Section of the Admiralty which he directed until 1920, when he was awarded the O.B.E. Leaving the Service in 1921, he became successively Chief Engineer to Crosse and Blackwell, attached to the International Standard Electric Co., and Editor of Scientific and Technical publications to Constable and Co. He was elected a Member of The Institution in 1925.

He had considerable linguistic and literary aptitude, and was a regular contributor to the Times Engineering Supplement, as well as of occasional articles in The Times and the Fortnightly Review. He was the author of three books: "Pioneers of Electrical Communication," "A Tribute to Faraday," and a biography of Sir Charles Parsons; and he was editor and chief author of "The History of The Institution of Electrical Engineers, 1871-1931." His interests were very wide, and he was a J.P. for West Ham and took an active part in the committees and discussions at the Athenaeum Club. He was fond of mathematical problems and was awarded a second Telford Premium in 1920 for a paper on the properties of the catenary. Although confined to his room for the last two years of his life, he was always studying and eager to discuss fundamental electrical problems. Throughout his career and long final illness he was greatly sustained by the devoted care of his wife (Mabel, nee Lamington), whom he married in 1901. They had one son, who predeceased him.



1943 Obituary [2]



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