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Tom Ernest Gatehouse

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Tom Ernest Gatehouse (1854-1921) of H. Alabaster, Gatehouse and Co and editor of the Telegraphic Journal and Electrical Review

son of Tom Gatehouse


1921 Obituary [1]

TOM ERNEST GATEHOUSE was born at Norwich in 1854.

In about 1870 he became a pupil of Robert Sabine, one of the most eminent pioneers in the electrical world, and later entered the laboratory of Sir Charles Wheatstone, and thus came into touch with every branch of the new industry, of which the most important was telegraphy. He as a young engineer assisted in the installation of the lighting of the Victoria Embankment, London, with the "Jablochkoff Candle," an early form of the arc lamp, and devised an important improvement of the system, for which he obtained a patent.

He was also associated with the early lighting of Aldgate Station with Lontin arc lamps, and the development of the Werdermann arc lamp and the Gramme dynamo.

In 1881 he was invited by Mr. H. Alabaster, proprietor of the Telegraphic Journal and Electrical Review, to become editor of that journal, in conjunction with Mr. H. R. Kempe, subsequently chief electrician to the Post Office, and, two years later, the partnership was formed of H. Alabaster, Gatehouse and Co., which subsisted for nearly forty years.

He was devoted to music, and studied the violin so assiduously that he became, as an amateur, a master of that instrument. In 1885, in conjunction with Sir. Alabaster, he founded the ElectroHarmonic Society, and was one of the two musical directors, subsequently taking over the whole of the duties. As an expert witness in legal actions he won high commendation from the Bench. He officiated as juror at various exhibitions, including the Milan Exhibition of 1906. His death took place at his residence at Tulse Hill, London, on 31st March 1921, in his sixty-seventh year.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1894; he was also a Member of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, and an Associate Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.


1921 Obituary [2]

TOM ERNEST GATEHOUSE was born at Norwich in 1854 ; the son of a mechanical engineer, he had a natural bent towards engineering, and was fortunate in becoming a pupil of Robert Sabine, one of the most able workers in the field of electrical science and industry, then practically virgin ground.

At a later date he was closely associated with Sir Charles Wheatstone and Sir Samuel Canning who, like Sabine, were in the front rank of the telegraphic branches of the industry. Thus it came about that his early years were spent in close connection with telegraphic engineering, and throughout his life he numbered amongst his most valued friends many of the leaders of submarine cable manufacture.

In those days, however, the electrical field was not subdivided into specialized plots; it was cultivated in common by all electricians, and the young engineer was as keenly interested in the beginnings of electric lighting as in telegraphy. He took part in the lighting of the Victoria Embankment by means of the Jablochkoff candle, and patented improvements in connection with this device and the Lontin arc lamp ; he assisted in the illumination of Aldgate station for the first time with the latter ; and he was also concerned in the development of the Werdermann arc lamp and the Gramme dynamo.

His connection with telegraphy was maintained for many years by his inspection and testing of submarine cables at the makers' works, on behalf of Sir Samuel Canning.

The incandescent lamp in turn attracted his attention, and he invented and patented a device depending on the high temperature-resistance coefficient of iron wire, to protect the carbon filament from excess of pressure, for which he received a handsome price.

Shortly afterwards he was invited by Mr. H. R. Kempe, another of Sabine's pupils, to edit the Telegraphic Journal and Electrical Review, of which Mr. H. Alabaster was the proprietor, and in 1883 he became a partner in the firm of H. Alabaster, Gatehouse and Co.

From that time to his death his interests were bound up with those of the Electrical Review - a period of nearly 40 years, which was marked by never-failing prosperity. His literary gifts were of a high order, and were allied with personal qualities which not only gained for him a remarkable degree of popularity, but also contributed in no small measure to the success and renown of the journal which he edited.

Apart from his professional occupations, he was passionately devoted to music, and as a violinist attained a degree of skill to which few amateurs aspire. His services as such were in constant request and freely given ; for many years he took part in the work of the South London Institute of Music, and he was a founder of the Electro-Harmonic Society, of which he was musical director up to the time of his death on 31st March, 1921.

He was also for 27 years the honorary leader of the Diss Choral Society. Amongst other activities may be mentioned his service as juror at various exhibitions (including the Milan Exhibition of 1906), his work on the Executive Committee of the Electrical Trades Benevolent Institution, and his connection with Freemasonry. He always held rigidly aloof, however, from any connection which might conceivably hamper him in the impartial and disinterested discharge of his editorial functions. Unshakably loyal to the friends of his youth, generous to a fault, and solicitous for the well-being of all with whom he came in contact, he had a remarkable personality, and stood high in the esteem of the electrical world as well as of the circles in which his private life was spent. He left a widow, a son and two daughters.

He was elected an Associate of the Institution in 1877, and a Member in 1886.


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