Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 130,457 pages of information and 207,626 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

William Siemens

From Graces Guide

Jump to: navigation, search
Im1958v205-p393.jpg
1856. Regenerative Steam Engine.
1861.
‎‎
1868.
1869. Holders for Telegraphic Line Wires.
Tomb in Kensal Green Cemetery with Celtic Cross.
Tomb in Kensal Green Cemetery. Detail.

Sir C. William Siemens C.E., D.C.L, F.R.S. (1823–1883) of Siemens Brothers and Co.

Born Carl Wilhelm Siemens; moved to London from Germany and became C. William Siemens

1823 April 4th. 1823. He was born Carl Wilhelm Siemens in the village of Lenthe, today part of Gehrden, near Hanover, Germany, where his father, Christian Ferdinand Siemens (July 31, 1787-January 16, 1840), a tenant farmer, farmed an estate belonging to the Crown. His mother was Eleonore Deichmann (1792-July 8, 1839), and William, or Carl Wilhelm, was the fourth son of a family of fourteen children.

Werner Siemens, the eldest son, founded Siemens and Halske in Berlin in 1847.

Friedrich Siemens, the fifth son (born in 1826) became famous as an inventor, etc. In 1848 he joined his brother William in England, before returning to Dresden on the death of his brother Hans, to become manager of the glass-works and further developed that technology. Upon the death of his brother William, Friedrich succeeded him in the management of that portion of the business associated with furnaces and applications of heat.

Carl Heinrich Siemens, the sixth son, (born in 1829) took charge of a large factory in St. Petersburg in 1855 which controlled the telegraphic system of Russia. He moved to London in 1869 and was engaged in the laying of the Direct United States Cable; in 1880 he returned to Russia.

1843 Carl Wilhelm Siemens arrived in the UK to try to attract users to the method of electro-plating that he and his brother Werner had developed [1].

1847 Siemens had been trained as a mechanical engineer, and his most important work at this early stage was non-electrical; the greatest achievement of his life, the regenerative furnace, was non-electrical. Though in 1847 he published a paper in Liebig's Annalen der Chemie on the 'Mercaptan of Selenium,' his mind was busy with the new ideas upon the nature of heat which were promulgated by Carnot, Émile Clapeyron, Joule, Clausius, Mayer, Thomson, and Rankine. He discarded the older notions of heat as a substance, and accepted it as a form of energy. Working on this new line of thought, which gave him an advantage over other inventors of his time, he made his first attempt to economise heat, by constructing, in 1847, at the factory of Benjamin Hick and Sons, of Bolton, an engine of four horse-power, having a condenser provided with regenerators, and utilising superheated steam.

1849 Two years later he continued his experiments at the works of Fox, Henderson and Co of Smethwick who had taken the matter in hand. The use of superheated steam was attended with many practical difficulties, and the invention was not entirely successful; nevertheless, the Society of Arts, in 1850, acknowledged the value of the principle, by awarding Siemens a gold medal for his regenerative condenser.

1851 of Summerfield Cottage, Birmingham Heath.[2]

1851 William gained an award at the 1851 Great Exhibition. See details at 1851 Great Exhibition: Reports of the Juries: Class V.

1857 With his younger brother Friedrich, William turned his attention to ways of saving heat in industrial furnaces. He developed a furnace using a regenerator to recover the waste heat but there were problems in applying the concept to large furnaces; these problems were overcome by converting the coal fuel into combustible gases in a separate unit called a "gas producer." Some gas furnaces were able to reduce fuel consumption by fifty per cent.

1859 July 23. Siemens was married at St. James's, Paddington, to Anne Gordon, the youngest daughter of Mr. Joseph Gordon, Writer to the Signet, Edinburgh, and brother to Mr. Lewis Gordon, Professor of Engineering in the University of Glasgow. He used to say that on March 19 of that year he took oath and allegiance to two ladies in one day — to the Queen and his betrothed. He was knighted – becoming Sir William – a few months before his death.

1859 William Siemens devoted a great part of his time to electrical invention and research; and the number of telegraph apparatus of all sorts – telegraph cables, land lines, and their accessories – which have emanated from the Siemens Telegraph Works (at Charlton, SE London) has been remarkable.

1861 William Siemens took out a patent on his design for a regenerative furnace; the patent stated that the furnace was applicable to the melting of steel on the open hearth.

1862 The initial successful application of the regenerative furnace was at Chance Brothers and Co's glass works near Birmingham, which was quickly followed with several other furnaces for them. Michael Faraday spent two days in Birmingham with Siemens viewing the works and made the furnace the subject of his final lecture to the Royal Institution, on 20th June 1862. Siemens designed furnaces for a number of iron makers with limited success, due to the new metallurgy and impurities in the steel produced[3].

1865 William rented a small factory in Birmingham, and set up the "Sample Steelworks" to develop the process[4].

1865 The Siemens and Halske branch in London was reconstituted as Siemens Brothers and Co with Werner, William and Carl as partners.

1866 Residing at 3 Great George Street, Westminster, London. (1st Aug 1866).

He wrote-in to The Engineer correcting claims that he had patented a pyrometer. He wrote in detail about his observations regarding pyrometrical science. See The Engineer 1866/08/03 page 80.

By 1867 William had succeeded in developing the furnace for steel making, converting old iron rails (originally made at Dowlais) into steel which was rolled into rails at John Brown and Co in Sheffield. These rails so impressed the directors of the Great Western Railway that the Landore Siemens Steel Co was immediately formed in Swansea to apply the furnace. By 1869 these works were making 75 tons a week [5].

1867 The furnace was awarded a Grand Prize at the Paris Exhibition of 1867.

The regenerative furnace is the greatest single invention of William Siemens, using a process known as the Siemens-Martin process. The electric pyrometer, which is perhaps the most elegant and original of all William Siemens's inventions, is also the link which connects his electrical with his metallurgical researches. Siemens pursued two major themes in his inventive efforts, one based upon the science of heat, the other based upon the science of electricity; and the electric thermometer was, as it were, a delicate cross-coupling which connected both. Imbued with the idea of regeneration, and seeking in nature for that thrift of power which he, as an inventor, had always aimed at, Siemens suggested a hypothesis on which the sun conserves its heat by a circulation of its fuel in space, afterwards reprinting the controversy in a volume, "On the Conservation of Solar Energy".

1869 4th of January, of 3, Great George Street, Westminster, London.[6]

1872 Sir William Siemens became the first President of the Society of Telegraph Engineers which became the Institution of Electrical Engineers, the forerunner of the Institution of Engineering and Technology. He was also president of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers

1883 November 19th. Died and buried at Kensal Green Cemetery

1901 Death of his wife.[7][8]


1884 Obituary [9]

Sir WILLIAM SIEMENS F.R.S., D.C.L., LLD., Member of Council, died, after a very short illness, on the 19th of November, 1883.

Perhaps on no former occasion has the Institution had to mourn the loss of a member so distinguished for the extent of his scientific and technical knowledge, for the versatility of his talents, for the originality of his views, for the greatness and variety of his inventions, for his amazing skill in the adaptation of science to industrial and useful purposes, for the number and value of his scientific publications, for his energy in business transactions, and for the usefulness to the world of his life’s work generally.

His father, Christian Ferdinand Siemens, was 'Domainen pahter' (tenant farmer) of Lenthe, near Hanover, and married a lady of a well known Hanoverian family, named Eleonore Deichmann. They had four daughters, and ten sons, three of whom, Werner, Carl, and Friedrich, had intimate business connections with the subject of this memoir during his whole career. The four brothers worked so harmoniously together that it is often difficult to say what was the precise personal share either of them had in the many great inventions for which the world is indebted to them, the task being rendered still harder by the fact that each brother was always ready to attribute a successful invention to any of the family rather than to himself. It may, however, be said that in electrical matters Werner and William were principally associated, while in the metallurgical inventions and furnaces Friedrich and William worked together.

The fourth son was born at Lenthe on the 4th of April, 1823. He was baptised as Carl Wilhelm, but as a younger brother (in accordance with a custom not uncommon in Germany) was also given the name of Carl, the elder one was generally designated by his second name only.

After his naturalization in England, the German names became Charles William ; but he always preferred the latter word used singly, and when he received his knighthood he elected to be called 'Sir William' only.

For his preliminary education he was sent first to a school called the 'Catherineum,' at Lubeck, and then to the 'Handelsschule' at Magdeburg.

In his eighteenth year he went to the University of Gottingen, where he studied for a year or two under Dr. Wohler, Professor of Natural Philosophy, and Herr Himly, Professor of Chemistry, who had shortly before married Fraulein Siemens, his sister.

It appears to have been intended that he should devote himself to mechanical engineering, for on leaving Gottingen he was sent as a pupil to the works of Count Stolberg, a well known manufacturer of engines and machinery at Magdeburg.

He manifested early that varied talent which was afterwards so characteristic of him, for his first prominent effort was the invention, in conjunction with his brother Werner, of an improvement in electro-gilding, then a new application of electricity.

Believing that there would be a better market for this invention in England than in Germany, he visited this country in 1843, and succeeded in getting it adopted in Birmingham, ‘the toy-shop of the world,' by the eminent manufacturing firm, Messrs. Elkington. The success of this visit emboldened him to return the following year with another invention, this time entirely his own, and of a more strictly engineering character, a 'chronometric governor.' He was less successful in the disposal of this, as it was somewhat in advance of practical wants, but his visit had the more important effect of determining his subsequent career. His efforts to introduce his invention brought him into contact with the leading engineers of this country, and he received so much encouragement from them that he was led to believe that a more congenial and more profitable field for his labours would be found in England than in his native country, and from that time England became his home.

His first years in this country were devoted partly to improving his mechanical and engineering knowledge, and partly to working out his own inventions, for which latter purpose he passed some time with the Birmingham firm who had at first taken him by the hand. During the railway mania he undertook some railway work, but he did not follow this up, as he conceived he could do better in other branches of mechanics.

About this time he appears to have been engaged on several inventions, among them being the process of anastatic printing (on which a lecture was given by Faraday at the Royal Institution) ; some improvements in the cotton manufacture; and a new form of air-exhausting pump, which has since been much used.

But he soon turned his attention to matters of a higher character. He had an idea that great improvements might be made in the steam-engine, and to enable him to put his view into practical form, he went, about 1847, to the well known works of Fox, Henderson and Co., of Smethwick, near Birmingham, where he remained four years. Here he carried on experiments which served as a preparation for the brilliant heat-applications of his after-life; and, what was of equal importance, his work and attentive observation in a factory renowned as one of the first schools of mechanical engineering in the country, gave him an amount of practical knowledge and experience which was of the greatest benefit to him.

In 1851 he went into practice on his own account, and after that date the chronicle of his career will be best indicated by a notice of the works on which he was from time to time engaged, and of the various matters which occupied his attention.

The private incidents of his subsequent life that need to be specially mentioned were few. In 1859 he became formally a naturalized subject of Queen Victoria, and in the same year he married Anne, daughter of Joseph Gordon, W.S., of Edinburgh, and sister to the late Lewis Gordon, F.R.S.E., well known as a civil engineer, and for many years Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Glasgow.

In attempting now to give an account of the work of his mature career a difficulty is met with at the outset, owing to the varied nature of the subjects that occupied him. He had the extraordinary faculty of devoting his attention to many different lines of thought, and many different subjects of investigation, at one and the same period, for which reason, any attempt at a chronological arrangement would only be confusing. It will be better to classify his labours, and there are two subjects that may be taken as the chief headings in this notice.

It may be said generally that the most important objects of his life were connected with the study of the two great sources of power in nature, Heat and Electricity, both in their theoretical aspects and in their practical and useful applications. Hence it will be well to treat separately of his work in regard to

  • (I) Heat and its applications, particularly to Metallurgy, and
  • (II) Electrical Science and Practice; to which may be added
  • (III) Miscellaneous Engineering Mechanical and Scientific matters not included under the former heads.

HEAT AND ITS APPLICATIONS PARTICULARLY TO METALLURGY

This may be said, without much risk of error, to be the most important subject of Sir William Siemens’s study. He employed himself upon it, in some form or other, throughout the whole working period of his life, and the results of his labours in regard to it assumed a magnitude beyond that of any other of his occupations.

There is no doubt that in his early youth he had studied the theory of heat, and he kept pace with all. the later discoveries in regard to it. He had made himself master of the profound investigations of Joule, Mayer, Carnot, and others, and had become well acquainted with the great modern doctrine of the conservation of energy, of which the dynamic theories of heat had furnished such conclusive demonstration. Applying to these theoretical considerations his eminently practical mind, he could not fail to see what an enormous loss of valuable energy was continually going on, by the waste of heat, in almost all manufacturing and industrial processes, and it became his earnest endeavour to discover and introduce means of economising this wasted power.

His first efforts were naturally directed to the machine which formed the chief practical source of heat-power, namely, the steam engine, for it had been one of the first corollaries from the thermodynamic theory that this machine, in its most perfected state, only utilized a small fraction of the energy developed by its combustion of coal. He took this subject in hand, as already stated, soon after settling in England, namely about 1847; and it would appear that in his first efforts at heat-saving, he adopted and put in practice the eminently simple and practical idea which afterwards formed the leading feature of his great heat-inventions, namely, what he called the ‘regenerative principle'. He found that in almost all industrial applications of fuel, much heat was lost by the passing away of currents at high temperatures, and it occurred to him that by presenting suitable masses of solid conducting matter to these currents their superfluous heat might be taken up, and might then be given out again in some useful way.

It is right to say that the principle in question was not claimed as an original discovery by Mr. Siemens. It had been clearly described in a patent taken out as early as 1816 by the Rev. Dr. Stirling, and had been applied both by him and by Capt. Ericsson to heated-air engines, but it was looked upon by engineers as unsound in principle, and its application had very little beneficial result. Mr. Siemens saw not only its theoretical correctness, but its great practical value, and the credit of its wide success is undoubtedly due to him.

Believing that the chief loss of heat in the steam-engine was in the condenser, he endeavoured to apply the regenerative principle to this apparatus ; and he constructed in 1847 an engine of four horse-power on this plan, which worked with some success at the factory of Messrs. Hick at Bolton.

A few years more study and trial confirmed his general views on the subject, and in 1851 he wrote for the Institution of Mechanical Engineers a Paper 'On a New Regenerative Condenser for High and Low Pressure Steam-Engines.' This was his first literary effort, and was the pioneer of the long list of scientific publications he afterwards gave to the world.

It was followed in 1852 by another Paper laid before this Institution, on the same subject, but of a more general character, 'On the Conversion of Heat into Mechanical Effect.' This was an essay showing great knowledge and ability, both theoretical and practical, and it received from the Institution the award of the silver Telford Medal.

In the same year, also, he undertook, for his own satisfaction, an important series of experiments ‘On the total heat of Steam, and its expansion when in an isolated state,' which he described to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

The practical result of all this study was the design of a complete 'regenerative steam-engine,' which, from the promise it gave of a large saving of fuel, attracted much attention, particularly on the Continent, where companies were formed for its manufacture. Several engines on this principle were made, varying from five to forty horse-power, and two of them were shown and worked at the Paris Exhibition of 1855. The regenerator fulfilled its office with surprising rapidity and perfection, and considerable economy of fuel resulted. But practical difficulties were found to exist in the working of the engines, and notwithstanding the advantages they offered, they could not be brought into general use.

This disappointment, in an invention which had occupied ten or twelve of the best years of Mr. Siemens’s life, would have disheartened most men, but it only brought out more forcibly his strength of character. He relied on the soundness of the theoretical principles that had guided him, and, having still full confidence in the feasibility of his plans for heat-saving, he searched for other modes of carrying them into effect. He soon found that a better result might be obtained by applying the regenerative principle in a more simple manner, i.e., not to any form of complex engine, but directly to the ordinary furnaces in which fuel was consumed. It often happens, in the history of an invention, that the simplest form is the latest in presenting itself, and this furnishes a striking instance of the fact.

The invention of the regenerative furnace was due to Friedrich Siemens, but William worked heartily with him, and was the chief agent in maturing it and directing its various applications. It was patented in 1856, and was described in a paper read before the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in June 1857.

The earliest experimental trials were conclusive as to the saving of fuel to be effected; but many formidable practical difficulties had to be overcome, and many improvements had to be introduced from time to time before full success was attained.

One of these improvements was of so important a character as to amount in fact to a new invention. It was found that the use of solid fuel, in the body of the furnace, offered obstacles to the favourable working of the system, and the idea arose of substituting gaseous fuel, the solid fuel being converted into combustible gases in a separate construction called a 'gas-producer.'

This gave immensely increased power to the furnace, and made it applicable to much more extended processes, while its facility of management became much increased. It also allowed the use of inferior fuel, for combustible matters which would be utterly useless in an ordinary furnace were capable of being utilised without any difficulty in the new gas-producer.

The results of experience, during the quarter of a century that has elapsed since the introduction of this invention, have tended constantly to increase the estimation of its value, and to extend its use to a greater variety of purposes. Indeed there is hardly an industrial process of any kind where great heat is required, that has not benefited by the application of the Siemens furnace ; the advantages being not only an enormous economy of fuel, but the production of a much higher temperature, greatly increased facility of application and management, more perfect combustion, and an almost entire absence of smoke.

After nearly twenty years of continuous working and extended application, Sir Henry Bessemer, in 1880, described it as a beautiful invention, which was at once the most philosophic in principle, the most powerful in action, and the most economic of all the contrivances for producing heat by the combustion of fuel.

In the course of Mr. Siemens’s labours in perfecting his regenerative gas-furnace, he had good opportunities of considering the various purposes to which it might be applied, and among others, it occurred to him that it might be beneficially used for the production of steel.

A suggestion had been made some time before, by a well-known steel maker, Heath, that cast-steel might be obtained in large quantities by simply fusing wrought- and cast-iron together on the open hearth of a reverberatory furnace. The experiment had been tried, but it had not hitherto succeeded, in consequence of the defects and want of power in the furnaces employed. Mr. Siemens saw that with the increased capabilities and the higher temperature afforded by his furnaces, it might be possible to carry out Heath‘s idea; indeed, it had been mentioned in the furnace-patent of 1861, and had been in that year suggested to one of the great Welsh ironmasters.

In 1862 a trial was made at Tow Law, near Durham, and in succeeding years the experiments were renewed in France, in Glasgow, and at Barrow-in-Furness. They were successful in producing good steel, but difficulties were met with, and the manufacture was not commercially profitable. Under these circumstances Mr. Siemens perceived that it was necessary to take the matter into his own hands, and in 1865 he determined to erect experimental works in Birmingham for the purpose of maturing the details of his processes before inviting manufacturers to adopt them. These works, which were known as the 'Siemens Sample-Steel Works,' were in action during several years, and, although they were carried on under great disadvantages, as he had entirely to educate his own workmen, the results were considered so good as to warrant the extension of the process, and this led to the establishment of works of considerable magnitude at Landore, near Swansea.

But, Dr. Siemens was not the only one who had been turning his attention during those years to the manufacture of open hearth steel. Messrs. Martin, of Sireuil, in France, had also been experimenting on the use of the Siemens furnace for the same purpose, but had chosen a somewhat different mode of operation, and thus originated the so-called ‘Siemens-Martin' process.

No sooner had the success of the new processes been proved than they were at once taken up by manufacturers on a large scale, and as early as 1869 some thousands of tons of first-class steel were made by them. Since then they have been very largely adopted, and the metal produced has been of excellent quality.

In the year 1883, the production of steel made by these processes in the United Kingdom was nearly 500,000 tons, and for the whole world it may be estimated at about 1,000,000 tons.

Notwithstanding the great things Dr. Siemens had effected in the domain of heat, he did not disdain applications of his scientific knowledge on a smaller scale, having always in view economy and utility. He took an active part in the movement for smoke abatement, which was in agitation about the year 1880, and he applied his mind to several inventions for aiding in the suppression of the smoke-nuisance.

One of these was his domestic fire, now so well-known, in which, by inserting a few gas jets in a common grate, he rendered it possible to make a fire with ordinary coke, which, while absolutely smokeless, should be as cheap and as cheerful as that from raw coal, and much easier to regulate and to manage. This, although apparently so simple, was really a very scientific invention, for its principle was that of resupplying to the coke the hydrocarbons which had been abstracted from it, and so restoring the original elements of coal, but in an improved and refined form. Another scientific feature in the grate was that of feeding it, by a simple and ingenious arrangement, with heated air, so as to increase the activity of combustion. It was, in fact, his regenerative gas furnace, brought into the drawing-room.

But he carried the same idea farther, for he believed that, by some simple modifications of his furnace, he could apply the gas producing process on a small scale to ordinary steam-boilers and other applications of fuel. He had established experimental apparatus for this purpose, and only a few days before his death he wrote to a friend, expressing sanguine anticipations that the result would show the new process to be a considerable improvement on the ordinary plans of combustion, not only in smokelessness, but also in convenience and economy.

He even went so far as to anticipate that the time might come when, by means of his gas-producer, gas might be made in the coal districts, and supplied by a gigantic system of distribution to the public generally as fuel. He told the people of Glasgow, in 1881, that that town, with its adjoining coal-field, appeared to be a particularly favourable locality for putting such a plan to a practical trial, and added that when thus supplied with gaseous fuel, the town would not only possess a clear atmosphere, but would be relieved of the most objectionable portion of the street traffic.

A year later he declared, at the British Association, that he thought the time not far distant when both rich and poor would resort to gas as the most convenient, the cleanest, and the cheapest of heating agents, and when raw coal would be seen only at the collieries.

ELECTRICAL SCIENCE AND PRACTICE

The science of electricity also engaged Mr. Siemens's attention when quite young. His first visit to England was on account of one of its practical applications, and in 1847 he made some important modifications in the Grove battery.

When he commenced business on his own account in 1851, his principal employment appears to have been with electric telegraphs. He had an office in John Street, Adelphi, and finding a want of sufficient means of carrying out his plans, he established a small factory for electrical apparatus at Millbank, which he retained for some years. Finding this answer well, and anticipating what a large field would soon open for the manufacture of electric apparatus, and what greatly increased facilities this would offer for his inventive powers, he determined to enlarge greatly this sphere of his labour.

Accordingly in 1858, in association with his brother Werner, and a German friend, Herr Halske, he established the manufacturing works at Charlton, near Woolwich, since so well known under the Siemens name. These soon increased in size, as the applications of electricity became more varied and extended, and some of the largest works in electrical engineering have been done there. It must suffice here to mention briefly a few of the most important of them.

In 1867 the Messrs. Siemens obtained concessions for the Indo- European Telegraph, being an overland double line from England to India, through Prussia, Southern Russia, and Persia. The Prussian Government built the line through North Germany, and the Messrs. Siemens constructed the whole of the remainder, a distance of 2,700 miles. It was tendered for in the middle of 1868, and although the work involved great difficulties, passing through an unsettled and uncommercial country, yet by ingenuity and good management the difficulties were overcome, and the lines were completed by the end of 1869.

In 1874-5 the firm manufactured and laid the Direct United States Transatlantic Telegraph cable, from Ireland to Nova Scotia, and this work is noted as having given rise to the construction of a special steam-vessel for laying the cable. For the first Atlantic cables the 'Great Eastern' and other vessels more or less suitable had been employed. But William Siemens, conceiving that, the requirements of the operation could not be efficiently met by any existing type of vessel, resolved to design one specially for the purpose. The result was the production of a fine steam-ship, which, in compliment to the great electrical philosopher, was named the 'Faraday.' She performed the work required most successfully, has since laid other Atlantic cables, and is still used on work of the same class. She is 5000 tons register, 360 feet long, 52 feet beam, and 36 feet deep. In her interior are three enormous iron tanks for receiving 1,700 miles of cable, which are so ingeniously built into the body of the ship, as to add materially to the strength of her structure. She is completely fitted up with machinery of all kinds for laying the cable in the most efficient manner, as well as for grappling and recovering lost cables, and performing all accessory operations : many parts of her structure and apparatus show considerable novelty of design, among which may be mentioned a peculiar arrangement of the twin screw propeller, by which she can be maneuvered with great ease, and caused to turn even in her own length. She has good cabin accommodation, and is lighted by the electric light. The success of this ship, for the delicate and difficult purposes she is intended to serve, has been perfect, for she has proved herself capable of laying and lifting cables at all depths, in all seasons, and in almost all weathers ; and it has been well remarked that the design of such a vessel, capable of doing what no other vessel afloat could do, by a landsman born in the interior of Europe, whose education and pursuits had little or no connection with nautical affairs, is a striking example of practical genius of the highest character.

One of the newest applications of electricity is the use of electric power for propulsion on railways. This was first brought about by Werner Siemens, who exhibited in 1879 a short tramway so worked, and afterwards laid down a line for public traffic at Lichterfelde, near Berlin, 2,500 yards long. A short line of the same kind was also laid down at Paris. A later and larger application was a line of 6.5 miles long from Portrush to Bush Mills, in Ireland. The power was furnished by a waterfall of the river Bush, driving, through turbines,a Siemens dynamo, at a distance of 7.5 miles from the line. The line had steep gradients and sharp curves, but a speed was attained on it of 10 miles an hour. It was formally opened by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, only two months before Sir William’s death.

It was never pretended that this mode of applying power could supersede the steam locomotive for general railway haulage, but the inventors looked forward to a considerable use for it in cases where exceptional circumstances might justify its application, and give it a preference.

It need hardly be said that Sir William gave great personal attention to the manufacturing works, and the result was that the multifarious processes there carried on, and the great variety of apparatus that issued therefrom, bore largely the impress of his originality and inventive power. It was a saying common in the workshops that as soon as any particular problem had been given up by everybody as a 'bad job,’ it had only to be taken to Dr. Siemens for him to suggest half a dozen ways of solving it, two of which would be complicated and impracticable, two difficult, and two perfectly satisfactory.

Some of his personal electric work requires special mention. In 1860 Werner and William had brought out the contrivance now known as the one-coil Siemens armature, which was shown at the International Exhibition of that year, and which appears to have formed the groundwork of a most important invention introduced a few years later, namely, the principle of electro-magnetic augmentation and maintenance of a current without the aid of steel or other permanent magnets. This was communicated to the Royal Society by William Siemens on February 14, 1867, in the now classical Paper 'On the Conversion of Dynamical into Electrical force without the aid of Permanent Magnetism.”' The Author said :-

“Since the great discovery of magnetic electricity by Faraday in 1830, electricians have had recourse to mechanical force for the production of their most powerful effects ; but the power of the magneto-electrical machine seems to depend in an equal measure upon the force expended, on the one hand, and upon permanent magnetism on the other.

“An experiment, however, has been lately suggested to me by my brother, Dr. Werner Siemens, of Berlin, which proves that permanent magnetism is not requisite in order to convert mechanical into electrical force ; and the result obtained by this experiment is remarkable, not only because it demonstrates this hitherto unrecognised fact, but also because it provides a simple means of producing very powerful electrical effects.”

It is singular that the same idea had occurred almost simultaneously to Wheatstone (who communicated it to the same meeting on the same day), and to Mr. Varley, who had applied for a patent in which it was embodied; but there can be no doubt of the 'bona fides' of the Siemens’s claim to an independent discovery.

Soon after followed the suggestion of the mode of connection between the coils of a multiple-coil Siemens armature, and this made the foundation of the wonderful dynamo-electric machines of the present day, whether as given in the Siemens form, or with the modifications of details and proportions which haw been contributed by others. It has been well remarked by a high authority, that the evolution of the present splendid machine from the rudimentary armature of a quarter of a century ago, is one of the most beautiful products of inventive genius, and is more like to the growth of flower than to almost anything else in the way of mechanism made by man.’

William Siemens conducted many of his experimental researches on electricity in the retirement of his country seat at Sherwood, near Tunbridge Wells. Here he had a large and comprehensive electric "installation", and those which had the advantage of admission to that scientific retreat can best appreciate how much he did individually to reduce to human servitude the forces of that mysterious power of which he was so great a master. It was not only employed in lighting the premises, but also in supplying power to perform a large part of the work required on the estate, such as sawing wood, pumping water, and so on.

It was here that he carried out the experimental investigation of a very original idea that had occurred to him, namely, that electric light might be made to supply the place of the sun in promoting vegetation, and in stimulating the growth of plants. and fruits. The subject formed the basis of several published Papers, giving results of much interest and novelty. Among the various applications of electricity proposed by him was one which, although it never had any extensive practical application in his time, was undoubtedly of great importance and capability, and will possibly some day be largely used, namely, as a means of transmitting mechanical power to a distance.

In his address to the Iron and Steel Institute, 1877, he gave a striking example of what he thought might be done in this way. He pointed out the great amount of mechanical power developed by the Falls of Niagara, amounting to about 16,800,000 HP., and speculated on the probability of some portion of it being made useful by transmission to a distance, by electrical conductors. In a lecture to this Institution in March 1883, he again took up the subject, and instanced several cases where the transmission had been actually carried into practice.

Another use he conceived for electricity was to obtain great heat, for which purpose he contrived an electrical furnace, intended to melt on a largo scale refractory substances which had hitherto been found only in minute beads, or obtained by enormous and costly erections.

He wrote, at various times, many Papers on electrical subjects, which show strikingly the originality of his views, and his great practical inventive power.

MISCELLANEOUS ENGINEERING, MECHANICAL AND SCIENTIFIC MATTERS

The versatility of Sir William Siemens’s talents and powers has been already alluded to, and, large as was the field offered for his labours in each of the two great subjects already treated of, he contrived to find time and opportunity for attending to many other matters having little or no connection with them. It remains to notice briefly some of his most important labours of this kind, whether in the form of mechanical inventions, or of published studies on scientific subjects.

Uniform rotation.-One of his earliest inventions, in fact the one which determined his permanent adoption of England as his home, was a contrivance for ensuring uniform velocity in steam engines and other rotating prime-movers. The subject, however, seemed to have an attraction for him, and he returned to it some years later. In 1866 he read a Paper before the Royal Society ‘Uniform Rotation,' describing a new and very ingenious 'Gyrometric Governor,' by which the driving power might be varied between the widest limits, without any sensible variation of speed; and he proved by experiment that two-thirds of the total load on a steam-engine might be suddenly thrown off with- out any visible change in its velocity of rotation.

Water-Meter.-Another early invention was a machine for measuring water. This consisted only of a wheel enclosed in a tube through which flowed the water to be measured, the wheel being turned by the reaction of the water, and the velocity of rotation giving thus an indication of the velocity of the flow. But although the principle was so simple, its suitable application in a practical form needed great ingenuity, and its inventor had to bestow much study and experiment on it before its action could be relied on. It was patented in 1853, and improved a few years later. Its simplicity caused it to be promptly appreciated, and it furnished the inventor with his earliest source of income in England, so enabling him to give to this country the benefit of his great inventive powers in other matters. The 'Siemens Watermeter' is now very largely used.

Vessels to resist high pressure.- In 1877, at the request of Colonel Beaumont, who was making large use of compressed air under high pressure as a source of power, Dr. Siemens designed a new kind of vessel, to be used as a reservoir or boiler, capable of resisting great internal pressure, and of remarkable lightness and strength. One was made with a capacity of 100 cubic feet, not exceeding 2.5 tons in weight, and was perfectly tight at 1,300 lbs. pressure per square inch. He described it to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in the following year, and gave it as an example of the superiority of steel for such purposes.

Pyrometer.-Another of his inventions was that of an improved Pyrometer, or Thermometer for very high temperatures. The exact measurement of great degrees of heat had always presented serious difficulties, the ordinary means being a very rough one, contrived by Wedgwood,and acting by the contraction of an argillaceous material. In the year 1860, having charge, for the Government, of the electrical condition of a submarine cable to be laid between Rangoon and Singapore, some observations led him to believe that variations of electrical resistance might be made use of to determine variations of temperature, and he addressed a letter to this effect to Dr. Tyndall, which was published in the 'Philosophical Magazine' of January, 1861. Ten years later, namely, at the meeting of the Iron and Steel Institute at Merthyr, in September, 1870, he described the instrument itself as it might be applied to iron furnaces, and on 27th April, 1871, he read a Paper to the Royal Society giving a more full scientific account of it. He showed that in this way temperatures exceeding the welding-point of iron, and approaching the melting-point of platinum, could be measured by the same instrument by which slight variations of ordinary temperatures are told, a thermometer scale being thus obtained, embracing without a break the entire range. In a subsequent Paper, June 1882, he stated that the instrument had been actually and successfully used for showing the degree of heat in the interior of iron furnaces, and for ascertaining the temperature in distant and inaccessible places, such as the bottom of the ocean.

Bathometer and Attraction-Meter.- In the course of his submarine cable operations, he conceived that it might be possible to measure the depth of the sea on board a ship without sounding. The idea on which he founded this opinion was, that the total attractive force of the earth must be sensibly diminished by the interposition of a comparatively light substance such as sea water, between the vessel and the solid portion of the earth below, and that the degree of diminution would depend on the depth of the water. Hence, if an instrument could be constructed sensitive enough to show the diminution of gravity, this would indicate at the surface the depth of the sounding. He constructed such an instrument, and it was tried on board the ‘Faraday' with fair success.

He also contrived another instrument on an analogous principle, but for measuring horizontal attractions, which he called an Attraction meter.” It was so sensitive, that the fact of a person moving from one side of it to the other caused the indicator to move sensibly. It was also clearly influenced by the gravitation of the sun and moon in the heavens, the fluid in it being in fact subject to a perceptible daily tide.

The Sun.- One of the latest matters that occupied his mind was a speculation which, though of a highly scientific character, differed from his more usual subjects of thought in that it had no immediate practical bearing ; it was no less a matter than the cosmical functions of the sun, and the nature of the solar energy.

His researches into light and heat had led him to think deeply about their great source in the solar system, and after much careful study, and consultation with the most eminent physicists of his acquaintance, he ventured to submit to the Royal Society, on the 20th February 1882, a Paper ‘On the Conservation of the Solar Energy.' He had already, in a lecture on fuel, given before the British Association in 1873, made some profound remarks on the nature of combustion, and the utilization of different forms of energy, and had foreshadowed some ideas as to the sun; these had excited much attention, and he now carried them farther. He began by pointing out what an enormous amount of heat was continually being radiated away from the solar surface, and remarking that it had long been a source of wonder to natural philosophers how this could be given off, year after year, without any appreciable diminution of the sun’s temperature. Various theories had been offered in explanation, but these were all more or less open to objection ; and he put forward a new explanation which he conceived would be more satisfactory. This explanation was found in three postulates.

He assumed, in the first place, that gaseous matters, particularly. aqueous vapour and carbon compounds, were present in a highly attenuated state, in stellar and interplanetary space; an assumption for which he brought forward several ingenious arguments. He next conceived that these gases were capable of being dissociated by the radiant solar energy. And thirdly, he attributed a peculiar effect on these dissociated vapours to the mechanical action of the sun’s rotation. He likened this action to that of the well-known centrifugal blowing fan, which, revolving with great velocity, draws air in near its axis, and ejects it at its circumference. In this manner he argued that the effect of the solar rotation would be to draw in the dissociated vapours upon its polar surfaces, and so to subject them to intense combustion, after which they would be again ejected into space from the quickly revolving sun’s equator. This 'fan-like action,' as he called it, when combined with the chemical phenomena, he considered to offer a solution of the problem of the maintenance of energy. He considered in fact that the sun might be regarded as a gigantic specimen of one of his own regenerative gas furnaces, with however the unusual condition that the same materials of combustion were used over and over again. He carefully avoided the charge of having broached a ‘perpetual motion' impossibility, for he admitted there must be some loss of energy, without which indeed his assumed process could not go on ; but he opposed the idea of enormous waste, an idea that was as repulsive to him in the solar system as it had been in the manufacturing economy.

The new theory was of course warmly discussed, and the President of the Royal Society, alluding to it in his annual address, remarked : ‘Upon the questions therein raised the last word has been by no means said ; and whether the theory be ultimately established, or whether, like a Phoenix, it shall hereafter give rise to some other outcome from its own ashes, it will ever be remembered as having set many active minds at work, and will always have a place in the history of solar physics.'

Societies, Addresses, and Lectures.- It would be omitting a prominent element of Sir William Siemens’s life not to allude to his connection with the many scientific and technical societies and institutions to which he belonged. Although so much occupied in his business, with his mind so full of elevated thoughts, and his hands so busy with important affairs, he could always find time for attending to these. He took pleasure in belonging to almost any and every society that had aims connected with his work or his studies; he was proud of his membership with them, he willingly took office in them ; he never grudged the attention required for their concerns; he was a constant attendant at their meetings, and he aided them in every way in his power.

His connection with this Institution will be more particularly noticed hereafter. It may be added that he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1862 ; that he was President of the [[British Association]] at the Southampton meeting in 1882; that he was President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1872-3 and in 1853-4, of the Iron and Steel Institute in 1877, and of the Society of Telegraph Engineers in 1872, and again in 1878 ; and that he was Chairman of the Council of the Society of Arts at the time of his death. In addition to these he belonged to several other minor societies, and he was always ready, when called upon, to give aid by lectures or addresses to any Institution whose object he thought praiseworthy.

There was no lack of appreciation of his merits ; for, in addition to the many medals and prizes awarded to him by scientific societies, he received at various times many honourable and flattering marks of the important services he had rendered to the public welfare, and in April, 1883, he received the honour of knighthood from the queen.

The close of Sir William Siemens’s life, in the prime of his faculties, and in the midst of his labours, was very sudden and unexpected. Some of his most intimate friends had noticed, for a little time, that he had a look of fatigue which could not be accounted for by any worldly care or anxiety ; but there was no suspicion of any bodily disease sufficient to require medical advice, and there was no relaxation of his ordinary work.

On the afternoon of the 5th of November, 1883, he had been to a managers’ meeting of the Royal Institution, and was walking home with his friend Sir Frederick Bramwell, when, at the corner of Hamilton Place, in Piccadilly, he slipped at the curb-stone, and fell heavily on his side ; but though a good deal shaken, he noticed no serious hurt, and continued the walk to his house. He continued to attend business as usual, but in a few days he was attacked by a severe pain in the side ; worse symptoms afterwards set in, and on the evening of the 19th he passed quietly away.

A post-mortem examination showed that there had been a fatal disease of the heart of long-standing, its influence having been aggravated by a slight rupture due to the fall. He could not have lived long, and it was a matter of wonder. that the disease had not affected his general health at an earlier time.

The news of his death made a great sensation, and the Dean and Chapter of Westminster granted a public funeral service in Westminster Abbey, which was held on the 26th of November, the body being afterwards buried in the cemetery at Kensal Green. The event called forth, as might be expected, widespread manifestations of sympathy with his bereaved relatives, and of respect for his memory. Obituary notices, giving accounts of his life and works, appeared in journals and periodicals of all kinds, not only of a scientific, but also of a popular character.

The character of the man may be fairly inferred from the details given of his life and works. A few general remarks may he added here.

As a man of science his high position was admitted on all hands. Without any affectation of abstruse learning, he had a thorough knowledge, theoretically, of the natural sciences with which he occupied himself, and was thus able to deal with them in practice, not empirically or tentatively, but on a firm basis of sound logical reasoning, which guided him unerringly in their applications.

He was mathematician enough to work out the many difficult problems required in his work, and in physics and chemistry he was an acknowledged master.

As an engineer, it is enough to say that if the province of the engineer is 'the art of directing the great sources of power in nature for the use and convenience of man,' there have been very few men in the profession who could show a higher claim to the title. He was probably one of the most accomplished mechanics that ever lived; and when any important engineering task of unusual nature or magnitude was presented to him, such, for example, as the design of the 'Faraday,' his thorough knowledge of the principles of construction and the properties of materials, combined with his ready inventive power, made its accomplishment easy to him. It is impossible to read his mechanical essays, or his multifarious remarks, on all sorts of subjects, at the meetings of this Institution, without admiration of his remarkable ability in the profession he had attached himself to.

Of his character as an inventor much has already been said, but the inventions which have been described or alluded to in this memoir have necessarily only been those of the most salient kind, and of the greatest importance in their results; they form only a small portion of the immense inventive labour of his: life. He was one of the most prolific and versatile originators of novel combinations that the mechanical world has ever known, as may be judged of by the fact that there are no less than 113 British patents to which his name is attached. But even this list is far from being a complete register of his inventions, seeing that there were great numbers of minor novelties continually springing from his fertile brain, which either were merged in the processes of manufacture, or were described to the world without protection, or indeed may have had only an ephemeral object, and have been forgotten altogether.

His business position, combining with the legitimate profession of a civil engineer the occupations of a manufacturer and contractor on a very large scale, was somewhat abnormal but the way in which this came about has been already explained. He saw with great acuteness at an early period of his life that, in a line of practice comparatively new, and likely to have a very large extension, his devotion to manufacture would open a much wider and more lucrative field for his powers than mere designing, and in this view he was supported by his brothers. Again, at a later period, when engaged in the study and perfecting of his great heating and metallurgical inventions, he found it would be out of the question to attempt to get the necessary preliminary trials, on a large and expensive scale, carried out in the trade ; indeed, apart from the risk which deterred the manufacturers, he experienced a determined opposition by the uneducated and prejudiced workmen which alone would have crushed a less energetic and persevering man. He accordingly embarked, for the sake of these metallurgical inventions, in the actual extensive. manufactures they referred to. These undertakings were not free from the risks which he often attend large commercial speculations in a new field, and in some instances they caused much anxiety, and not a little pecuniary sacrifice, to himself and his friends. But his energy and perseverance carried him through all difficulties, and in his later years it may be said that everything he did was successful in all points of view. He had the discrimination to surround himself in his business transactions with able coadjutors and assistants, whose aid he was always glad to acknowledge. He had considerable literary power, and, although a foreigner born, he acquired a knowledge of English, and an ability of using it, which were very remarkable. He wrote a large number of Papers of great value, which will, probably, be republished in a collected form.

It now only remains to add a few words on Sir William Siemens's connexion with this Institution. It is curious that he did not join it early; he was not unaware OF the benefit to be derived from association with others of his profession ; but he was diffident of his o n qualifications, and he attached himself, in the first instance, to some other societies of easier admission. He was elected an Associate on the proposition of Mr. (afterwards Sir) Charles Fox, on the 4th of April, 1854, and was transferred to the full rank of Member on the 11th of December, 1860. He was at that time engaged in manufacture, and could only have been considered eligible on the ground of very distinguished merit in the power and practice of engineering design. He was elected a Member of Council in December 1871, and at the time of his death stood next in rank for nomination as one of the four Vice-Presidents.

In the year 1879 he made a munificent proposition, which he had already shadowed forth in his Address, a year or two previously, to the Iron and Steel Institute. He had noticed the growth of several other societies representing various special branches of civil engineering, and, indeed, in his position as the first President of one of them, he had encouraged their formation, and clearly justified their raison d'etre. It occurred to him that it would be a good thing to combine them together, and he offered to contribute the sum of £l0,000 to form the nucleus of a fund for providing a suitable building wherein they might be housed. Difficulties in the mode of carrying out the scheme prevented this offer being accepted, but it received the warmest acknowledgment, and the idea of the combination was considered so promising that it may very probably be taken up more effectively at a future time.

In March 1883, Dr. Siemens delivered one of a series of lectures given at the Institution on the 'Practical Applications of Electricity,' the subject he chose being 'The Electrical Transmission and Storage of Power.'

He was much attached to the Institution, and attended it whenever it was possible. He did not present many complete Papers to the Transactions, but he took great interest in all the proceedings, and very often joined in the discussions, as the published reports show. His great mechanical knowledge and critical acumen made him a high authority, and his remarks were notable for their clearness and pertinence, and were always well received.

He was indefatigable in the personal aid he gave to the business of the Council, and it is almost superfluous to say that he commanded the respect and esteem not only of his brother officers, but of all the members who had the good fortune to know him.

A short time before his death the Council had decided to award to him the Howard Quinquennial Prize for 1882, in consideration of his important discoveries and of the valuable improvements he had effected in the manufacture of iron and steel, and the acknowledgment of the award was one of the last acts of his life. The manner in which the prize should be given was determined by his widow, who expressed a wish to possess a bronze copy of the celebrated group of 'The Mourners,' by J. G. Lough, originally placed in the Great Exhibition of 1851, and now in the Crystal Palace. This was accordingly presented to Lady Siemens by the Council, as an appropriate symbol of her sad bereavement, and as a last affectionate tribute to the memory of their much-regretted colleague.


1884 Obituary [10]

Sir WILLIAM SIEMENS, D.C.L., LL.D., I.R.S., was born at Lenthe in Hanover on 4th April 1823.

He was educated at the Gymnasium at Lubeck, afterwards at the Polytechnic School at Magdeburg, and later at the University of Gottingen, where he studied in 1841 and 1842 under Wohler and Himly.

In 1842 he went for a short time to the engine works of Count Stolberg.

In March 1843 he first came over to England, to introduce a joint invention by himself and his elder brother Werner in electro-plating, which was taken up by Messrs. Elkington and Mason of Birmingham.

In 1844 he came over again with another invention, also worked out with his brother, namely the chronometric governor, which has been applied by the Astronomer Royal for regulating the motion of the great transit and touch-recording instrument at Greenwich Observatory, where it still continues to be employed. This invention brought him into contact with the engineering world, and fixed him permanently in England. The antistatic printing process, for reproducing old or new printed matter, was another early invention of his, which found favour with Faraday, and aided in obtaining for its author an entry into scientific circles.

Next year, in 1846, he invented a double-cylinder air-pump.

Tine first application of his regenerative system, for saving heat generally wasted, was made in 1817, when he constructed in the works of Mr. John Hick, Bolton, a 4 horse-power engine, having a condenser provided with regenerators, and using superheated steam. The direction in which he was then working led to the paper he presented to the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1853 on the conversion of beat into mechanical effect.

In 1858 he established the firm of Siemens Brothers, for the manufacture and laying of submarine telegraph cables and land lines, and for the construction of electrical instruments and machines.

About the same time he was engaged with his youngest brother Frederick in the invention of the regenerative gas furnace, of which the first practical application was made in 1861.

Experimental works were erected in 1866 at Birmingham, where the process of producing steel on the open hearth of a regenerative gas furnace was gradually matured; and in conjunction later with M. Martin, of Sireuil, France, the Siemens-Martin process was brought into practice. His electrical resistance thermometer and pyrometer, originating in observations made as early as 1860, connected his studies in metallurgy and in the science of heat with his electrical researches.

During many years past he took a highly prominent part in the application of electricity for lighting, for heating, for transmitting power, and for other important industrial purposes, notably for horticulture and agriculture. At his country residence near Tunbridge Wells, not only did electricity perform much of the actual farm-work, in sawing wood and pumping water, but it was also made to supply in part the place of the sun itself, in assisting the growth of plants, vegetables, and fruits.

Another subject that had most recently been engrossing very much of his thought was the conservation of solar energy; and in 1882 he laid before the Royal Society the remarkable theory which he had been led to adopt as the result of his investigations.

The papers he contributed to the many scientific societies of which ho was a member are very numerous. To this Institution alone ho communicated no less than thirteen, of which the subjects and dates are as follows:— Regenerative Condenser, 1851; Expansion of Isolated Steam, and Total Heat of Steam, 1852; Pendulum Chronometric Governor, 1853; Screw and Spiral Water-Meters, 1854 and 1856; Regenerative Furnace, 1857; Covering Telegraph Wires with India-rubber, 1860; Regenerative Gas Furnace, 1862; Liquid Chronometric Governor, 1866; Le Chatelier's Counterpressure Steam Brake, 1869; Steam-Jet for Exhausting Air, 1872; Presidential Address, 1872; High-Pressure Vessels, 1878.

He became a Member of the Institution in 1851, whilst residing at Birmingham, prior to settling in London; and was a Member of Council from 1857, a Vice-President from 1868, and President in 1872 and 1873.

His linguistic attainments were very remarkable; accent apart, he spoke purer and more correct English, and with far greater facility of expression, than most Englishmen by birth.

His death took place on 19th November 1883, at the age of sixty, after a short illness consequent upon a full in walking.

He was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery on 26th November, after a funeral service in Westminster Abbey. An address of condolence from the President and Council (see ante, p. 8) was presented to Lady Siemens on behalf of the Institution.


1883 Obituary [11]

CHARLES WILLIAM SIEMENS was born at Leuthe, near Hanover, on the 4th April 1823, and died at his residence, Palace Houses, South Kensington, on the 9th November 1883. In his death the Iron and Steel Institute has lost one of its founders and most active and influential friends, while the metallurgical industry has to deplore the removal of one whose name will be for ever associated with the record of its progress and development as few other names have been.

Educated first at Lubeck, afterwards at a leading school in Magdeburg, and finally at the university of Gottingen - where he studied in 1841 and 1842, and had the advantage of attending the lectures of Wohler and Himl - C. W. Siemens, at the age of nineteen, commenced his business career at the well-known engine works of Count Stolberg. While he was employed there, his brother, Dr. Werner Siemens, invented a new process of electro-gilding, and Carl undertook to come to England for the purpose of introducing his brother's process, which, through Mr. Elkington and Sir Josiah Mason of Birmingham, he was enabled to do successfully. In the following year Siemens returned to England to introduce the chronometric governor, which he had worked out with his brother, and the scope that then seemed to be presented for his future determined him to take up his residence permanently in England, where he continued subsequently to reside. Among the discoveries of the immediately succeeding years of his life were the anastatic printing process, which Faraday made the subject of a Friday evening lecture at the Royal Institution, and which thereby, as he has himself acknowledged, "obtained for him an entry into scientific circles;" his water-meter, which has been largely used; and his double-cylinder air-pump.

About 1846 Siemens had his attention called to the dynamical theory of heat, which was then being accepted by scientific men. His study of this theory led to his conception of the advantages to be obtained by the use of a regenerator or heat accumulator, which, when applied to steam engines, was found to yield a considerable economy of fuel.. This subject continued to occupy the attention of Siemens for several years, and in 1861 his regenerative gas furnace, now so well known, had attained such success that he proposed its application to the manufacture of steel on the open hearth. Such an application was, however, attended at the outset with a good deal of difficulty, and the first furnace of the kind actually put to work came so entirely to grief, in consequence of the silica roof being burned down, that Messrs. Boigues, Rambourg, et Cie, of the Montlucon Works in France, who had undertaken the initial experiments in question, resolved to have nothing more to do with it. Siemens, therefore, established sample steelworks of his own at Birmingham, where he gave his own personal attention for many months " to the fusion and production of steel, both in crucibles and upon the open-hearth, with the entire or partial employment of ores and scrap metal."

In 1866 the Tharsis Copper Company constructed a regenerative furnace designed by Siemens at the works of Messrs. Rowan & Co., Glasgow, with a view to utilising the residue from their treatment of pyrites; and in July 1867 the Barrow Hematite Steel Company, which had largely adopted the Siemens furnace for the reheating of Bessemer steel, made a trial of the same furnace for the manufacture of steel on the open-hearth. In October 1866 the Bolton Steel Company erected, to the designs of C. W. Siemens, a puddling furnace so arranged that it could easily be converted into an experimental steel-melting furnace, and for some time it was actually used for the latter purpose; but the results were not such as to lead the company to continue its employment for steel-making.

From 1863, therefore, until 1867, the efforts of Siemens to establish that process of steel manufacture with which his name was ever afterwards to be identified were a series of discouraging struggles and more or less disastrous failures. He was not content, however, to accept these results as final. On the contrary, he had seen enough of the possibilities within reach to be more firm than ever in his purpose; and accordingly he set to work to convince both steel-makers and steel-users, by the results obtained under his own direction at his Birmingham works, that his process was not without its merits and advantages. He made steel at Isis Birmingham works for the London and North-Western Railway Company, the Great Western Railway Company, and the Bolton Steel Company—in each case from materials supplied by themselves. The usual difficulties attending the expulsion of sulphur and phosphorus suggested to Siemens the use of a rich spiegeleisen and ferro-manganese, which was employed in his experiments probably for the first time..

As a result of the success that attended the production of open-hearth steel at the Birmingham sample steel works, Mr. Ramsbottom was induced to erect a regenerative furnace for the production of that metal at the Crewe works of the London and North-Western Railway Company. In the same year, the Landore Siemens Steel Company was formed under the chairmanship of Mr. Dillwyn, M.P.; and the Bolton Steel Company, the Dowlais Company, and other firms followed, until in 1873 the total quantity of open-hearth steel produced in the United Kingdom was 77,500 tons. During the next two years this figure was not much improved upon; but in 1876 the production of such steel had advanced to 128,000 tons; in 1878 to 174,000 tons; in 1880 to 251,000 tons; and in 1882 to 436,000 tons. At the end of the latter year 354 open-hearth steel-making furnaces had been erected throughout the world, equal to an annual production of 1,442,000 tons of steel.t The open-hearth process, as is well known, is carried on in two different ways, giving rise to the names of the Siemens and the Siemens-Martin processes respectively. The former, which is the invention of Dr. Siemens alone, consists in the production of steel by the use of pig metal and iron ores, either in the raw state, or in a more or less reduced condition. The latter, or Siemens-Martin process effects the production of steel by the dissolution of wrought iron and steel scrap in a bath of pig metal. (Both processes are carried on in the same furnace, which is the sole invention of Siemens and his brother Frederick, although it is often incorrectly described as a Siemens-Martin or Martin furnace)

In 1869 Siemens erected, at the Landore works, a rotatory furnace designed to produce iron and steel by direct process. This furnace Consisted of a long cylindrical tube of iron, of about 8 ft. diameter, mounted upon anti-friction rollers, its back lining being provided with longitudinal passages for heating currents of air and gas, prior to their combustion at the extremity of the rotating chamber. The flame produced passed thence to the opposite or chimney end, where a mixture of crushed ore and carbonaceous material was introduced, and this mixture, by the slow rotation of the furnace, was continually advanced to the hotter end of the chamber, and gradually reduced to spongy iron, which dropped through a passage constructed of refractory material on to the bed of a steel-melting furnace, where a bath of fluid pig metal was provided. It was found that the spongy iron made in this way absorbed sulphur from the heating gases, and was thus rendered unfit for the production of steel, besides which it floated upon the metallic bath of the steel-melting furnace without being readily absorbed into it, and was thus in great part re-oxidized and converted into slag by the action of the flame in the furnace. Siemens, therefore, designed another furnace, intended to reduce the iron by precipitation at an intense heat, which consisted of a reverberatory gas furnace, having two beds formed by the ore itself, and by letting the fused ore formed in the upper bed run down into the lower bed, where it was precipitated by some dense carbonaceous material, such as anthracite or hard coke, and stirring with a rabble, it was transformed into a pasty mass, and afterwards, in 40 or 50 minutes, into a metallic ball in a bath of fluid cinder. This process, however, was also unsatisfactory, and was also abandoned.

In 1870-71 Siemens again reverted to the rotating furnace, satisfied that, if iron and steel were to be produced by direct process, that process must be a self-acting or mechanical one. He therefore devised another form of rotating furnace, the arrangement and working of which he has himself so fully described that it is not necessary to do more here than state that three of them were erected at Towcester, in Northamptonshire, and tested there over several years. Generally speaking, it may be said that the process was not commercially satisfactory, and the Towcester works were given up by Siemens in 1878, although they were subsequently carried on for the manufacture of spongy iron for filtering purposes. Up to the last day of his life, however, Siemens cherished the hope that this process, in a modified form, would come into successful use, and he continued to pursue experiments with that end in view.

The application of Siemens's regenerative gas furnace to the manufacture of crucible steel marks another epoch in the development of that industry, and one to the furtherance of which its author gave much attention. Until that furnace had taken its place among practical steel-making appliances, nearly three tons of coke were required to make a ton of crucible steel; but the regenerative furnaces, as used at the works of Vickers, Sons, & Company, Sheffield, enable the same result to be obtained with an expenditure of only 1 tons of coal, "while there is also a saving of 9s. per ton of steel melted in the repairs required by the furnace, the aggregate economy, after allowing for a royalty of 5s., being not less than 35s. 6d. per ton of steel produced."

An examination of the "Proceedings" of the various learned and technical societies with which Siemens was connected—and he may be said to have been at home in them all — shows that great as have been his services to the steel industry, and arduous and sustained as were his efforts for its development, he was scarcely less at home in other departments of metallurgy and engineering. The blast furnaces built at the Landers Steelworks were constructed to his own designs, and his remarks on the development of heat T and the economy of fuel in blast furnaces, t and his paper on pyrometers, with special reference to one of his own design,§ indicate in a very high degree his thorough knowledge of the design and working of that appliance. Nor was he less familiar with all the conditions attending the manufacture of wrought iron, respecting which he frequently spoke at the meetings of the Instituted! Among other metallurgical devices that owe their origin to the inventive mind of Siemens, his application of electricity to the melting of steel should not be forgotten. His electric furnace, although it has not as yet, and possibly never may become a practical appliance, is yet of much interest, as showing one of the many possible developments of that mysterious power in connection with which Siemens acquired such exceptional influence and distinction.

An original member of the Iron and Steel Institute, Siemens became a member of the Council in 1871, and was elected its president in 1876. Although he has enriched "The Proceedings" of the Institute with many records of the ripe fruits of his experience in the course of the discussions that have taken place on other papers, he was not a voluminous author himself. His papers read before the Iron and Steel Institute number three in all—the first on " Pyrometers;" the second on " The Manufacture of Iron and Steel by Direct Process; ".1and the third entitled " Further Remarks on the Manufacture of Iron and. Steel by Direct Process." One of his most cherished projects while occupying the presidential chair of the Institute was that of seeing a House established in the metropolis for the accommodation of the various institutions representing applied science; and his last act in leaving the chair was to offer a contribution of £10,000 towards the realisation of that scheme. This offer led to the formation of a committee, composed of the presidents and secretaries, respectively, of the various societies interested, by whom, in conjunction with the deceased, the scheme was fully considered; but the obstacles that were found to he in the way of its accomplishment were such as to retard the fulfilment of his wishes up to the time of his death.

Space will only permit of dealing very briefly with the rest of his career. In 1861 Siemens described a thermometer, the action of which depended on the resistance of metallic conductors under increase of temperature. In February 1867 he presented a paper to the Royal Society, containing his researches, based on a theoretical conception of his brother, Dr. Werner Siemens, on the conversion of dynamical into electric force without the aid of permanent magnetism. In 1870, he gave evidence before the Committee appointed to inquire into the extent and duration of our coal supplies, and stated many important facts bearing on the subject of the economy of fuel. In 1871 he delivered the Bakerian lecture before the Royal Society. In 1874 he described to the Royal Society an instrument designed by himself for measuring the depth of the sea without a sounding line. In 1876 he presided over the mechanical section of the conference held in connection with the Special Loan Collection of Scientific Apparatus at South Kensington, and delivered a very interesting address, in the course of which he described an apparatus, designed by his brother Werner and himself, by which a stream, composed of alcohol and water, mixed in any proportion, is measured in such a manner that one train of counter wheels records the volume of the mixed liquid, while the second counter gives a true record of the amount of absolute alcohol contained in it. In 1881 he described before the Society of Telegraph Engineers and Electricians the results of his investigations into the influence of the electric light on the growth of plants, showing that that light was decidedly conducive to the increase of chlorophyll in the leaves, and that plants, unlike animals, require no period of rest, but make increased and vigorous progress when submitted by day to sunlight, and by night to electric light. He was also the author of many papers and addresses read before the Institution of Civil Engineers, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, the Institution of Naval Architects, the Society of Arts, and the Royal United Service Institution, bearing more or less on mechanical and metallurgical subjects.

Sir William Siemens filled many positions of distinction, both public and private, and was the recipient of many honours. In addition to the Bessemer Gold Medal of the Iron and Steel Institute, presented to him in 1876, he was the recipient in 1874 of the Albert Gold Medal of the Society of Arts, which also, as early as 1850, awarded him a gold medal for his regenerative condenser. In 1853 he received from the Institution of Civil Engineers a Telford Medal for his paper "On the Conversion of Heat into Mechanical Effect," and only a short time before his death the same Institution conferred on him the Howard Quinquennial Prize. He was also the recipient of prize medals at the Exhibitions of 1851, 1862, and 1867 (Paris). Few men have filled within so short a time so many presidential chairs. He was president of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (1872), of the Society of Telegraph Engineers and Electricians (1875), and of the British Association (1882), while in the latter year he was also elected to preside over the Council of the Society of Arts; and in 1881 he was elected a vice-president of the newly-formed Society for the Promotion of Chemical Industry. He was, besides, in 1862 made a Fellow, and in 1869 a Member of Council of the Royal, Society. He was a D.C.L. of Oxford and an LL.D. of Glasgow Universities, and finally, in March of 1883, he received from Her Majesty the honour of knighthood. The death of Sir William Siemens, due to unsuspected heart-disease, sent a shock throughout the scientific world such as it has seldom felt— much the more so that only a few days before he was fulfilling his multifarious duties with as much energy and capacity as usual, and seemed to have many years of unimpaired usefulness still before him.

A proposal was made that he should be interred in Westminster Abbey, but the exceedingly restricted space now at his disposal did not allow of this proposal being accepted by the Dean, who, however, readily consented that the Abbey should be the scene of the funeral service. His body was afterwards conveyed to its last resting-place in Kensal Green Cemetery.

Of the life's work of our distinguished colleague very much might be said that must here remain unsaid; but that work has been very suitably and eloquently summarised by Professor Huxley, when, in addressing the Royal Society on the last day of November, he spoke of Sir William Siemens as " a marked example of vast energy, large scientific acquirements, and intellectual power of a high order," and as one " who had no superior in fertility and ingenuity of invention, while hardly any living man so thoroughly combined an extensive knowledge of scientific principles with the power of applying them in a commercially successful manner. The value of his numerous inventions must be measured, not merely by the extent to which they have increased the wealth and convenience of mankind, but by the favourable reaction on the progress of pure science which they, like all such inventions, have exerted, and will continually exert."


1883 Obituary [12]



Notes

After his death a series of articles were published in The Engineer entitled William Siemens as a Metallurgist.

See Also

Loading...

Sources of Information

  1. The Times, 27 October 1888
  2. 1851 Institution of Mechanical Engineers: New Members
  3. History of Iron and Steel in Scotland: [1]
  4. History of Iron and Steel in Scotland: [2]
  5. History of Iron and Steel in Scotland: [3]
  6. The Engineer 1869/01/08
  7. The Engineer 1901/04/26 p425
  8. The Engineer 1901 Jan-Jun: Index: Miscellaneous
  9. 1884 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries
  10. 1884 Institution of Mechanical Engineers: Obituaries
  11. 1883 Iron and Steel Institute: Obituaries
  12. The Engineer 1883/11/23