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Edmund Edward Fournier D'Albe

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Dr. Edmund Edward Fournier D'Albe (c1868-1933), Vice-President of the Radio Association

1914 Inventor of the Optophone enabling blind people to read letterpress.

1933 Obituary[1]


Dr. Edmund Edward Fournier-d’Albe, whose death occurred at St. Albans on Friday, July 7, at the age of 65, will probably be best known for his invention of the Optophone, an instrument which was designed to enable blind persons to “ read ” ordinary print. By means of a light-sensitive element this instrument transposes the letters into sounds, which are easily learned by a blind person.

Fournier d’Albe was born in London, but received the greater part of his early education abroad at Dusseldorf, Bonn, and in Paris. On returning to this country he worked for some time with Messrs. Willans and Robinson, and then obtained a studentship at the Royal College of Science. At the end of a four years’ course, he qualified for the Associateship in Physics of that Institution, as well as gaining a bachelorship of science at London University. In 1893 he was appointed assistant in the Physical Laboratories of the Royal College of Science and Trinity College, Dublin, and became intimately associated with the Irish industrial and literary movement. He also, for some years, contributed a weekly feature to The Electrician, under the heading of Contemporary Electrical Science. In 1910 he became assistant lecturer in Physics at Birmingham University, while in 1915 and 1916 he held a similar position at the Punjab University, Lahore.

It was in 1912 that Fournier d’Albe begun his work on the Optophone, to which reference has already been made, but although its design was ingenious and its possibilities great, its commercial development was greatly restricted by its high cost. He therefore bent all his efforts to cheapen it without, however, any great success. He also invented a system of wireless telewriting and telephotography, based upon acoustic resonance. He was a Doctor of Science of London and Birmingham Universities, a Fellow of the Institute of Physics, and a vice-president of the Radio Association. His publications included books on the Electron Theory; The Wonders of Physical Science; and a Life of Sir William Crookes, as well as numerous contributions to the Proceedings of the Royal Society, the Physikalische Zeitschrift, and other journals."

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