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British Industrial History

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Theodor Petersen

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Theodor Petersen (1868 -1934)

1934 Obituary.[1]

THEODOR PETERSEN was born at Birmingham in 1868, his father being the Danish Consul and one of the leading merchants of that city. He never lost touch with Birmingham and its people, retaining to the last a deep affection for both. Educated at Clifton and at Zurich Polytechnic, he served his apprenticeship with Messrs. Marshall, Sons and Co., of Gainsborough, subsequently joining the staff of the Brush Co. He married the daughter of the late Mr. James Marshall, the head of the Gainsborough firm, and began his business career by cultivating the interests of that company in Denmark, his knowledge of the language and of the ways of the people being of great help. Desirous of settling in England he got into touch with the Callender Co., joining them in 1894 as assistant to Mr. T. O. Callender (now Sir Thomas Callender). The company's business was at that time small in extent, but was developing rapidly, and Petersen and Sir Thomas worked together to further that development during the whole of their 40 years' association. No two men could have kept in closer touch. They occupied adjoining rooms. All matters of importance were discussed between them before being acted upon or placed before the Board. Their association was of the closest and most friendly nature, and any differences of opinion that arose were freely discussed and reconciled with never a shadow of ill feeling.

Shortly after he joined the company it was decided to extend their operations to the Continent, and his thorough knowledge of German and Danish assisted materially in the development of the firm's interests in Germany and elsewhere. As a result of visits to various parts of the Continent, offices were opened in Dusseldorf and, later, in Hamburg. Together Sir Thomas and Petersen were able to build up the closest possible association with the leaders of the electrical industry in Germany, an association which has continued to the present day and which has contributed so largely to bringing about that mutual understanding which has been so beneficial to the industry of both countries. This happy result was due in no small measure to Petersen's knowledge of the language and his experience of, and sympathy with, the people on both sides of the North Sea. It was not only Petersen's international work that served us all in such good stead, but his equally successful negotiations in this country, aided by the affection and esteem in which he was universally held.

In 1930 he was appointed assistant managing director of the company. During the last two or three years he was in indifferent health. A voyage to the East in the early part of this year in search of a change and sunshine had to be broken in Egypt. The benefit obtained was disappointing and the end came on the 2nd November, 1934, with unexpected suddenness. To those of us who knew him and who relied so much upon his kindly advice, knowledge, and experience, his loss is irreparable, whilst the large circle of friends from all parts of Great Britain, as well as from the Continent, who went to his funeral at Esher to pay their last respects was a telling testimony to his sterling character and worth.

He was elected an Associate of the Institution in 1891, and a Member in 1905.

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