Posted By Robert. Stephenson



Journal of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, Vol XXVIII, 1899

JOSIAH LATIMER CLARK, F.R.S., M. INST. C.E.—Tbe name of Latimer Clark is identified with the evolution of electric telegraphy by land and sea. This Institution will, however, always associate him primarily with the formation of its predecessor, the Society of Telegraph Engineers, of which, in 1875, he became the fourth president.

Born at Great Marlow on March 10, 1822, he was a younger brother to the late Mr. Edwin Clark, whom he at one time assisted in his civil engineering practice. Latimer Clark studied chemistry at an early age, and his first connection with technical work was in the chemical manufacturing industry in a large Dublin establishment.

Soon, however, he became impressed with the activity in the railway construction of the “forties,” which resulted in his joining, with many other young engineers, the great army of railway suryeyors. Latimer Clark assisted his brother Edwin—the Resident Superintending Engineer under Robert Stephenson—in the construction and erection of the Britannia Tubular Bridge across the Menai Straits. His work here covered three years—1848 to 1850. Here it was that Latimer Clark was, in conjunction with his brother, in the habit of firing a time gun by electricity every evening at eight o’clock. This attracted the attention of the chairman of the then newly-formed Electric Telegraph Company (the late Mr. John Lewis Ricardo, M.P.), who soon afterwards, in 1850, invited him, as well as his brother Edwin, to join the staff; the result being that Edwin Clark became their chief engineer, and Latimer assistant engineer. This was Latimer Clark’s introduction to the subject of electric telegraphy—then in its infancy. In his new position he superintended the construction of much of the telegraphic system of this country, and three years later, on the retirement of his brother, became engineer-in-chief, which position he held for seven years—i.e., till 1861—when, on his private professional practice promising to become considerable, he became consulting engineer to the company, remaining so till the Government took over the telegraphs of the United Kingdom in 1870.


Latimer Clark at the time of the Persian Gulf cable.
From Merveilles de la Science


The personality of Latimer Clark was, perhaps, mainly characterised by the wonderful rapidity with which he accurately grasped the salient points of a problem. He seldom made a technical error in engineering or electrical work; moreover, he was, on the whole, fortunate professionally. He had the advantage of considerable foresight and a good knowledge of the world, aided by a large share of common sense.


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