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BRIGHT, Sir Charles Tilston (1832-1888)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0108 SC MSS 020
Held at: Institution of Engineering and Technology
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Full title: BRIGHT, Sir Charles Tilston (1832-1888)
Date(s): 1863-1870
Level of description: Collection (Fonds)
Extent: 1 volume and 1 packet
Name of creator(s): Bright | Sir | Charles Tilston | Knight | Telegraph engineer


Administrative/Biographical history:

Born 1832; educated at Merchant Taylor's School 1840-1847. Unable to attend university due to his father's small income, he joined the Electric Telegraph Company 1847, founded by Sir William Fothergill Cooke 1845; was in charge of the Birmingham telegraph station by 1851. He joined the Magnetic Telegraph Company (an amalgamation), in 1852, of which his brother became the manager. For this company he laid many telegraph lines between and within London, Manchester, Liverpool, and other cities, showing much initiative in organizing the mechanical work that was needed; also laid a six-wire cable between Port Patrick, Scotland, and Donaghadee, Ireland. This was only the third sea cable laid, and the first in deep water. With Cyrus Field and John Brett he founded the Atlantic Telegraph Company in 1856 which aimed to lay a telegraph cable between Ireland and Newfoundland; this was finally achieved 5 August 1858 and Bright was knighted a month later. However, this cable failed shortly afterwards, and Bright turned his attention to improving the insulation of submarine cables. Resigned from the Magnetic Telegraph Company 1860; founded an independent consultancy with Josiah Latimer Clark, with whom he invented a bituminous cable insulation. Laid a telegraph cable to India 1862; made a further attempt to lay a transatlantic cable using Brunel's steamship Great Eastern 1865. The cable broke during laying, but a second attempt was successful 1866 and cable was retrieved and repaired 1865. Bright laid other cables in the Mediterranean and the West Indies, and with his brother invented a system of neighbourhood fire alarms and an automatic fire alarm system. Bright was an important figure in the movement for electrical standards. Liberal MP for Greenwich 1865-1868; President of the IEE 1886-1887; assisted with the preparations for the Paris Exhibition of 1881. Died 1888.


Scope and content/abstract:

Correspondence, comprising a private letter book 1863-1867, and correspondence and reports relating to the laying of the West Indies cable 1869-1870. The private letter book contains bound letters refering to cable laying in India, the West Indies and Brazil, resistance testing to find faults on cables in a long letter to Fleeming Jenkin, mining companies with which Bright was involved, the Steam Engine Improvement Company and the Railway Lubricating Company. The volume contains many blank pages and some pages have been cut out. Some letters are illegible because of the very faint copy, and there appears to be a double impression on some pages suggesting that a second letter may have been copied onto the same page. The loose correspondence relates to the setting up of the West India and Panama Telegraph Company and includes reports and correspondence concerning the laying of the cable. Some of the papers were used in a court case in 1872 between the West India and Panama Telegraph Company and the India Rubber Company for failing in their contractual obligations.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

The collection is arranged into two series of correspondence, the first consisting of bound papers within a volume, and the second consisting of loose papers arranged into chronological order.

Conditions governing access:


Conditions governing reproduction:

Refer to IET Archivist

Finding aids:

Online item level catalogue

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Deposited at IEE Archives in May 1971 by Cable and Wireless Ltd.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Sources used: National Register of Archives; Oxford Dictionary of National Biography online.

Rules or conventions:
NCA rules for construction of personal, place and corporate names (1997) and ISAD (G), second edition.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Created 12/03/1999. Modified 21/03/2001.

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