Davidson, Robert

[br]
b. 18 April 1804 Aberdeen, Scotland
d. 16 November 1894 Aberdeen, Scotland
[br]
Scottish chemist, pioneer of electric power and builder of the first electric railway locomotives.
[br]
Davidson, son of an Aberdeen merchant, attended Marischal College, Aberdeen, between 1819 and 1822: his studies included mathematics, mechanics and chemistry. He subsequently joined his father's grocery business, which from time to time received enquiries for yeast: to meet these, Davidson began to manufacture yeast for sale and from that start built up a successful chemical manufacturing business with the emphasis on yeast and dyes. About 1837 he started to experiment first with electric batteries and then with motors. He invented a form of electromagnetic engine in which soft iron bars arranged on the periphery of a wooden cylinder, parallel to its axis, around which the cylinder could rotate, were attracted by fixed electromagnets. These were energized in turn by current controlled by a simple commutaring device. Electric current was produced by his batteries. His activities were brought to the attention of Michael Faraday and to the scientific world in general by a letter from Professor Forbes of King's College, Aberdeen. Davidson declined to patent his inventions, believing that all should be able freely to draw advantage from them, and in order to afford an opportunity for all interested parties to inspect them an exhibition was held at 36 Union Street, Aberdeen, in October 1840 to demonstrate his "apparatus actuated by electro-magnetic power". It included: a model locomotive carriage, large enough to carry two people, that ran on a railway; a turning lathe with tools for visitors to use; and a small printing machine. In the spring of 1842 he put on a similar exhibition in Edinburgh, this time including a sawmill. Davidson sought support from railway companies for further experiments and the construction of an electromagnetic locomotive; the Edinburgh exhibition successfully attracted the attention of the proprietors of the Edinburgh 585\& Glasgow Railway (E \& GR), whose line had been opened in February 1842. Davidson built a full-size locomotive incorporating his principle, apparently at the expense of the railway company. The locomotive weighed 7 tons: each of its two axles carried a cylinder upon which were fastened three iron bars, and four electromagnets were arranged in pairs on each side of the cylinders. The motors he used were reluctance motors, the power source being zinc-iron batteries. It was named Galvani and was demonstrated on the E \& GR that autumn, when it achieved a speed of 4 mph (6.4 km/h) while hauling a load of 6 tons over a distance of 1 1/2 miles (2.4 km); it was the first electric locomotive. Nevertheless, further support from the railway company was not forthcoming, although to some railway workers the locomotive seems to have appeared promising enough: they destroyed it in Luddite reaction. Davidson staged a further exhibition in London in 1843 without result and then, the cost of battery chemicals being high, ceased further experiments of this type. He survived long enough to see the electric railway become truly practicable in the 1880s.
[br]
Bibliography
1840, letter, Mechanics Magazine, 33:53–5 (comparing his machine with that of William Hannis Taylor (2 November 1839, British patent no. 8,255)).
Further Reading
1891, Electrical World, 17:454.
J.H.R.Body, 1935, "A note on electro-magnetic engines", Transactions of the Newcomen Society 14:104 (describes Davidson's locomotive).
F.J.G.Haut, 1956, "The early history of the electric locomotive", Transactions of the Newcomen Society 27 (describes Davidson's locomotive).
A.F.Anderson, 1974, "Unusual electric machines", Electronics \& Power 14 (November) (biographical information).
—1975, "Robert Davidson. Father of the electric locomotive", Proceedings of the Meeting on the History of Electrical Engineering Institution of Electrical Engineers, 8/1–8/17 (the most comprehensive account of Davidson's work).
A.C.Davidson, 1976, "Ingenious Aberdonian", Scots Magazine (January) (details of his life).
PJGR / GW

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Robert H. M. Davidson — Robert Hamilton McWhorta Davidson (* 23. September 1832 bei Quincy, Gadsden County, Florida; † 18. Januar 1908 ebenda) war ein US amerikanischer Politiker. Zwischen 1879 und 1891 vertrat er den Bundesstaat Florida im US… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Robert Davidson — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Davidson. Robert Davidson est un footballeur écossais né le 25 mars 1986 à Rutherglen. Carrière 2004 05 : Glasgow Rangers  Écosse …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Robert Greig Davidson —  Pour l’article homonyme, voir Davidson.  Robert Grieg Davidson (21 juillet 1875 3 août 1948) fut un agriculteur et homme politique fédéral du Québec. Né à Sherbrooke en Estrie, M. Davidson effectua ses études à Sherbrooke et au Collège …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Robert Davidson (disambiguation) — Robert Davidson (1804 1894) was a Scottish inventor who built the first known electric locomotive in 1837.Robert Davidson may also refer to: *Robert Davidson (artist) (born 1946), Alaska born Canadian artist *Robert Davidson (footballer) (born… …   Wikipedia

  • Davidson College — Motto Alenda Lux Ubi Orta Libertas (Latin) Motto in English Let Learning Be Cherished Where Liberty Has Arisen Established 1837 …   Wikipedia

  • Robert Davidson (artist) — Robert Charles Davidson, C.M., O.B.C., D.F.A. (Hon) (born 4 November 1946 in Hydaburg, Alaska), is a Canadian artist of Haida heritage. His specialties are in carving (such as totem poles and masks), sculpture and painting.His parents are Claude… …   Wikipedia

  • Robert Morey — (born 1946) is a Christian apologist and pastor who has written a number of books and pamphlets. He strongly criticizes Islam, Wicca, and non Evangelical Christian beliefs. He is the founder, executive officer, and primary faculty member of the… …   Wikipedia

  • Robert Davidson — (* 1804 in Aberdeen; † 1894 ebenda) war ein schottischer Erfinder, der 1837 die erste bekannte elektrische Lokomotive baute. Sein Leben verbrachte er im Nordosten Schottland, wo er als wohlhabender Chemiker und Färber, nebst anderen… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Robert Davidson — (1804 1894) was a Scottish inventor who built the first known electric locomotive in 1837.Born and died in Aberdeen, northeast Scotland, where he was a prosperous chemist and dyer, amongst other ventures. Davidson was educated at Marischal… …   Wikipedia

  • Davidson (Familienname) — Davidson ist ein Familienname. Bekannte Namensträger Inhaltsverzeichnis A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z …   Deutsch Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.