Ayrton, William Edward

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b. 14 September 1847 London, England
d. 8 November 1908 London, England
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English physicist, inventor and pioneer in technical education.
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After graduating from University College, London, Ayrton became for a short time a pupil of Sir William Thomson in Glasgow. For five years he was employed in the Indian Telegraph Service, eventually as Superintendent, where he assisted in revolutionizing the system, devising methods of fault detection and elimination. In 1873 he was invited by the Japanese Government to assist as Professor of Physics and Telegraphy in founding the Imperial College of Engineering in Tokyo. There he created a teaching laboratory that served as a model for those he was later to organize in England and which were copied elsewhere. It was in Tokyo that his joint researches with Professor John Perry began, an association that continued after their return to England. In 1879 he became Professor of Technical Physics at the City and Guilds Institute in Finsbury, London, and later was appointed Professor of Physics at the Central Institution in South Kensington.
The inventions of Avrton and Perrv included an electric tricycle in 1882, the first practicable portable ammeter and other electrical measuring instruments. By 1890, when the research partnership ended, they had published nearly seventy papers in their joint names, the emphasis being on a mathematical treatment of subjects including electric motor design, construction of electrical measuring instruments, thermodynamics and the economical use of electric conductors. Ayrton was then employed as a consulting engineer by government departments and acted as an expert witness in many important patent cases.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
FRS 1881. President, Physical Society 1890–2. President, Institution of Electrical Engineers 1892. Royal Society Royal Medal 1901.
Bibliography
28 April 1883, British patent no. 2,156 (Ayrton and Perry's ammeter and voltmeter). 1887, Practical Electricity, London (based on his early laboratory courses; 7 edns followed during his lifetime).
1892, "Electrotechnics", Journal of the Institution of Electrical Engineers 21, 5–36 (for a survey of technical education).
Further Reading
D.W.Jordan, 1985, "The cry for useless knowledge: education for a new Victorian technology", Proceedings of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, 132 (Part A): 587– 601.
G.Gooday, 1991, History of Technology, 13: 73–111 (for an account of Ayrton and the teaching laboratory).
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Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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