Holmes, Frederic Hale

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fl. 1850s–60s
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British engineer who pioneered the electrical illumination of lighthouses in Great Britain.
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An important application of the magneto generator was demonstrated by Holmes in 1853 when he showed that it might be used to supply an arc lamp. This had many implications for the future because it presented the possibility of making electric lighting economically successful. In 1856 he patented a machine with six disc armatures on a common axis rotating between seven banks of permanent magnets. The following year Holmes suggested the possible application of his invention to lighthouse illumination and a trial was arranged and observed by Faraday, who was at that time scientific adviser to Trinity House, the corporation entrusted with the care of light-houses in England and Wales. Although the trial was successful and gained the approval of Faraday, the Elder Brethren of Trinity House imposed strict conditions on Holmes's design for machines to be used for a more extensive trial. These included connecting the machine directly to a slow-speed steam engine, but this resulted in a reduced performance. The experiments of Holmes and Faraday were brought to the attention of the French lighthouse authorities and magneto generators manufactured by Société Alliance began to be installed in some lighthouses along the coast of France. After noticing the French commutatorless machines, Holmes produced an alternator of similar type in 1867. Two of these were constructed for a new lighthouse at Souter Point near Newcastle and two were installed in each of the two lighthouses at South Foreland. One of the machines from South Foreland that was in service from 1872 to 1922 is preserved in the Royal Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh. A Holmes generator is also preserved in the Science Museum, London. Holmes obtained a series of patents for generators between 1856 and 1869, with all but the last being of the magneto-electric type.
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Bibliography
7 March 1856, British patent no. 573 (the original patent for Holmes's invention).
1863, "On magneto electricity and its application to lighthouse purposes", Journal of the Society of Arts 12:39–43.
Further Reading
W.J.King, 1962, in The Development of Electrical Technology in the 19th Century; Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, Paper 30, pp. 351–63 (provides a detailed account of Holmes's generators).
J.N.Douglas, 1879, "The electric light applied to lighthouse illumination", Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers 57(3):77–110 (describes trials of Holmes's machines).
GW

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

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