William Edward Ayrton
William Edward Ayrton
|Born||14 September 1847|
|Died||8 November 1908 (aged 61)|
|Awards||Fellow of the Royal Society|
Royal Medal (1901)
|Fields||physics, electrical engineering|
|Academic advisors||The Lord Kelvin|
In 1868, Ayrton went to Bengal in the service of the Indian Government Telegraph department, where he invented a method of detecting faults in lines, which was of great benefit in the maintenance of the overland communications network.
Returning to England, Ayrton married Matilda. See #Family.
In 1873, Ayrton accepted an invitation from the Japanese government as Chair of Natural Philosophy and Telegraphy at the new Imperial College of Engineering, Tokyo. He advised architect of the College for design of laboratory and demonstration rooms, and is credited with introducing the electric arc light to Japan in 1878.
On his return to London six years later, Ayrton became professor of applied physics at the Finsbury College of the City and Guilds of London Technical Institute, and, in 1884, he was chosen professor of electrical engineering, or of applied physics, at the Central Technical College, South Kensington. He published, both alone and jointly with others, a large number of papers on physical, and in particular electrical, subjects, and his name was especially associated, together with that of Professor John Perry, with the invention of a long series of electrical measuring instruments, including the spiral-spring ammeter, and the wattmeter. They also worked on railway electrification, produced a dynamometer and the first electric tricycle. Ayrton is also known for his work on the electric searchlight.
Ayrton died in London in 1908 and is buried in Brompton Cemetery.
In 1872, Ayrton married his cousin, Matilda Chaplin (1846-1883), one of the Edinburgh Seven, the first group of matriculated undergraduate female students at any British university who fought for open medical education for women. Their marriage had taken place while Ayrton was on home leave from India and Matilda was involved in the Edinburgh Seven campaign. Chaplin was awarded a posthumous honorary MBChB in by the University of Edinburgh in 2019.
Ayrton's second wife, Hertha Marks Ayrton, whom he married in 1885, assisted him in his research, and became known for her own scientific work on the electric arc and other subjects. In 1899, Ayrton supported Hertha on her way to being elected the first woman member of the Institution of Electrical Engineers and the Royal Society awarded her a Hughes Medal in 1906. Their daughter Barbara Ayrton-Gould later became a Labour MP, and grandson Michael Ayrton, was an artist and sculptor.