The chemical telegraph was tried between Paris and Lille before a committee of the Institute and the Legislative Assembly. The speed of signalling attained was 282 words in fifty-two seconds, a marvellous advance on the Morse electro-magnetic instrument, which only gave about forty words a minute. In the hands of Edison the neglected method of Bain was seen by Sir William Thomson in the Centennial Exhibition, Philadelphia, recording at the rate of 1057 words in fifty-seven seconds. In England the telegraph of Bain was used on the lines of the old Electric Telegraph Company to a limited extent, and in America about the year 1850 it was taken up by the energetic Mr. Henry O'Reilly, and widely introduced. But it incurred the hostility of Morse, who obtained an injunction against it on the slender ground that the running paper and alphabet used were covered by his patent. By 1859, as Mr. Shaffner tells us, there was only one line in America on which the Bain system was in use, namely, that from Boston to Montreal. Since those days of rivalry the apparatus has never become general, and it is not easy to understand why, considering its very high speed, the chemical telegraph has not become a greater favourite.
In 1847 Bain devised an automatic method of playing on wind instruments by moving a band of perforated paper which controlled the supply of air to the pipes; and likewise proposed to play a number of keyed instruments at a distance by means of the electric current. Both of these plans are still in operation.
These and other inventions in the space of six years are a striking testimony to the fertility of Bain's imagination at this period. But after this extraordinary outburst he seems to have relapsed into sloth and the dissipation of his powers. We have been told, and indeed it is plain that he received a considerable sum for one or other of his inventions, probably the chemical telegraph. But while he could rise from the ranks, and brave adversity by dint of ingenuity and labour, it would seem that his sanguine temperament was ill-fitted for prosperity. He went to America, and what with litigation, unfortunate investment, and perhaps extravagance, the fortune he had made was rapidly diminished.
Whether his inventive genius was exhausted, or he became disheartened, it would be difficult to say, but he never flourished again. The rise in his condition may be inferred from the preamble to his patent for electric telegraphs and clocks, dated May 29, 1852, wherein he describes himself as 'Gentleman,' and living at Beevor Lodge, Hammersmith. After an ephemeral appearance in this character he sank once more into poverty, if not even wretchedness. Moved by his unhappy circumstances, Sir William Thomson, the late Sir William Siemens, Mr. Latimer Clark and others, obtained from Mr. Gladstone, in the early part of 1873, a pension for him under the Civil List of L80 a year; but the beneficiary lived in such obscurity that it was a considerable time before his lodging could be discovered, and his better fortune take effect. The Royal Society had previously made him a gift of L150.
In his latter years, while he resided in Glasgow, his health failed, and he was struck with paralysis in the legs. The massive forehead once pregnant with the fire of genius, grew dull and slow of thought, while the sturdy frame of iron hardihood became a tottering wreck. He was removed to the Home for Incurables at Broomhill, Kirkintilloch, where he died on January 2, 1877, and was interred in the Old Aisle Cemetery. He was a widower, and had two children, but they were said to be abroad at the time, the son in America and the daughter on the Continent.
Several of Bain's earlier patents are taken out in two names, but this was perhaps owing to his poverty compelling him to take a partner. If these and other inventions were substantially his own, and we have no reason to suppose that he received more help from others than is usual with inventors, we must allow that Bain was a mechanical genius of the first order --a born inventor. Considering the early date of his achievements, and his lack of education or pecuniary resource, we cannot but wonder at the strength, fecundity, and prescience of his creative faculty. It has been said that he came before his time; but had he been more fortunate in other respects, there is little,doubt that he would have worked out and introduced all or nearly all his inventions, and probably some others. His misfortunes and sorrows are so typical of the 'disappointed inventor' that we would fain learn more about his life; but beyond a few facts in a little pamphlet (published by himself, we believe), there is little to be gathered; a veil of silence has fallen alike upon his triumphs, his errors and his miseries.
THE leading electrician of Germany is Dr. Ernst Werner Siemens, eldest brother of the same distinguished family of which our own Sir William Siemens was a member. Ernst, like his brother William, was born at Lenthe, near Hanover, on December 13, 1816. He was educated at the College of Lubeck in Maine, and entered the Prussian Artillery service as a volunteer. He pursued his scientific studies at the Artillery and Engineers' School in Berlin, and in 1838 obtained an officer's commission.
Physics and chemistry were his favourite studies; and his original researches in electro-gilding resulted in a Prussian patent in 1841. The following year he, in conjunction with his brother William, took out