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Edward Orange Wildman Whitehouse (1816 - 26 January 1890) was an English surgeon, better-known for his ultimately unsuccessful endeavours as chief electrician of the transatlantic telegraph cable for the Atlantic Telegraph Company.



Born in Liverpool to a merchant, he qualified as a member of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1840 and established a successful practice in Brighton.[1]

In the 1850s, he conducted experiments that, he held, showed that feared problems with practical data rates on underwater cables would not prohibit a commercial service. Though his claims were disputed by William Thomson (later known as Lord Kelvin), he was an able propagandist for the undertakers of a proposed transatlantic cable.[1]

Cyrus West Field recruited Whitehouse as chief electrician to the Atlantic Telegraph Company; Thomson subsequently became scientific advisor, convinced that Whitehouse's theories were wrong but believing him to have the practical skill to make the scheme work.[1]

When the cable finally opened for business, it was beset with the problems that Thomson had foreseen. Whitehouse's inadequate apparatus had to be replaced by Thomson's more sensitive mirror galvanometer and Whitehouse succeeded in fatally damaging the cable by delivering massive shocks of 2,000 volts in an attempt to rectify the problems. Whitehouse continually maintained that the cable and his equipment were a success. Though he put up a desperate public defence of his conduct and was more than ready to apportion blame among all other parties, an 1861 enquiry concluded that he should bear the majority of the responsibility.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Hunt (2004)

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