James Bowman Lindsay Collection

Lecture on the electric telegraph. [provisional title]


 My object in the present lecture is not to give a 
general description of Electricity but to confine myself almost exclusively to the 
electric Telegraph, and as electricity and magnetism are so dependant on each 
other that if we have the one we can produce the other, the history of these two 
powers may be joined together. The earliest account of magnetism is to be found 
in the history of that wonderful people the Chinese, and as the account of it that 
history is not so far as I know to be found in any of our treatises on magnetism, I 
shall give it in full.
In the 6th year of Ching Wang who began to reign BC 1115 messengers came 
from the kingdom Yue Chang Shi and brought presents and did homage to this 
Emperor. This kingdom was situated to the south of Kiao Chi or of Cochin 
China. In return for such homage and presents the Emperor sent, among other 
things, five chariots of a new invention. The course was indicated by means of a 
small box made in the form of a dome and it contained a hand that always 
pointed to the south. The chariot was called on this account Chi Nan, the Chariot 
of the South. This machine was of great use to the  messengers of Yue Chang 
Shi, for after arriving at the kingdom of Fu Nan Lin on the sea coast they went 
on board vessels and by means of this needle were only one year in returning to 
their kingdom. Such is the description given by all the historians of China and  I 
see no reason to doubt of its truth. The same Emperor Ching Wang and his prime 
minister Chou Kung, about a year after this erected a gnomon in order to obtain 
the different altitudes of the Sun. This gnomon was 8 feet high and the shadow 
of the sun at noon on the day of the summer solstice was 1 ft 5 2/3 inch, at the 
noon of the winter solstice it was 13 ft 1 1/3 inch, and on the days of the equinox 
this shadow was 7 ft 3 1/2 inch. These measurements have been verified by 
Laplace and serve at the same time to authenticate the Chinese history and to 
prove the gradual diminution of ecliptic obliquity. From this too an argument 
might be drawn, were it necessary, [for?] the truth of the history of the magnetic 
compass. The subsequent history of electricity and magnetism is given in 
common treatises and we may pass at once to the famous discovery of Oersted.
This electrician was making a series of experiments on the connection of 
Electricity and magnetism an about the end of the year 1819 found that when the 
circuit was completed by the wires from the zinc and copper ends of a 
galvanometer Battery, the magnetic needle placed above or below the wire was 
deflected. Between this discovery & the year 1830 there were many that 
cultivated this science and there was a successive series of remarkable 
discoveries. The names of Faraday, Watkins, Ampere, Barlow, Marsh, Sturgeon, 
De la Rive, Vanden Boss, Ritchie, Nobili & Arago hold a distinguished place 
among these discoveries. It was in 1830 or 31 that I turned my particular 
attention to Electricity and I then formed an idea of applying it to Mechanical 
power, Illumination, & Telegraphic communication. I formed the idea of the 
modern Telegraph in 1832 . Having kept no note of dates I wrote to David Peter 
Esq. who was a member of the family in which I was then located, enquiring if 
he could assist me in the dates, and if he could remember what I then stated  
concerning the Telegraph - to which enquiry I received the following letter 
I may mention that Mr Peter strong interest in my experiments and often assisted 
me. A patent for the first Telegraph was taken out by Wheatstone and Cooke in 
1837 so that I must have formed the idea of it 4 or 5 years before this, but having 
resolved to get a constant electric light first the Telegraph was postponed. I 
obtained a constant electric light in 1835 and devoted  a year or two to bring it to 
perfection. My first public Lecture on it was in this Hall on Jan 15  1836. After 
this I made many experiments and sent intelligence through water this submarine 
Telegraph was I think about 2 years in advance of any other. For the last 6 or 8 
years I have scarcely made any experiments in Electricity till a few weeks ago. I 
then proceeded to examine if it was possible to send  it through water without a 
wire - an idea that I had formed about 10 or 15 years ago. On this subject I have 
made many experiments and from these I have the most perfect conviction that 
no submarine wires are necessary. Many experiments  require still to made 
before this mode of communication is perfected, but no doubt whatever exists as 
to the transmission. I shall localize the case in order to render it more intelligible. 
Suppose a wire connected with the copper end of the battery to be led down to 
the shore and connected with a sheet of metal laid in the river. Suppose a wire 
from the zink end taken to Brought Ferry and soldered to a metallic plate placed 
also in the river. Suppose similar plates laid in the river on the Fife side at 
Newport & South Ferry, and these are joined by a wire having in its course one 
or more Telegraphs. Suppose now that a charge of Electricity is sent through the 
wire on the Dundee side, this current may make its circuit from Broughty Ferry 
to Dundee or by a leap of two miles across the river to the other wire at South 
ferry and another leap of 2 miles from Newport to Dundee. In such a case I have 
found that part of the electricity does not go across & part of it does, but the part 
that does go across is sufficient to work one or 10,000 Telegraphs. I at first 
supposed that the two plates on the same side must be distant more than the sum 
of the two breadths of the river, or that that the longitudinal leap must exceed the 
[across?] leaps but experiments have shown that this is not necessary; a greater 
quantity of Electricity however goes across by increasing the distance of the 
north side or south side plates from each other
On a larger scale the wire from the copper end of the Telegraph in London may 
be conveyed to west most part of Pembrokeshire in Wales and there terminate in 
submerged sheet of zink. Opposite this at Wexford in Ireland, distant about 40 
miles let there be a sheet of copper whose connecting wire passes through 
Ireland  and concludes in a sheet of zink at Belfast. Across at Portpatrick, distant 
about 20 miles is another sheet of copper whose wire passes along the west coast 
of Scotland. The sum of the leaps across the Irish Sea is about 60 or 70 miles 
while the longitudinal leap is nearly 200 and hence the greater portion of the 
Electricity will go across. The wire carried to the north of Scotland may be 
brought south along the E Coast. There may be a leap across the Tay at Broughty 
Ferry or Dundee over to a wire which is led to the Forth and the Humber returns 
by its wire to the zink in London.

On a still larger scale suppose a wire is led from the copper end of a Telegraph in 
London terminating in in a sheet of zink placed in the  sea at Dover, and another 
wire from the zink end conducted to Lizard Point in Cornwall joined to a sheet 
of copper thrown into the sea. On the French coast a sheet of copper is placed in 
the sea at Calais & another of zink at Brest and these sheets also connected by a 
wire with Telegraphs. Here the sum of the cross leaps is 120 miles while the 
coast leap or longitudinal leap is 320 miles. The greater portion of Electricity 
will go across & the Telegraph in London might work thousands

aid of the marine or oceanic battery. At  advantage might be taken of the 
submerged wires already in existence across to Dover, or the intelligence 
without a submarine wire might be conveyed across in the manner already 
proposed. I would recommend that these submerged wires should be if possible 
retained. A less powerful battery is in this way necessary as a great deal of 
Electricity  is often lost by the submersion of the plates. I would also recommend 
, not as indefensibly necessary but as in many respects advantageous, that a pair 
of submerged wires should pass across Bearings Straits. These insulated wires 
should pass from East Cape in Siberia to the island   being a distance of only 30 
miles; from  to  5 miles; hence to Fairway rock 10 miles; and across to America 
20 miles.  These submerged wires could be taken up if necessary as the greatest 
depth does not exceed 32 fathoms.

 When a current of Electricity  is sent through an uninterrupted wire that 
proceeds from the copper and returns to the kink, this current can be made to 
move in either direction with equal impetus. The same effect would take place 
were the submerged sheets all of copper instead of kink and copper alternately. 
The alternate arrangement of these marine or oceanic sheets greatly assist and 
promote the current when it moves in one direction but they equally impede and 
retard it when it moves in the other. Were the sheets all of copper they would 
neither promote nor retard the current in either direction, but simply conduct 
what part of it they got. As, however, a quantity is lost by each submerged plate, 
it might ultimately become so feeble as to be unable to move the needle

(This transcript of James Bowman Lindsay's notebook is incomplete and 
unedited. It is provided in advance of the J. B. Lindsay centenary in the interests 
of research and private study. The transcript was produced by Leslie A. 
Mackenzie, and is the copyright of Dundee City Council, 1998).




Dictionary Anglo-Scottish. MS.




 92 pp. sm. 




Tongan dictionary. MS.




 56 pp. 8vo.




Dictionary, English - Madgascar (sic). MS.




 4 pp. 
4to. (of which only 2 pp. contain text).




The chrono-astrolabe: containing a full set of astronomic tables, with rules and examples for the calculation of eclipses and other celestial phenomena; ...




 ...comprising also plane and spherical trigonometry, 
and the most copious list of ancient eclipses ever published; connected with 
these, the dates of ancient events are exactly determined, and the authenticity of 
Hebrew, Greek, Roman and Chinese writings is demonstrated.

152 pp. xxxvi. 22 cm.

There is a photograph of the author pasted on to the inside of the front cover, and 
several press cuttings (in memoriam, funeral notices etc.concerning Lindsay) 
pasted on to the end papers and the verso of the half title, in addition to several 
loose press cuttings.

The volume is dedicated to Lord Lindsay, and the title page bears the MS. 
dedication "To Mr. Alex. Hutton with the author's best respects".




A survey of the Principia of Newton. MS.




 20 pp. 




[Scots?] vocabulary. MS.




 30 pp. sm. 




Mathematical jottings. MS.




 1 p. 




Mathematical jottings. MS.








Plan of a fortress. MS fragment.




 1 p. 




Notebook of experiments on wireless telegraphy, together with a portrait (photograph). MS




 With newscuttings.




Dictionary of 50 languages.




 Conserved Tom 
Valentine, 1992.




Lecture on electricity. MS.




 12 pp. post 8vo.

We shall now attempt to pull aside the curtain of futurity and get a glance of the 
coming feats and destinies of Electricity Intelligence from Australia instead of 3 
months will arrive in as many minutes and we may hold personal conversation 
with our friends at the N Zealand antipodes. The ship in the middle of 
the Ocean may be assailed by the united force of the winds and the waves. The 
billows may appear to
rise to heaven and the cavities descend to the bottom of the sea. The tortured 
vessel may reel to & fro
like a drunkard and every moment ready to become a prey to the angry waters. 
The passengers and crew are confounded. One after another the masts and sails 
give way and the helm is shivered into fragments. Left to the mercy of the

winds. The illfated bark is dashed in pieces on the rock or is stranded in the sand. 
Occurrences such as these are by no means rare and even steamers are not proof 
against the stormy elements.Electricity alone defies them and smiles at their 
fury. Sent from the copper it circumnavigates the world, and ere we have made 
one inspiration, is back to its zink. The net work of wire is destined to be spread 
above or interred beneath the surface of the earth. A spark and a signal shall be 
sent  from the battery of H
Despotism and Barbarism cannot stand in its presence; superstition and 
ignorance shall flee before it. With
a voice that shall reach the antipodes it shall proclaim the wrongs and the groans 
of the Madiai and register the stripes inflicted on the  illtreated slave. That 
archfiend of God and man that sits enthroned in the city of the 7 hills shall 
tremble at its approach, and its revelations will enfeeble the knees of the 

Tyrant.  China, strewed with Telegraphy shall be no longer insulated, and the 
darkness of Brahmanism
fade before the light. The imposture of the prophet of Arabia will become known 
to his followers, and their affections will be turned from the son of Ishmael to 
the son of Isaac. The senseless tales of Buddha will be found a caricatured 
account and a parody of the Sage & Prophet that lived and died and lived again 
in Judea, and the Chinese sages be forced to exclaim - A greater than Confucius 
is here. The electric postman will leap from island to island in the southern ocean 
and extricate their minds from their erratic labyrinths. It will inflict a mortal 
wound on the anthropophogism of Papua, and the gales of Japan will be found 
unable to resist its ingress. In the twinkling of an eye it will waft its story from 
the [Yenisei?] to Caffreland and form Pekin to Washington.

The far spread groups of Siberia will hold frequent converse, and they will be 
warmed by a wire across the Himmaleh. The scattered sons of Adam will thus be 
reunited in a single family, and they will read with horror the black catalogue of 
their [red?] hostilities. Their swords shall then be  turned into ploughshares &
their spears into pruninghooks, and the other implements of war exhibited in the 
museum as a specimen of byegone barbarism. No more shall violence be heard 
in the land; wasting and destruction shall be kept aloof from the united family. 
The suckling child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child place 
his hand on the [baselisk's?] den. This happy era is drawing on apace, and the 
Telegraph must be regarded as a boon from Heaven to prepare for its arrival. 
The Continental storms may yet wax louder and louder, and we may have to 
wade to

the land of promise through reddened streams  But happiness is the more highly 
appreciated when
contrasted with misery, & the light of day with nocturnal darkness. The 
telescope has penetrated space &
revealed to us phenomena, magnitudes and motions of bodies distant many 
millions of miles.  The examination of the [rocks?] has detected organisms that 
lived and died, before our Epoch, myriads of years. The microscope has descried 
countless crowds of vitalized existences unknown to our forefathers.
The mind is enraptured with such sublime views, and spontaneous praise and 
wonder ascends from the 
unbiassed heart to the Maker of them all. Magnificent, however , as such views 
are, those displayed by Electricity are scarcely their inferior, perhaps the 
opposite.  No telescope has told us if the other bodies of our system be tenanted 
by rational animations and even if it were so, no signalling might be contrived 
that could be rendered intelligible. No human mind can

lay a wire from [Tellus?] to Neptune or make the amber [courser?] leap from 
Mercury to Uranus. 30 years ago, however, Electricity was found to be the cause 
of magnetism, and it may be proved in less than 30
years that gravitation is occasioned by it. The existence and stability of our solar 
system, and of all other systems, will then be seen to depend on it, and the 
sublime phenomena & motions obey its laws. Were all this the case, our ideas of 
it would be exalted to the uppermost but it would still be a creation unintelligent 
& insensible to our laudation, deaf to our entreaties and unable to deliver us; and 
our exclusive homage must ever be directed to the Author of gravitation, the 
Creator of Electricity.

(This transcript of James Bowman Lindsay's notebook is incomplete and 
unedited. It has been provided in advance of the J. B. Lindsay centenary, in the 
interests of research and private study. The transcript was produced by Leslie A. 
Mackenzie, and is the copyright of Dundee City Council, 1998).




Tables of Jupiter's Satelites (sic) (1st Satelite). Epoch A.D. 1800 January 0d 0h 0m New Style.




 8 pp. sm. 4to.

Contains the following texts also:

1) The Hermit of Warkworth (poem).

2) New moons in 1847.

3) Example 1st by Burckhardt's Tables of the Moon Required the Moon's 
Longitude Latitude [?] August 14th 1847.

4) Example Required to calculate an eclipse of the Moon in April A.D. 1121.

5) Example an eclipse of Moon in A.D. 904...

6) Example Required to calculate an eclipse of the Moon in A.D. 




Mathematical jottings. MS.




 1 p.