Born in Exeter, he was educated privately.
He joined the Persian Gulf Telegraph Department in 1863, and was employed on the laying of the first Persian Gulf submarine communications cable. In 1879, he was appointed electrician to the Department, which position he held throughout his working life. An inventive man, he was responsible for a number of important developments in the field of cable laying, testing and usage.
In 1869 he invented the heliograph, a wireless solar telegraph that signals by flashes of sunlight using Morse code reflected by a mirror. The flashes were produced by momentarily pivoting the mirror. Frustrated by Government lack of interest, he sent a number of his instruments to Lord Roberts for use during the second Afghan War, where the practical value of the invention was realised. It was subsequently adopted by military services worldwide and was still being used in World War II.
He retired in 1885 but continued his interest in Electrical Engineering as Chairman of the Oxford Electric Company and board member of several other electrical companies. Practically blind for the last 10 years of his life, he learned to read Braille.
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