1 Iowa State University Digital Iowa State University Retrospective Theses and Dissertations 1986 From inspecteur to ingénieur: telegraphy and the genesis of electrical engineering in France, Andrew J. Butrica Iowa State University Follow this and additional works at: Part of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine Commons Recommended Citation Butrica, Andrew J., "From inspecteur to ingénieur: telegraphy and the genesis of electrical engineering in France, " (1986). Retrospective Theses and Dissertations. Paper This Dissertation is brought to you for free and open access by Digital Iowa State University. It has been accepted for inclusion in Retrospective Theses and Dissertations by an authorized administrator of Digital Iowa State University. For more information, please contact
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4 Bùtrica, Andrew J. FROM INSPECTEUR TO INGENIEUR: TELEGRAPHY AND THE GENESIS OF ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING IN FRANCE, lowa Sîate University PH.D University Microfilms I ntgrnstionsl SOO N. Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, Ml Copyright 1986 by Butrica, Andrew J. All Rights Reserved
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8 From inspecteur to ingénieur; Telegraphy and the genesis of electrical engineering in France, 1845^1881 by Andrew J. Butrica A Dissertation Submitted to the Graduate Faculty in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY Department: History Major: History of Technolog? and Science Signature was redacted for privacy. ''I'^^ha^e of "S^^^or Work Members of the Committee: Signature was redacted for privacy. For th^ Major Department Signature was redacted for privacy. Signature was redacted for privacy. rth^jgwdsbt ite College Iowa State Dniversi t Ames, Iowa 1986 Copyright 0 Andrew J. Butrica, All rights reserved.
9 11 TABLE OF CONTENTS Page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS v INTRODUCTION 1 CHAPTER ONE 10 The Mixed Network, CHAPTER TWO 43 The Electrical Telegraph Network, CHAPTER THREE 77 The Beginnings of High-Speed Telegraphy, CHAPTER FOUR 126 From Telegraph Instruction to the Ecole supérieure de Télégraphie CHAPTER FIVE 158 Telegraph Industry and Education CHAPTER SIX 196 Telegraphy and Institutions for the Advancement of Science, Technology, and Industry CHAPTER SEVEN 230 The Application of Electrical Theory to Telegraphy CHAPTER EIGHT 263 From inspecteur to ingénieur CONCLUSION 301 SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY 312 Archival Materials 312 Journals and Serial Publications 316 Works on French Telegraphy 318 Supplementary Works 324
10 Ill LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS Figure 1. Chappe Semaphore 16 Figure 2. Foy-Breguet Telegraph 18 Figure 3. Figure 4. Foy-Breguet and Chappe Signal Alphabets 19 Comparison of Foy-Breguet and Chappe Transmitting Devices Figure 5. Dial Telegraph Transmitter 57 Figure 6. Dial Telegraph Receiver 57 Figure 7. Morse Telegraph Transmitter 63 Figure 8. Morse Telegraph "A Molette" 64 Figure 9. Hughes Telegraph 81 Figure 10. Diagram of Hughes Telegraph Mechanism 81 Figure 11. An Autographic "Telegram" 85 Figure 12. The Caselli Fantelegraph 86 Figure 13. Scanning Mechanism of Caselli Facsimile Telegraph 85 Figure 14. Rouvier's Multiple Telegraph Figure 15. Meyer's Autographic Telegraph Figure 16. Meyer's Multiple Telegraph 94 Figure 17. Distributor for Meyer Multiple Telegraph 95 Figure 18. Receiving Apparatus for Meyer Multiple Telegraph 98 Figure 19. Table Showing Baudot Code and Fingering Order 100 Figure 20. Baudot Manipulator, First Version Figure 21. Baudot Manipulator, 1882 Model
11 iv Figure 22. Diagram of Baudot Transmitting Distributor 103 Figure 23. Schema of Baudot Receiver Showing Distributor and Polarized Relays. 104 Figure 24. Baudot Combiner Showing Typewheel Figure 25. Schema of Baudot Combiner Cylinder Contacts Figure 26. Wheatstone Automatic Perforator and Example of Punched Tape Figure 27. Schematic of Wheatstone Automatic Transmitter Figure 28. Wheatstone Automatic Receiving Instrument Ill Ill Figure 29. Stearns' Differential Duplex Figure 30. Stearns' Duplex, Wheatstone Bridge Method 114 Figure 31. Examples of Nonverbal Communication. 253
12 V ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Without financial support, this thesis would not have been written. National Science Foundation for doctoral dissertation grant no. SES helped finance a research trip to France. The IEEE History Fellowship, , provided me the opportunity to carry out additional research in France and time to work on a draft of the thesis. A loan obtained through the Guaranteed Student Loan program also supported my trip to France. The generosity of the Program in the History of Technology and Science, the Department of History at Iowa State University, and the Thomas A. Edison Papers project also supported me financially during various phases of research and writing. I also wish to express my appreciation for those libraries and archives whose collections proved useful: the Firestone Library of Princeton University, the Library of Congress, the Library of the City of New York, Columbia University Library, and the United Engineers' Library in the United States and the Bibliothèque Nationale, the Archives Nationales, the Bibliothèque historique de la Ville de Paris, the Bibliothèque de la Musée de la Poste, the Bibliothèque de la Ministère des PTT, the Bibliothèque du Conservatoire national des arts et métiers, the Institut national pour la Propriété industrielle, the Archives de l'académie des
13 vi Sciences, the Musée des PTT d'alsace, and the Centre National d'etudes des Télécommunications, Collection historique in France. A substantial portion of the research, however, was done at the Parks Library, Iowa State University. In addition to its rich collection of nineteenth-century technical books and journals, the library boasts a helpful and friendly staff. In particular, I want to thank the employees of the Interlibrary Loan Department for their competence, courtesy, and understanding. Certain individuals here and overseas deserve special recognition for their assistance in facilitating my research. Mme. Astride Muhl, Musée des PTT d'alsace, Riquewihr, furnished the names of key individuals and thus opened doors that otherwise might have been closed. Mme. Nicole Tallec, Centre national d'etudes des Télécommunications, Collection historique, permitted me access to the center's resources that include the collected laws and regulations of the Telegraph Administration and an extensive assemblage of photographs dealing with the history of telecommunications. M. Paul Charbon, president of the Société des Amis de l'histoire des PTT d'alsace, Strasbourg, provided important counsel and an introduction to M. Claude A. J. Breguet. In turn, the aimiable M. Breguet, grandson of Antoine Breguet, furnished valuable family papers, including a childhood diary written by Louis Breguet. Mme. Verderosa of the Institut-
14 national pour la Propriété industrielle guided me through the Institutes patent and patent litigation records. I particularly want to express my appreciation of the efforts "above and beyond the call of duty" of Dr. Reese Jenkins, director and editor of the Thomas A. Edison Papers project. Besides an offer of employment, he furnished encouragement and, through the project staff, an intellectually invigorating milieu that recognizes the importance of telegraphy and European developments. Of course, I am also grateful to the individual members of the project staff present and past whose numbers are too large to recount here. I am also thankful that the State of Iowa and Iowa State University created the doctoral program in the history of technology and science. Through that program I was fortunate to study under that individual to whom I owe much: Professor Robert Schofield. While the program staff and other members of the Department of History taught me many things of which I am very appreciative. Professor Schofield also taught me how to write history. In addition to the usual disclaimers regarding defects and infelicities being entirely mine, I want to acknowledge the members of my committee, Mrs. Bishop of the Thesis Office, and the Graduate College. I also thank Mrs. Kennedy, Michael and Debbie Turnbull,
15 VilX Larry Gambone, and Ghislaine (who helped with the research and more) for their assistance and understanding.
16 1 INTRODUCTION The first international electrical exhibition took place in Paris in 1881.^ Held under the auspices of the French Ministry of Posts and Telegraphs, the Paris International Electrical Exposition and Congress of Electricians, as it was called, served as an arena for competition in the electrical industry and as a local starting point for electrical engineering. Although not formally founded until 1884, the French electrical engineering organization, the Société internationale des Electriciens, began as a consequence of the Exposition and Congress."* According to the British electrical engineer A. P. Trotter, moreover, "electrical engineering was born" at the 1881 Paris Electrical Exposition, "a lusty child of science and machinery".^ The real "star" of the Paris show, and what Trotter likely intended as "electrical engineering," was electrical illuminating technology, although many other electrical technologies figured among the expositions stalls, including telephones, electric motors, batteries, signalling systems, and electromedical apparatus. As the noted British electrical expert William Henry Preece pointed out, while the Paris Exposition and Congress marked "an epoch in the history of the practical applications" of electricity, "it was, however, as an exhibition of electric lighting that it was
17 2 principally attractive".^ Albeit that the Exhibition and Congress may have served as its birthplace, "electrical engineering," however understood, like any historical phenomenon, did not spring, Athena-like, fully formed from the Paris Exposition, nor from electrical lighting. Some thing or things else provided Trotter's "lusty child" with a gestation period. The chief "something" was telegraphy, as is clear from an examination of several electrical engineering societies' memberships. For example, the founding members of the British Institution of Electrical Engineers, originally called the Society of Telegraph Engineers, were people involved primarily in telegraphy, Similarly, in the United States, 21 of the 25 founding members of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers were associated with telegraphy, the society's first president being also the president of Western Union.^ A look at the founders of the French Société internationale des Electriciens also reveals the extensive part played by telegraph people in France.^ The presence of so many individuals involved in telegraphy among the founding members of electrical engineering societies suggests, to extend Trotter's metaphor, that the "birth" of electrical engineering received considerable "obstetric" assistance from telegraphy. Given the importance of telegraph people in founding electrical engineering
18 3 societies, what, then, were the "telegraphic origins" of electrical engineering? As the country whose Ministry of Posts and Telegraphs hosted the 1881 International Electrical Exposition and Congress where, according to Trotter, electrical engineering was "born," France offers an appropriate place to begin the search. Those members of the French telegraph industry who participated in the 1881 Electrical Exhibition and who founded the Société internationale des Electriciens generally consisted of employees of the state Telegraph Administration and telegraph instrument manufacturers. An examination of the genesis of electrical engineering necessarily must begin with them and include the education and training of telegraph agents and manufacturers, telegraph technologies and techniques and their relationship with electrical theory, the development and application of telegraph theory and the means for diffusing telegraph knowledge, the adaptation and creation of institutions associated with telegraphy, and the contribution of telegraphy to the emergence of electrical industry in general. Before telegraph people and the technologies, theories, and institutions associated with them could develop, the electric telegraph had to come to France. The introduction of the electric telegraph into France, then, is the logical starting point of a search for electrical engineering's
19 4 "telegraphic origins". The construction of an extensive network of telegraph lines and stations made possible the establishment and growth of a telegraph manufacturing industry. Initially a monopoly, telegraph manufacturing developed into a competitive enterprise with the staters commitment to a large-scale telegraph network. The infiltration of telegraph manufacturers into other electrical technologies, notably lighting and telephony; the emergence of spinoff industries, such as electrical signalling and braking systems for railways and electric doorbells for domestic, government, and business use; and the establishment of a company devoted virtually exclusively to the development and manufacture of electrical apparatus necessarily form a part of any study of the electric telegraph industry. Too, the institutional relationships of the telegraph industry deserve attention, especially but not solely those relations with the Telegraph Administration, the Paris Academy of Science, and the Society of Encouragement for National Industry. The education and training of telegraph manufacturers, especially the role of "grandes écoles" like the Ecole polytechnique and the Ecole centrale, also form a part of this investigation into electrical engineering's beginnings. The employees of the Telegraph Administration also played an important role in the "telegraphic origins" of
20 5 electrical engineering. While the shift from a mechanical to an electric telegraph raised questions about "technological unemployment" and the effect of technology on the workplace, it necessarily led to the institution of a corps of electric telegraph agents who, one day, would organize the 1881 Paris International Electrical Exhibition and Congress of Electricians. Electric telegraphy demanded the existence of a corps of inspectors who would understand and manage the telegraph network. For this corps, the Telegraph Administration drew initially upon graduates of the Ecole polytechnique, thus assuring the reliance of telegraph practice upon science-educated agents. Eventually, the telegraphs drew more and more upon its own operators to fill these positions. Concomitant with these changes was the reorganization of the network that centralized traffic in a few lines. Centralization was possible, however, only with science-educated individuals in key administrative positions (the inspectors) overseeing the work of highly-skilled, highly-trained operators manipulating sophisticated, highspeed apparatus, while the great number of lines, carrying a lighter traffic load, depended upon part-time employees working simple instruments. The education and training of skilled operators and inspectors, then, forms part of the telegraph story, since their education and training were so essential for the organization and operation of the telegraph
21 6 network and from the ranks of the operators came many telegraph inspectors. Any investigation of the start of electrical engineering must include the development and application of telegraph theory as well as the means for the diffusion of telegraph knowledge. The means for the diffusion of knowledge includes such verbal modes as classroom lectures and textbooks and telegraph and other journals as well as nonverbal methods. The specific application of theory to practice, such as in the design of a particular instrument, and the investigation of theoretical questions by telegraph manufacturers and agents of the Administration deserve particular attention. The close relationship between manufacturers and scientists and the transfer of knowledge from mathematical physics to telegraph practice also demand study. Finally, the creation of a special position within the Telegraph Administration to undertake investigations into telegraph technology and the improvement of technology with theory falls into the realm of this examination of electrical engineering's genesis. In carrying itself to the 1881 Paris International Electrical Exposition and Congress of Electricians itself, this study concludes with the organization and execution of the exhibition, which took place within the context of a battle between privately-employed civil engineers and graduates of the Ecole polytechnique working for the state, a
22 7 battle that provided the framework for the organization of the Ecole supérieure de Télégraphie in 1878 and the development of French electrical engineering after The penetration of Ecole polytechnique graduates into the electrical industry, including lighting, railway signalling, and telegraph instrument manufacturing, and the hiring of telegraph inspectors by private firms provided the background to the complaints voiced by civil engineers, largely graduates of the Ecole centrale, that the polytechniciens were increasingly taking positions in business while the state continued to hire exclusively from the Ecole polytechnique. Significantly, in the midst of this battle, the telegraph and postal administrations joined. Telegraph inspectors' objections to fusion, especially their argument that telegraphy demanded "special knowledge" that only they possessed; the creation of a "grande école" of telegraphy; the adoption of the title "ingénieur", i.e., moves that made the telegraph inspectors more than ever resemble the civil engineers of the Corps des ponts et chaussées, also form part of the story. Finally, before the private engineers could execute their planned exhibition of electrical industry, the Ministry of Posts and Telegraphs, placing telegraph agents and manufacturers in charge, put together an international electrical exhibition and congress, which, according to A. P. Trotter, became the "birthplace," of electrical engineering.
23 8 FOOTNOTES As far as I have been able to determine, no complete secondary account of these expositions exists, with the exceptions of François Caron and Christine Berthet, "Réflexions à propos de l'exposition de Paris de 1881," Bulletin d'histoire de l'électricité 2 (1983): 7-18; Patrice A. Carré, "L'exposition internatinale d'électricité de 1881 à travers quelques textes," ibid., pp ; and Jane Mork Gibson, "The International Electrical Exhibition of 1884 and the National Conference of Electricians: A Study in Early Electrical History," M.A. Thesis, University of Pennsylvania, Nonetheless, it is possible to identify both international and local electrical exhibitions of the late nineteenth-century and discover useful accounts of them in such electrical journals as La Lumière électrique. ^François Caron and Christine Berthet, "Electrical Innovation: State Initiative or Private Initiative? Observations on the 1881 Paris Exhibition," History and Technology 1 (1984): ^See the speech to this effect by the Society's president, Georges Berger, upon the first formal meeting of the Society Bulletin de la Sociét é internationale des Electriciens 1 (1884): ^Thomas P. Hughes, Networks of Power: Electrification in Western Society (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983), p. 50. Also cited in Caron and Berthet, p For biographical information on Trotter, see Stanley Steward, "The Astonishing Career of A. P. Trotter," Electrical Review 215 (1984): 27. ^William Henry Preece, "Electrical Lighting at the Paris Exhibition," Van Nostrand's Engineering Magazine 26 (1882): 151. For a history of the I.E.E., see Rollo Appleyard, History of the Institution of Electrical Engineers (London: Institution of Electrical Engineers, 1939) and Percy Dunsheath, A History of Electrical Power Engineering (Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press, 1962), pp ^Donald McNicol, "Telegraph Men Founders of A.I.E.E." Electrical Engineering 53 (1934): 675 and A. Michael McMahon, "Corporate Technology: The Social Origins of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers," I.E.E.E. Proceedings 64
24 9 (1976): ^The Société internationale des Electriciens had a rather eclectic composition, both from the point of view of nationalities (such as the United States and Japan) and occupations (like military pharmacist and retired naval officer) represented. Nonetheless, many of the members were French and, of the French members, most were associated with either telegraph manufacturing or service as discussed in Chapter 8. The Maison Breguet, in particular, provided some of the most prominent members: Georges Berger, administrateur délégué of the Maison Breguet and president of the Société and Gaston Sciama, directeur of the Maison Breguet and one of the Société's six secretaries. See "Comité d^administration" and "Liste des membres fondateurs" Bulletin de la Société internationale des Electriciens 1 (1884); and
25 10 CHAPTER ONE The Mixed Network, Before electrical engineering could emerge from telegraphy, there had to be telegraph lines, technology, and people. Complicating the development of telegraphy in France was an extensive semaphore network that crisscrossed the French countryside and that dated from the eighteenth century. Out of a desire to keep the semaphore operators, a "mixed system" of semaphores and electric telegraphs existed between 1845 and The technology adopted on the electrical lines imitated the semaphores in order to avoid retraining the semaphorists and to facilitate the transfer of personnel from the semaphore to the electric telegraph lines. Nonetheless, the electric telegraph necessarily altered the duties and responsibilities of those charged with sending signals and, for the most part, semaphore operators either found other jobs or retired rather than transfer to the electrical service. In contrast, the hiring of inspectors reflected the need for change from the beginning. The science-trained graduates of the Ecole polytechnique became inspectors on the electrical lines in large numbers between 1845 and 1854 and formed the foundation of the French electric telegraph corps for decades to come. The erection of the first electrical telegraph line came
26 11 as an experimental solution to the problems of the semaphore. The French semaphore was that invented by Claude Chappe ( ).! Completed in 1794, the first line connected Paris with Lille. By 1845, four other routes stretched from Paris, linking the capital with 29 cities through a network 2 of 534 semaphore stations. The semaphores served the country well until 1841, when the network began to show signs of strain. User demand had grown beyond the system's capacity, which weather and night severely restrained. As one member of the Chamber of Deputies pointed out, the telegraph had grown too important to rest inactive half the 3 time. The dark of night and meteorological conditions such as fog and wind often prevented operation of the semaphores and, compared to twelve years earlier, traffic had increased sixfold by 1842.^ In 1838 and 1841, the Chamber of Deputies funded revisions of the signal code in an attempt to transmit messages in less time by using fewer signals per message.^ Starting in 1841, the Telegraph Administration entertained suggestions for ways of adapting the Chappe telegraph to nighttime communications. Of the numerous and various projects submitted, however, the Telegraph Administration asked for and received funding to test only two. In the course of the Chamber of Deputies' debates on nighttime telegraphs, only two deputies suggested experimenting with an
27 electrical telegraph, arguing that it was immune to the 12? nocturnal and weather problems of the semaphore. One of those deputies was François Arago ( ), representative from the Pyrenees Orientales and a member of the Paris O Academy of Sciences. Even before Arago's agitation in the Chamber of Deputies, in 1842, the head of the telegraph service, Alphonse Foy ( ), urged the Minister of the Interior to consider the electric telegraph.foy wrote again to the Minister on 14 October 1844 and declared that semaphore systems would never succeed in overcoming winds and other meteorological phenomena but that the electric telegraph provided a solution independent of the weather or time of day. With the complete success of the electric telegraph in England, Foy declared, the Minister ought to test the electric telegraph in France.On 8 November 1844, the Minister of the Interior named a special commission that consisted of members of the Academy of Sciences, the Chamber of Deputies, and the Telegraph Administration, to study the various systems of electrical telegraphy and the possibility of long distance telegraphy. On 23 November 1844, in response to the Minister's report and but forty days after Foy's letter to the Minister, King Louis Philippe ordered the setting aside of an extraordinary credit to erect an experimental electrical telegraph line at least 120 kilometers
28 13 long for the proposed study of electrical telegraphy. Completed in 1845, the first electrical telegraph line ran from Paris to Rouen. A second experimental line, built between 1846 and 1848, reached from Paris to Lille and replaced an antiquated and dilapidated semaphore line.^^ However, the erection of a second electrical line did not mean the end of semaphore construction. King Louis Philippe ordered an extension of the Bayonne line to the Spanish border^^ and construction of an entire network linking the towns of French-occupied Algeria.By 1848 and the end of Louis Philippe's reign, then, Che semaphore network continued to grow and the electrical telegraph appeared as an experimental alternative. The discussion and construction of Chappe telegraphs ended and the greatest impetus to the building of electrical telegraph lines began with the election to the presidency of the Second Republic in December 1848 of Louis Napoleon Bonaparte ( ). While imprisoned at Earn, Louis Napoleon had conducted a series of experiments relating to the theory of the voltaic pile. He wrote about his results to François Arago, who inserted the future President^; report in the proceedings of the Paris Academy of Science.The importance of Louis Napoleon in encouraging the growth of French telegraphy has not escaped the notice of historians.indicative of his enthusiasm for the electric telegraph is his speech to the
29 Legislative Assembly in 1850, stressing the necessary and prompt extension of the telegraph network.while bills 14 submitted to the National Legislative Assembly in 1849^0 and initiated construction of several lines, the greatest impetus to construction was Louis Napoleon's presidential decree of 6 January 1852 ordering the linking of Paris by telegraph with the major city in each department between 1852 and With this impressive building project underway, the semaphores faced extinction: the electrical telegraph replaced the last semaphore line in Between 1845 and 1855, then, the French telegraph system comprised a mixed network of semaphoric and electric telegraph lines, the proportion of electrical lines increasing after The construction of the initial, experimental electrical lines assumed the co-existence of electrical and semaphore machinery and the technology adopted for the electrical lines reflected this assumption by imitating the manner in which the semaphores formed signals. By utilizing an electrical telegraph that aped the semaphore, Alphonse Foy hoped to avoid the retraining of employees.2^ The similarity of the two techniques thus permitted the transfer of personnel from semaphore to electrical lines, particularly between 1850 and 1855 when the electrical telegraph replaced the semaphore throughout the network. Despite Foy's desire to retain the semaphorists and transfer
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