Members of Dunse History Society last week welcomed Dr Paul Marshall who had travelled all the way from Lincolnshire to propound that local man Alan Archibald Campbell Swinton rather than John Logie Baird should properly be regarded as the originator of television technology.
That the claim of Swinton has in many ways been overlooked can perhaps be ascribed to the misfortune that many of his records have been lost either in the fire at Kimmerghame House in 1938, or in the London bombings, but also in the speaker’s words because John Logie Baird was always a showman and self promotionalist whereas Campbell Swinton was quite the reverse being very retiring and reticent by nature.
Dr Marshall, who has recently carried out a grant aided research project into the origins of television and very much a leading authority in the field began by recalling Swinton’s early life.
Although born in Edinburgh in 1863 he grew up and spent his childhood at Kimmerghame before going on to Fettes. There however he failed miserably, probably because, even from such an early age, his bent was towards engineering rather than classics and he left without any qualifications whatsoever. As a schoolboy however he did develop a tremendous interest in photography and at the age of fifteen managed to wire a telephone connection between two houses in Edinburgh only two years after its invention by Alexander Graham Bell.
In1882 he began an engineering apprenticeship in the Newcastle works of William George Armstrong of Cragside with whom he came to form a close friendship and developed a new method of insulating electric cables on board ship.
Five years later he moved to London and set up his own laboratories where he dabbled in, among other things X Rays and indeed the first X-Ray in Great Britain was taken in his laboratory
As early as 1903 he was beginning experiments which were to lead to the development of television and in1908 published in the journal ‘Nature’ the idea of a device using an electric tube for the recording of images - this would become the basis of the cathode ray tube system which prevailed into very recent times.
The speaker compared this with the mechanical system propounded by John Logie Baird physically demonstrating the difference in the two systems and the undoubted superiority of Swinton’s
Others too were operating the in the field and while there was perhaps no ‘true inventor’ but rather rival multiple inventors Swinton must have a very strong claim to be the man who invented television using the speaker’s words - “true television not Baird’s toy television”.
An extremely interesting talk, greatly appreciated by the members.
There are moves to have a blue plaque erected in London in his memory but at the moment his only memorial locally is a small plaque in Swinton Church.
The next meeting is on October 31 when there will be a showing of pictures, slides and recordings of the late Douglas Hugonin largely of life in the Duns in the 1970s.