William Fothergill Cooke - Life


Wm. F. Cooke was born at Ealing, Middlesex; his father, William Cooke, was a surgeon there, and later was appointed professor of anatomy at the University of Durham. He was educated at Durham and at the University of Edinburgh, and at the age of 20 entered the Indian Army.

After five years' service in India Cooke returned home; then studied medicine in Paris, and at Heidelberg under Georg Wilhelm Munke. In early 1836 he saw electric telegraphy, then only experimental: Moncke had illustrated his lectures with a telegraphic apparatus on the principle introduced by Pavel Schilling in 1835. Cooke decided to put the invention into practical operation with the railway systems; and gave up the study of anatomical model making and medicine.

William Fothergill Cooke left Heidelberg, returning to England on 22 April 1836. He soon set about writing his proposals for an electric telegraph, with intentions of issuing it as a monograph, but never came to publish.

Cooke however continued with his writings. In his travels he came to acquire a used, mostly unfinished gilt stamped leather bound manuscript journal. The journal had once belonged to an 18th-century scientific society that had been based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The "Amsterdamsche Societiet," as it was called, had been formed on 25 September 1775. As the remaining pages of the old journal were absent of any entries, Cooke would use these empty pages to enter his own writings and drawings as needed and as thoughts came to him, as its hand inked title page clearly shows.

Apparently, though, the Dutch scientific society disbanded after the year 1781, as the journal bears no entries beyond this time. The word "NAAMLYST" or 'list of names' had been boldly stamped on to the journal's leather cover. It is not certain when this journal was acquired by Cooke or where, but one fact is quite evident; The earliest and first dated entry in Cooke's hand found in the journal bears the date of "November 30, 1836." This is approximately three months before Cooke would meet Wheatstone, with whom he would develop the world's first perfected commercial electric telegraph.

There are two versions for this date in the journal. The one page version bears only a minor title entry, i.e.: "Astronomy," and the date "November 30, 1836." The second or other two page entry with exactly the same date and title entered by Cooke as on the first page, was started up by Cooke again. This second time however, now comprised now two full pages that had been expanded to incorporate detailed drawings, including a planetary orrery and other astronomical forms, along with lectures numbered one to eight. There is also mention of a "Dr. Ritchie Theodolite" on the second page further chronicling the astronomy lectures documented by Cooke on this date.

This earliest dated entry of "November 30, 1836" that is found in Cooke's journal is significant, in that the astronomy lecture was likely by Professor William Ritchie (physicist) himself of the London University. Astronomy was part of the curriculum study that he gave during his lectures at the university where Ritchie taught astronomy and natural philosophy. A holograph signature and title accomplished by Ritchie, citing his position at the London University, is also found on the frontis page to the journal. This, and other journal references to Ritchie, historically asserts a strong link that Ritchie had become Cooke's foundational connection toward suggesting and recommending a person capable in producing for Cooke his first telegraph equipment. It was all at once, just after Cooke had returned to his country-land, that he began making his inquiry into the issue of locating competent craftsmen to do the work from the telegraph designs he generated.

What crystallized Cooke's interest in the telegraph actually came to him after the 1836 Moncke demonstration of the Shilling telegraph principles, when he became inspired reading Mrs. Somerville's "Connection of the Physical Sciences" while traveling to Frankfort. As his own letters and writings that have been published, sent to his mother confirm, once back in London, Cooke sought out proficient machinist and clockmaker practitioners there.

At the London University, there was a man by the name of Francis Kerby, who acted as assistant and curator of instruments to both Dr. Dionysius Lardner and Dr. William Ritchie (physicist). Francis Kerby had been widely published in the 1810s and 1820s pertinent to his discussions on theoretical chemistry. Frederick A. Kerby, a son of Francis Kerby, had become a philosophical and mathematical instrument maker, or more simply, as Cooke often called Frederick Kerby, a "mechanician." By the time Kerby was 20 years of age, a "mechanician" had become his avocation. Through Ritchie, evidence found in the newly discovered Cooke journal, all reveals that Cooke must have been introduced to the young Kerby - who became one of two main craftsmen Cooke chose to make his first experimental telegraphs. Moore of Clerkenwell would be the main clock maker for providing the drive mechanisms for Cooke's apparatus.

Most noteworthy, it is documented that Frederick Kerby had made apparatus as early as 1835 for Professor Wheatstone at King's College, London.

Wheatstone and Cooke's first patent granted on 12 June 1837 had been taken out within a month of their first meeting . The patent was "for improvements in giving signals and sounding alarms in distant places by means of electric currents transmitted through electric circuits."

There is one fact that is not fully known as yet by most telegraph historians. The fact is that Frederick A. Kerby's father Francis, as mentioned prior herein, before his death in 1835, had worked under Professor William Ritchie (physicist) at the London University. This association that Francis Kerby had with Ritchie takes on more meaning when a closer look is given to William F. Cooke's very first journal entry dated November 30, 1836. Revealed in Cooke's hand is a very elaborate astronomy lecture that Cooke attended, along with mention of a "Dr. Ritchie theodolite." A theodolite was a high powered yet relatively compact telescope used for observing the heavens. Professor Ritchie taught astronomy and thus, the "Ritchie theodolite" designed by Ritchie himself becomes paramount here.

When Cooke met Professor Ritchie, Ritchie is the one person who likely recommended the young Kerby as a competent machinist. Ritchie is also mentioned on another page of the Cooke journal. Professor Ritchie had hand signed the journal himself while providing his position at the London University on the frontis as well. Professor Wheatstone had also signed this page in Cooke's journal. These various points of interest, and the fact that Cooke himself signed the same frontis page as that of Ritchie and Wheatstone, not one, but several times as well - all substantiates the very strong connection that Cooke had with Professor William Ritchie. Thus, all of this points to none other than Frederick A. Kerby. This interesting Cooke / Ritchie manuscript journal 'link' shows very easily how Cooke, more so than not, became acquainted with Frederick Kerby; and how this would have quickly led to Kerby becoming Cooke's machinist, and the key one of the two Cooke used, that Cooke would rely on most.

Early instruments Kerby made for Cooke were Cooke's "Alarums," or alarm designs; some of which are clearly identified on drawings found in the Cooke journal pages.

The journal pages contain approximately one hundred separate sketches and drawings by Cooke pertaining to the first perfected telegraph and telegraph systems in the world. Yet, the journal does not just stop at telegraphy. It even goes beyond, almost in the manner of the Frenchman Jules Verne, whose books spoke of fax machines and flying machines decades later. It was Verne's conceptualizations that became ushered-in as reality in the twentieth-century. One notable journal drawing in the Cooke journal is of a two passenger automobile with a steering wheel, driven by a tiny steam engine - circa 1840!

Most significantly, the very first "sketches" for electric "key boards," dated 1840 are found in the journal executed by Cooke. The keyboard consists of thirty (30) finger keys - and clearly represents the true genesis of the internet. Even today, some 98% of all computer electronic communications in one way or the other is transmitted primarily by undersea cable and / or fiber optics and utilizes still, an electric keyboard.

The Cooke journal is marked in Cooke's hand with several entries for the initials of "F.K." or the name "Frederick A. Kerby," "F. A. Kerby;" or "F. Kerby." During the arbitration proceedings between William Fothergill Cooke and Charles Wheatstone, the latter who was co-patentee with Cooke on the telegraph in England, Frederick Kerby acted as Cooke's key witness and gave testimony for the eventual published record of the proceedings, which currently were made available as a two part reprint in May 2011, by the University of Michigan.

Eventually, Kerby would emigrate to the United States in late 1842, and bring the Cooke journal with him. Approximately over one hundred fifty years later, in the 1990s - the Cooke journal was discovered in the United States by author, historian and archivist Richard Warren Lipack. After this occurrence, the journal came to be referred to as the "Kerby Journal" by both the British Science Museum (London) and Richard Warren Lipack, as so many references to Kerby were found in the journal pages. When first found, all of this inferred that Frederick Kerby was the author of the Cooke journal.

However, the proper name for this journal discovery has become further defined in recent times; as "Codex Lipack." This formal designation followed the journal's initial discovery or 'finding,' when final authentication of the manuscript journal as to being in Cooke's own hand was formidably established by its discoverer; historian Lipack. This event occurred early in the year 2011, after nearly fifteen years of investigation, establishing beyond all doubt, who was the actual author of the "Kerby Journal." Finite authentication is presented with comparative authentication holograph exemplars, which all prove that William Fothergill Cooke is the father of electrical binary computer internet communications and is in fact the primary individual who created the first perfected commercial digital electrical communications system on Earth, still in use today.

It should be noted that William Fothergill Cooke had lost the fortune he had made in telegraphy and died in relative obscurity, and is today, relatively unknown.

Most interesting, one will find that the death of this man - one who created the very essence of modern electronic communications, was no less humble than when he started his quest. Plus, the cryptic discovery of Cooke's journal in America, thousands of miles away from where it was created in Great Britain, adds even more humbleness to what shall forever seem a most enchanted story to many. The 'lore' behind the 'discovery' is most extraordinary.

Read more about this topic:  William Fothergill Cooke

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